“Visual Anxiety”

These readings cover material that is very close to the work that I surround myself with as a fashion photographer on a daily basis. For this reason I found it very interesting to read, as well as compare to the comments that my classmates have made in reaction to the readings.

Its very true, sex sells. Its been like this for years, and it doesn’t seem like it will change any time soon. However, this is what I find so fascinating about advertisement. The body of a woman is used to sell material off of it. Viewers are literally guided to want the clothes and jewelry off of that model, one does not find a connection with the model in the image, but rather a desire for the lifestyle that the clothes accommodate her with. Over the years, an on going dispute has gone on between men and women.. to embrace this, or to fight against it?

In the essay written by Stephanie Sadre- Orafai, she describes the selection and marketing of models while circling around the idea that the body has turned into a form of media. Idioms of beauty, desirability, and justice are taken into the hands of casting directors, and it is up to them to label the young men and women that walk into their doors with who they are, and what their body could sell. Models have turned into human hangers and coat stands. Deciding what is beautiful was long pulled out of the consumers grasp, and in its place was put the dictated acceptance of “beauty” from an extremely photoshopped billboard or glossy magazine page.

The media makes money off of this “beauty”, and consumers blindingly accept that this is what they must look like in order to fit the norm or be catalogued as desirable. While advertisements are made to make you believe you are different from the rest and you are free to make your own choices, the sex behind them screams so loud its almost become too common. Viewers face sex every day, in magazines, in window displays, on billboards, on the television. Sex has almost become banal.

Yet there is such a fascination with the human body and the exploration of self, that society can’t help but react to it. (Which I personally believe is what photographers and advertisers want) Whether this be in a negative way or positive. Sure, woman are constantly being objectified in images and used as sex symbols to sell clothes off a rack, but women have also grown to WANT to be seen as a sex symbol. The models are just doing their job, they are told to pose in a sexy way, and they do it. Younger generations are now also learning to pose this way, to carry themselves in a certain way in order to fit in with their friends. Fashion is affecting the younger generations, teaching them to be a certain way through the use of photography. Images are the easiest thing for young minds to soak in, they are provoking and influential.

Who decided what beauty was? Even in the 19th century, photographs were used for exploration of the body, scientifically as well as artistically. It seems that photographs always agree on a certain body type that they want to fix into their composition, but the origin of this decision is never clear. As women allow themselves to be influences by these sex symbols they so often see in the magazines (and claim to be offended by), they constantly fall into self transformation. Whether this is to conform with who society is telling them to be, or not to be, the media has found a way to manipulate visual markers through an uneasy sense of “heightened awareness, yet distrust of appearance”. How come the origin of appearance is so rarely talked about?

The woman body is constantly exploited, willingly or not, but so is a mans. Men are constantly used as background toys or props in fashion shoots. Yet, this is not a taboo subject, and is usually put on the back burner. Using a persons body to sell something in a fashion photo is extremely interesting, but what intrigues me is the unwilling fascination that comes from the viewer.


3 responses to ““Visual Anxiety”

  1. I Have to say You are right Sex sells, negative sells. people are going to buy or like. Sex sex appeal is everything in a commodity and popular culture. advertisement companies are designed to sale glam,beauty, and sex. men act and women appeal.clothes are sex in this industry. Men drool over the femininity presented in fashion shows.

  2. emilykotarski

    I agree with a lot of what you are saying in this response. It sort of touched on the subject which I wrote about on the topic of women being objectified in fashion. Saying that women want to be seen as only sexual objects to advertise fashion I have a hard time coming to terms with. I do believe that this happens in modeling and that models do what they are told in order to keep their jobs but I do not believe all women want to be objects in fashion. I chose to wear clothes based on how they make me feel which does not necessarily mean if they make me feel sexy or not. It is up to a woman’s taste to decide whether they feel more comfortable in clothes which make them feel sexy or clothes which make them feel successful and powerful. There are different situations in which the sex appeal is the correct form of advertisement for a piece of clothing which is meant for a party or social event, but then in comparison when buying a more professional outfit I would not be drawn to an advertisement with only sex appeal but with more of a powerful intention. Because this topic is so controversial there is no right or wrong way to look at sex appeal or the objectification of woman.

  3. Women’s body turned into media in order to make profits. In fashion industry, their body has been sexualized in order to make the products better or desirable. Not only is this used by fashion industry, but also women themselves have embraced being objectified and used for sales.
    I actually agree with Emily but it is true that there are people who use the sexual image for power. There are many women who want those type of “femme fatale” image deep inside of heart and I believe that’s why the luxury fashion industry has used ‘Femme Fatale” cocept to advertise their products. Obviously, in fashion industry, there are more women too. There is possiblity that they put their secret desire into their designs and products. So it’s hard to ignore the fact women themselves have embraced being objectified.
    I think it’s not bad phenomenan. It just has been surfacing for long time with the rising social status of women. And the fashion people in these days, knows how to interpret it in luxurious and classy way with their dignity.

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