Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Glamour Photography is a Misnomer

Click to Enlarge
Photography has many genres. Some are quite specific while others are broad, vague, and cover a lot of ground. In general, people have a need to label things. To clump them together in a way that (to varying degrees) makes sense to most. It doesn't mean all labels are necessarily accurate. Instead, they are words which become accepted in terms of describing things.

Personally, I'm not big on labels except when they describe things in fairly specific terms. Wedding Photography is a label that works well. We know exactly what it is: It's a genre of photography that documents weddings.

Labels are often dynamic and evolutionary. What was once called "glamour photography" bears little resemblance to the genre we now consider Glamour Photography.  The evolution of this particular label is one that's become broader, vaguer, and sexier. It encompasses a lot of real estate.

Glamour photography was invented by Hollywood. Hollywood had its actors and actresses who were its luminaries and, because of their lofty statuses, were labeled, "stars."  Stars were marketed as being glamorous, especially Hollywood's female stars. A star's aura of glamour set them apart from mere mortals and, when it came to photographing its glamorous stars, Hollywood opted for photographic styles that were worthy of the star's glamorous star status. Glamorous hair styles, makeup applications, wardrobe, lighting and more were all elements of glamour photography. What was mostly missing, leastwise when comparing glamour photography then with glamour photography today, were things like nudity and obviously sexual or sensual poses and expressions.

But that was then and this is now.  Now, glamour photography has a much broader meaning. It has something to do with the subject's allure, make that sexual allure, and any sort of stardom (by Hollywood standards) is no longer a prerequisite for being the subject of a glamour photograph. In more recent times, even the word, "star" has been diluted and more liberally applied.  That's how we have "porn stars."  Porn stars don't even have to be porn's version of stars in the traditional sense of the word.  The very first time a woman engages in sex in front of a camera for commercial purposes, she qualifies as a porn star. No actual stardom (porn or otherwise) is required.

The words star and stardom are a bit reminiscent of comedian George Carlin's genius take on the word "shell-shock" and how it has evolved, been diluted and de-humanized to its current euphemism, "post-traumatic stress disorder."  In the case of the words star and stardom, however, the words haven't changed, its their meanings that have changed or been expanded.

BTW,  PTSD has lately gotten a lot of press, negative press, and because of that I expect we'll see a new term entering the lexicon in the not too distant future. One that's softer and even less serious and human-affliction sounding. Perhaps something along the lines of "Accidental War By-Product." After all, soldiers who come home from war totally fucked-up in the head are merely accidental by-products of combat and their war experiences, not much different than getting an itchy rash from accidentally brushing bare skin against poison ivy is an accidental by-product of that personal experience... or so they'd like us to believe. (Whoever "they" are.)

Back to glamour photography.

These days, glamour photography is defined, at least by something I read that was put out by Princeton University, as a genre whereby "...the subjects, usually female, are portrayed in a  romantic or sexually alluring way. The subjects may be fully clothed or semi-nude, but glamour photography stops short of deliberately arousing the viewer and being hardcore photography."

Say what? While I agree with the first part of that definition, as well as its final few words, glamour photography does not stop short of being deliberately arousing, leastwise the way I shoot it it doesn't. I mean, I hope my brand of glamour photography doesn't stop short of that. I want my glamour models to arouse the sexual interests of viewers. That's the whole fucking point of it, isn't it?  A pretty girl in varying degrees of dress and undress, posing provocatively and often with "come hither" expressions on their faces and, more importantly, in their eyes.

Glamour photography, in my mind, is a misnomer. Personally, I think "tease" is a better word to describe much of what I consider as being glamour photography these days. While tease photos may certainly have elements of glamour attached to them -- you know, glamour as in the definition, "an exciting quality that makes certain people or things seem appealing or special" -- it's main purpose, these days, whether you call it glamour or tease, is to arouse the senses. To make its subjects appealing or special in a decidedly sexual way. Glamour or tease photos might not arouse viewers the same way viewing hardcore pornography does, and it certainly has (or should have) elements to it that transcend porn or overtly prurient interests,  but it arouses or should arouse viewers nonetheless.

The pretty girl with the pink wig at the top is Sasha Grey. Sasha was, indeed, a star in the porn biz. Sasha left porn and has gone on to a mainstream career as a model, an actress, and more. While I wouldn't label Sasha a "star" in her current iteration as a performer and more, she certainly qualified as one within the confines of the porn industry.

1 comment:

Bill Giles said...

When I think of glamour photography, I think of the photography of people like George Hurrell and C. S. Bull. Modern day glamour photography seems to be pretty well characterized as "men's magazine photography". The content varies according to the magazine and their style, but it all fits pretty well under that label.