The female gaze is a concept which is cropping up more and more throughout modern-day pop culture. It’s this idea of creating media and content from the female perspective and, furthermore, to appeal to all identifying women.
This is an important aspect within the world of fashion and fashion photography because, traditionally, it can revolve around this hyper-sexualisation of female models and imagery. Fashion photography has typically been a ‘man’s world’; of which you can tell with the likes of the images featured below.
The use of the female gaze within fashion photography flips this hyper-sexualisation on its head and helps to create some truly unique and honest imagery. Instead of the vulgarity and blinding photo shop of the stereotypical male-directed photo shoots, the female gaze captures the women behind the model; not just the clothes they’re wearing.
The female gaze makes use of colour, diversity, and subtle detail. It’s an inherently inclusive concept with the potential to really unite women within, and throughout, the creative process of fashion photography.
As you can see from the examples above, female-gaze-directed photography still allows for those daring, edgy shots. The striking difference here is that the ‘edge’ of these images does not put the model’s identity and worth into question. These women can still be sexual without being sexualised. It would be incorrect to assume that fashion photography from a feminine perspective removes any sense of sexuality; there’s just a difference in power play.
Below, we have two examples of sexuality used within fashion advertisements. Both utilise a very similar form of sexuality, however, there is a distinct shift in tone within each image. Terry Richardson’s piece (below) has a certain brutality to it. Whether this is down to the bull, the model herself, or a combination of both; it’s a jarring image.
The Ellen Von Unwerth piece (below), on the other hand, uses a very similar pose yet somehow comes across as playful and mischievous. It is sexual but that isn’t the driving point behind the image. There’s more detail, there’s more to focus on. It’s feminine and it’s playful. Richardson’s piece feels, almost, like a threat by comparison.
The female gaze is an exciting concept to witness being used more so throughout the fashion industry because it really allows that sense of challenge. It challenges what society , and the fashion industry, thinks a woman should be and demonstrates how truly different and distinct each person really is.