25 April 2009

The Blue Dress Conversations

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Alyssa in her blue dress with a neck tie. Photo by Eric Francis. The picture is shown here full frame, with the shadows brought up, so that the darker areas can be seen more clearly. It can be seen in its original context by exploring the links below.

Editor’s Note, summer solstice 2009

I was removing old articles from the site, and this one seemed like a keeper. This section is spread out in a number of parts, explained below. The main one is a thread on the Planet Waves discussion board about the nature of the photo you see above. I still don’t know what to make of the picture, except that it seems to have painted a thousand words.

I recently used a Book of Blue photo on Planet Waves that became a point of controversy, relating to an old feminist theme called the “male gaze.” The theory is related to the creation and perception of images by men, and it holds that men turn the world into pornography and women into sexual objects. The photo was in the context of a Planet Waves article on self-esteem, the introduction to which you will find among the links below.

I facilitated this conversation by posting a comment from a reader in the UK which said the picture was misogynist in nature – that it spread violence and hatred of women. The suggestion was that it did not do so overtly, but rather subliminally.

The conversation begins with an open forum, called What does this image say to you?

After reading about 65 comments from readers, I posted an essay about why the conversation mattered at all, titled The Male Gaze and the Sun in Taurus.

Eventually I posted a photo that includes the model’s face, in a post called The Devil in the Blue Dress.

Last, I posted a response from my photo colleague Kelly Cowan, who deconstructed the image. This essay is titled Looking at the Image.

The conversation is a testimony to how pictures, far from being inert, are active parts of consciousness with tremendous influence to provoke thought and response.

Blue News for Sunday, April 26

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