Portrayals of femininity and masculinity are, without doubt, central to a number of art forms, photography not being an exception. The past few decades have given rise to – often heated – discussions and criticisms of past, recent, and current photographic practices for their lack of reflection on the assumptions, stereotypes, and prejudices surrounding photographic approaches to femininity and masculinity. Fine art and commercial works alike have been critiqued for the potential consequences of their approach and presentation. Historically femininity and masculinity have been conceived, among others, as oppositions, as complements of each other, or as positions on a continuum. There are hardly any ways of portraying femininity and masculinity that would or could not be considered trivial, conservative, pretentious, demeaning, distasteful, clichéd or even offensive by some. It often seems that everything has been both said and photographed about this subject, and yet, it is not possible to ignore the persistence of the theme in our contemporary visual culture. What is it that we can still value and possibly revive from the rich history of photography; are there any novel ways left to approach this subject with a fresh critical eye?
The theme is broadly construed, as the photographic portrayal of femininity and masculinity is independent of generic or stylistic constraints. Indeed, we are interested in all possible creative photographic interpretations of the theme.
One curator's choice and three honourable mentions