The body & The Gaze.


(Solomon-Godeau 1991:221-22 cited in Wells 2000) ‘In one sense photography inadvertently objectifies people by turning them into something to be looked at. ‘

Despite our sex, we are placed as the male observer.

“Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object – and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.”  – Berger 1972:47

The Venus of Urbino By Titian – 1487-1576


Images like this one above, of nude women in paintings in this era were made for the male spectator the reason being that the ideal spectator was always deemed to be male.

Other examples include:

Olympia Edouard Manet 1863. This was seen as controversial as the sitter was looking at the painter.


Bacchus, Ceres and Cupid by Von Aachen 1552-1615. Berger questioned if its true that sometimes a painting includes a male lover but the woman’s attention is very rarely directed towards him. Often she looks away from him or she looks out of the picture towards the one who considers himself her true lover – the spectator-owner. (1972:56)


Vanity by memling 1453-1494 – “You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, you put a mirror in her hand and you called the Vanity, thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure” (Berger 1972:51) The mirror makes the woman first and foremost a sight to be looked at.


SUSANNAH AND THE ELDERS BY TINTORETTO 1518-1594. The viewer looks at her being looked at. She gazes in the mirror and sees herself as a sight for the elders.


Body as display. 

Women are portrayed very differently from men in images. Many nude images of females show her posed as if her body is on display. The female body is understood in terms of form and desire. The body becomes an object before the viewers gaze.

Body of action. 

Compared to the female body, the masculine body is one of action.

Frederick Leighton, Athlete struggling with a python, 1877

An Athlete Wrestling with a Python 1877 by Frederic, Lord Leighton 1830-1896

Many images circulating the media today apply to Bergers comment that men act and women appear.


The concept of the gaze is about the relationship between pleasure and images. The camera turns the depicted person into an object. The photographer has control over those in the front of the lens. The camera represents a controlling gaze. The vogue cover featuring Lebron James was criticised and wiped from newsstands back in 2008 because readers thought there were racist implications as it looks similar to a vintage king kong image. Although this was denied, that idea that Gisele was like Ann Darrow applies to the thought ‘men act and women appear’.


Marilyn Monroe (one of the most photographed women in the world) – “People have a habit of looking at me as if I’m some kind of mirror instead of a person. They didn’t see me , they saw their own lewd thoughts, then they white masked themselves by calling me the lewd one.”

Laura Mulvey 1975

• Article: Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema 1975

• Coined the term the Male Gaze

• Male gaze has three different looks:

• The camera which records the event.

• The spectator as they watch the final product.

• The male characters within the screen.


•“According to principles of ruling ideology…..the male figure cannot bear the burden of sexual objectification” Mulvey 1975

• Emphasises the importance of the patriarchal viewpoint of the camera in cinema.

• The male pleasure and the ‘look’ in cinema is directed at the female.


• Looking produces VOYEURS – the desire to see the erotic and the forbidden.

• SCOPOPHILIA – Literally the desire to see.

• Scopophilia linked to sexual attraction.

• In its most extreme form, the pleasure of looking becomes a perversion

• “producing obsessive voyeurs and Peeping Toms whose only sexual satisfaction can come from watching, in an active controlling sense, an objectified other”

(Mulvey 1989: 17).


Male gaze in relationship to female objects of visual pleasure. Jefferies gains power by looking.


Lisa & Jefferies – Lisa is subject to the gaze from the camera, the spectator and Jefferies.


“…the split between spectacle and narrative supports the man’s role as the active one of forwarding the story.”







Theorists have used psychoanalytic theory to analyse how photographic images construct women as objects for a male gaze and how the visual pleasures of looking at such images are implicated in the exercise of power. Concepts of voyeurism and fetishism developed by Freud (among others) consider scopophilia as an erotic pleasure derived from looking at another person or at images of other bodies. This pleasure is voyeuristic when it depends on the object of the gaze being unaware, not looking back. Voyeurism is a mode of looking related to the exercise of power in which a body comes a spectacle for someone else’s pleasure, a world divided into active ‘lookers’ and the passive ‘looked at’. Photography, it is suggested, by the very nature of the medium, invites voyeuristic looking. (Wells 2000)


Juergen Teller: Woo! Institute of Contemporary Arts, 2013 The title of the exhibition perhaps applies to Teller ‘wooing’ his subjects, trying to gain their attention and trying to seduce them with his camera. This impression is reinforced by the perceived celebrity status of the people Teller photographs: Kate Moss, Lily Cole, Björk or Charlotte Rampling to name just a few. These are women that need to be ‘wooed’. Instead, perhaps it is actually the viewer of the photographs who is supposed to be ‘wooed’ by these celebrities and Teller’s ability to gain access into their world. Many photographs read like a record of a brief encounter which Teller was privileged to be part of. As if this exclusive world of models, fashion designers, musicians and other celebrities would not suffice for gaining the viewer’s attention, the work is blown up to extreme proportions. Teller’s work is big, it’s colourful, it sparkles, it dazzles, it says ‘look at me’.


A super-large photograph depicts the British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood in the nude as she parts her legs on a sofa – the decadent textile design of which stands in stark contrast to her pale white skin. Her genital area is in the very centre of the photograph, and, flanked by two more Westwood nudes, the photograph is in the very centre of the room. It quickly becomes clear that the perspective of the photographer is dominated by varying degrees of the nude, and more precisely, by the celebrity in the nude.



Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze SOMArts, 2011 With a gallery filled with men stripped naked this body of work exposes women’s cheeky, provocative and sometimes shocking commentaries on the opposite sex (which) may make the viewer squirm a little. But that is precisely the point.


Laura Hartford. Graham Reclining 2004

Man as an object.

Karen Zack. Man Kind 2. 2010.

Does the rise of male objectification in the media mean equality?

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I wouldn’t call it equality — I’d call it marketing, and maybe capitalism. Market forces under capitalism exploit whatever fertile ground is available. Justice and sexual equality aren’t driving increasing rates of male objectification — money is. Lisa Wade professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. 2013

I would agree with this comment. I don’t think that men being objectified magicly bridges the gap of equality between men and women. It is much more than that. 

With gender fluidity a current obsession within the media is the concept “The Gaze” in question? Or does the media still work in the same way as it has for decades?

I think The Gaze is still very relevant. In my opinion this isn’t affected by whether someone identifies themselves as male, female, neutrois or other. If anything, I think the gaze is now open to wider audiences as society and the media are becoming more understanding of differences and are less discriminatory.

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With Bruce Jenner’s transition to Caitlyn, transgender issues have become front and center in the mainstream cultural conversation. But among many young people, there is a much bigger conversation going on about gender. The whole notion of “binary” — female and male — gender norms is being seen as limiting, and unnecessary.


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