As Subtle as the Pose
January 8, 2016 1:49 AM   Subscribe

Jennifer Moss on Fashion Photography: With this renewed awareness, I started noticing that it can be as subtle as the pose. I, myself, told models to hunch their shoulders, lean forward, angle the head. Industry standard. But why was it industry standard?
posted by frumiousb (32 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
Speaking as a photographer who shoots some fashion, and who is working on a project about objectification, I find myself both nodding my head and feeling guilty. I acknowledge that I'm part of the problem, and yet if I don't shoot those poses I also know that the images may never get picked up.

That's one of the reasons I want to do a lot of personal work -- I don't need to fit my work into someone else's mould. Of course that doesn't pay so well..
posted by gmb at 2:24 AM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yes. I am perpetually nauseated by the fetishisation of women's dead bodies in popular culture. It is so. fucking. sick. So many women on the ground in expensive shoes looking more than vaguely strangled! That is some serial killer shit. And I'm just amazed that these industries -- not only pure advertising but television and movies as well -- go on doing it and doing it. I really want to know what it's about, where it comes from, whose horrible little dick is getting hard at all these images of our violation and destruction.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 2:59 AM on January 8, 2016 [11 favorites]


Great point - I tend to ignore fashion ads, so never really thought about the poses.
I hope she also creates a selection of poses that are less objectifying/victimizing etc.
posted by Thisandthat at 3:13 AM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


C. NON-THREATENING/DEMURE/CHILDLIKE – Head angled. Eyes looking away, down. The classic “hunch” pose of the upper torso. Body is not square to the camera. Chin is down. Body language depicting submission, weakness.

Mouth open in puzzlement and confusion. Poses and gestures that say "what am I doing here, how do I do human". Sheesh how does this thing piss me off.

All images from this single gallery, which provides so many examples. Hello, hunch.
posted by sukeban at 4:13 AM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Art is felt.
Only bitter people find bitter.
Roses have thorns.
posted by Mblue at 4:21 AM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have been noticing this for a long time, and mostly laughing it off, but it took this article to show me exactly what I was noticing and why it is wrong. I will note that it's not universal -- there are still lots of ads showing women in fully-dressed, non-stressed, adult (as opposed to childish) poses -- but does seem to be highly prevalent in expensive luxury brands. Could it be they don't think we would pay the extra money without the excitement of sex and fetishism behind it?
posted by ubiquity at 4:21 AM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Or, in the case of that American Apparel ad from the article, as unsubtle as the pose... "Now Open", indeed.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:18 AM on January 8, 2016


I have always found most fashion photography kind of gross, for the same reasons she gets into in the article and with her typologies. In contrast, though, I really enjoy occasionally looking at those "street fashion" sites, especially from cities I have never been to and might never visit. They are still posed and I am sure someone could find problematic typologies there as well, but the range of people is much larger and a lot of people simply look happy and interesting.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:46 AM on January 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


Fashion photos, food photos, even landscape photos can all be done as great stuff but I guess it is something in my background that still prefers street photography, humans as in the Dust Bowl photos, tenement photos, etc....which is not to say I am right and others are not but simply an expression of my interests.
posted by Postroad at 5:52 AM on January 8, 2016


Mouth open in puzzlement and confusion. Poses and gestures that say "what am I doing here, how do I do human".

Considering that a modeling career can start at 14, perhaps the camera is simply capturing natural reactions.
posted by memewit at 6:10 AM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Considering that a modeling career can start at 14, perhaps the camera is simply capturing natural reactions.

Even fourteen year olds don't look so drugged unless they're either high (hi, Kate Moss in the 90s) or have been purposefully directed to look as if they're terminally stupid pretty flowers incapable of dealing with normal life.
posted by sukeban at 7:21 AM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


Mouth open in puzzlement and confusion. Poses and gestures that say "what am I doing here, how do I do human".

Considering that a modeling career can start at 14, perhaps the camera is simply capturing natural reactions.


Believe it or not, 14-year-old girls have personalities, thoughts and opinions! They are not vapid waifs devoid of thought. If the photography makes them look like they are, that's on the people that pose, style and photograph them. And also demand that they starve themselves and let them develop drug addictions.

In conclusion, we should probably just burn all this shit down.
posted by emjaybee at 7:22 AM on January 8, 2016 [19 favorites]


I'm not totally convinced about the significance of the hunch, though I have no alternative theory to offer.

But what on earth is the Dolce and Gabbana one? Nastily rapey, obviously. But also ludicrous. It's like 'four gay guys suddenly feel really awkward about this whole gang-bang idea.'
posted by Segundus at 7:33 AM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've always taken an interest in and done photography and I love, and I mean LOVE fashion photography. At the same time, I totally agree with this article.

I think there are two things going on here - the gross and unrealistic beauty standards placed on women and the sexualization of women. I have never fit into society's narrow beauty standards (other than being white) and this contributed greatly to the my struggles with anxiety and depression throughout my life. But starting from a young age I always tried to seek out alternative images of women in the media that I could relate to, that would make me feel like I wasn't a hideous troll, girls and women who looked like me. For a long time, it was near impossible for me to find images and role models, though I never stopped looking.

As a result of this, I've not only been able to work on deprogramming the harmful messages about myself that I internalized when I was younger, but I've built of a decent arsenal of media and images that feature very diverse beauty standards. And over the past several years, I've started to see this growing and starting to push a more into the mainstream. Even in the hallowed halls of high fashion - the cover of Vogue - has featured more and more diverse women. Plus-sized women, women of color, etc. The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue recently featured it's first plus-sized model. Some countries are starting to ban underweight runway models. We still have a long way to go with regard to diversity but I have hope that we're making progress.

The overt sexualization of women is also gross, and I think we're seeing pushback on that as well. I do think that men get a similar (though in different ways) treatment in high fashion photography, not as much sexualization (although that's definitely a part of it), but also the strong, stoic, masculine look and other things that play into harmful stereotypes about men. I think this has been growing and the subtle influence has been increasingly affecting young men's body images.

So I've really turned my attention towards learning fashion photography because I want to be a part of helping change the images we see. Part of learning has been being a model for people who do all sort of this sort of photography, so I can learn how to pose effectively. The photos I've gotten of myself have in many ways transformed how I view myself and by extension, how I view others. If a talented photographer can make me - a middle-aged, size 14, 5'4", average-looking woman look like I stepped out of a magazine, there's absolutely no reason that they can't do it for other people who fall outside of the usual narrow beauty standards.

I will never be a world-famous fashion photographer, but I can take photos of people I know and make them look fantastic, which might change both how they view themselves as well as how they view other people. I think that alt photography is filled with really powerful images of non-standard models who look strong and amazing and beautiful. I fully reject the idea that art and beautiful images cannot be made unless you have tall, thin, young, white models who look vapid and empty. That just doesn't square at all with everything I've seen over the years. We need to see more people like this. Because women who don't fit in these standards are generally grouped into some other category (Mom, Matronly, Good Personality, Funny - not even getting into race stuff) that seems harmless enough on the surface, but really always comes down to not being sexually desirable, which is ultimately the defining factor of women and the one thing that will always discredit us.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:47 AM on January 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


The Docle and Gabba one is definitely ... confusing? What exactly is it supposed to be selling me?

I can't see most of the clothes. D&G doesn't have a fitness range as far as I know so it's not the body aesthetic.

Is it just a vague way of keeping the brand in the forefront of potential consumers minds along with a vague non-specific sexy objectification vibe?

I'm definitely not the target market for this.. but I'm genuinely confused as to what it's selling me.
posted by Faintdreams at 7:50 AM on January 8, 2016


The primary message of that Ralph Lauren ad (and maybe "the hunch" in general) seems to be "I am very thin. We at Ralph Lauren are all very thin. Look, collarbones."

Also, why is it that these things show up constantly in fashion photography but hardly at all in the fashion shows that might correspond to the same collection? Think of the stereotypical "runway walk," the poses to show the garment's different angles, even the kind of music they usually play . . . all very aggressive, nothing vulnerable, victimized or even particularly sexualized. Why the difference?
posted by ostro at 8:09 AM on January 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


Considering that a modeling career can start at 14, perhaps the camera is simply capturing natural reactions.

My niece is 9 and an up and coming model. She attends parties, does runways, and poses on red carpets weekly.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:29 AM on January 8, 2016


> Considering that a modeling career can start at 14, perhaps the camera is simply capturing natural reactions.

Hahahahha. Have you spent much time with 14 year old girls? Certainly they sometimes feel puzzled* but that's not really the face they would make to convey confusion. I mean, is that the face you make when you're puzzled or confused or lost?

*Though perhaps not as often as they feel righteously indignant, sullen, dismissive, or supersonically excited.
posted by desuetude at 9:07 AM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


Jesus H. Christ. As someone who is not only male but tends to avoid all advertising with a passion, I had never encountered these types of ads before. The word "blatant" doesn't even fucking begin to cover it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:13 AM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wow, that’s a creepy collection of photos. Fashion photography seems like one of those weird alternate universe things like perfume commercials. Who’s the intended audience for these pictures, what customer are they enticing?

C. NON-THREATENING/DEMURE/CHILDLIKE – Head angled. Eyes looking away, down. The classic “hunch”

Interesting, I never got that impression. It has always just been confusing to me. "Why is she standing so weird?" I thought it had something to do with light or the way clothes fall that I just wasn’t getting. It’s certainly not flattering.
posted by bongo_x at 10:03 AM on January 8, 2016


Considering that a modeling career can start at 14, perhaps the camera is simply capturing natural reactions.

Are you suggesting that 14-year-olds think the way one does laundry is to fling the hamper of clothes over one's head while jumping in the air through overflowing suds? Please.
posted by Lexica at 12:09 PM on January 8, 2016


I always heard of the hunch as broken doll pose.
posted by sweetkid at 12:25 PM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm not totally convinced about the significance of the hunch

Putting women in their place. Do confident people hunch their shoulders? Not very often, if at all, no. Think of someone you know in a position of power. Do they hunch when they want to make a good impression? Or do they stand up straight?

Now. Go out into the world. Look at women taller than roundabouts 5'9"-5'10", or if you're metric, taller than roundabouts 175cm. In other words: taller than the average man. Compare them to small women. Women smaller than most men. You will soon notice something striking: the majority of smaller women hold themselves very straight and mostly hold their heads up, exceptions given for looking at a phone and utilitarian cases like that. The majority of tall women hunch, droop their heads, avoid eye contact.

As a tall woman, let me tell you why: I hold myself up straight, don't droop my head, and make eye contact. I have gotten randomly slapped and punched for it by people totally unknown to me more than once. How do I know it was for that? Because they were men and each of them outright spat at me "who do you think you are / learn some humility / know your place, woman". I have also gotten "you need to show more humility" in... we'll call them "non-public" contexts (your guess is probably correct). Anyone who's met me – and the three MeFites met in Paris would probably attest to this – will tell you I am as quiet as a soft-spoken mouse. So it's not my expression. It's me being physically confident as a woman taller than most men in a world filled with men who REALLY DON'T LIKE THAT.

I do not hunch. I want my back to last me into retirement. But look at tall women in public. It doesn't take long to notice the pattern.
posted by fraula at 12:37 PM on January 8, 2016 [11 favorites]


I always heard of the hunch as broken doll pose.

I've always thought of that pose as the "Dior New Look" pose myself. It's vintage.

That or the "ugh my period is killing me gimme ibuprofen" pose.
posted by sukeban at 12:42 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Putting women in their place. Do confident people hunch their shoulders? Not very often, if at all, no. Think of someone you know in a position of power. Do they hunch when they want to make a good impression? Or do they stand up straight?
~fraula
I'm so sorry to hear about the horrible experiences you've had. Seriously, that sucks, and no-one deserves that kind of treatment.

I'd like to add to your assessment of where the hunch comes from, though, without trying to speak about its origins, of which I know little.

As photographers, we learn to look for shadows and lines; contrast. If a model puts their shoulders back, you lose the shadows and so the collar bones become less defined. Similarly, for male models, you'll often find that they tense their muscles slightly for each shot, to increase definition.

In fact, when I go to life drawing classes, I often see models adopting poses like "the hunch", or with elements of the hunch about them, for exactly the same reason: it gives the artists shadows and lines to draw.

Additionally, there's definitely an element of prominent collar bones making the model look skinnier, which as we know is what the fashion industry has driven towards for a long time.

Both models and photographers are taught, largely by example that this is the way to do it. It will take a group of committed people to change the industry.
posted by gmb at 1:34 PM on January 8, 2016 [5 favorites]




I literally gasped at several of these. The Gucci one, American Apparel, the women in a vending machine--WTF?? and the Dolce & Gabbana one in particular. It's been years and years since I looked at a fashion magazine. Is this typical of what's going on now?
posted by HotToddy at 7:26 PM on January 8, 2016


If you aged that hunchy thinny Ralph Lauren model 65 years, she'd look a lot like some of the benefactor women you'd see at a museum gala, the widow and second wife of Mr HometownCapitalist.
posted by conic at 9:12 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I understand sexism in fashion, but I also don't think every woman on her back looks like a victim or a corpse. In the article's examples I see "straight chilling, moodily" or "this is hot, four dudes and me." The vending machine is gross but I'd bet it was from a lad rag. And these are cherry-picked, too; there are plenty of power stances in fashion magazines.
posted by juniper at 2:29 PM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


there are plenty of power stances in fashion magazines

examples? Though I suspect we won't agree, given your reaction to the article examples.
posted by frumiousb at 9:28 PM on January 9, 2016


Google Patrick Demarchelier, one of Vogue's favorite and most famous photographers. Some broken doll, yes, but a lot of straight-postured staring into the camera.
posted by juniper at 6:15 AM on January 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yes, his work seems generally better-- although a lot of the straight-postured staring are portrait shots, often when the person is in focus. When the subject is the clothing, then there is an awful lot of hunch/broken doll or protective poses--
posted by frumiousb at 6:01 PM on January 10, 2016


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