I may have gone down the wrong path trying to come up with some interpretation of the brief that would allow me to change the subject of each photo, but I don’t think I’m wrong to limit myself to an inanimate object whatever I chose to use. I have previously stated that the dictionary definition object also includes ‘a person or thing with reference to the impression made on the mind or the feeling or emotion elicited in an observer’.
Sex can easily become objectified, the process of which is easily demonstrated by fashion photographers such as Eve Arnold. Arnold is best known for her photographs of Marilyn Monroe, whom she trusted more than any other photographer. A well known protest made by Monroe reads:
"I do not consider myself a kind of merchandise but I am sure that many people do not see anything else in me… That is what annoys me; a sex symbol becomes an object. I hate being an object.”
This photograph is a highly sexually charged example of Monroe; the frame is centrally weighted by her alluring pose in bed with a minimal flash of skin against the dominate white surroundings, suggesting warmth and sexual desire. The frame is further well balance with implied triangles created by Monroe’s arms, the positioning of the pillows and shape created by the way the sheet is draped. The lighting is soft, flattering Monroe’s features and further adding to the suggested comfort should you be fortunate enough to be embraced. There are no hard shadows or highlights competing for your attention.
Another fashion and portrait photographer that worked with Monroe was Richard Avedon
whose work can also provide examples of sexual objectification (not that his work was limited to this; he also photographed war protestors, mental patients and rock bands, including famous portraits of The Beatles). Again soft light is used, flattering the features and not removing your attention from the model.
I have come to adore Avedon’s ‘Dovima with Elephants’; the model in the Dior dress is juxtaposed with a pair of elephants, creating a contrast of beauty and beast, young and old. The soft lighting does not yield the subjects to their forms, instead focusing on the textures and contrasts that the scene creates.
Sexual imagery is powerful and is far more prolific in current society. The phrase ‘sex sells’ in not an age-old concept, the connotations of which are not wasted in the retail sector. Sex can be exploited for selling products; deodorants, food, drinks and motorcycles to name but a few. Who else remembers the Halls Soothers advert in the elevator or the model cooling himself with a cold can of Coke?
The idea certainly isn't wasted on the photograph below: swimsuit and Sports Illustrated model Marisa Miller is seen
here draped over a Harley Davidson V-Rod. Its jet-black finish is visible against the background only by hard highlights created by top-lighting from a small light source, where as Miller has had the contrast softened around her face and upper arms by use of a reflector, or possibly another light source. The use of minimalist light in the frame with the hard highlights of the V-Rod, in combination with the soft shadows on Miller’s features, creates a low-key chiaroscuro image.
To be honest, I wanted the bike to start with; now I want it more.