It is not just the history of photography, not just art history, but history in its entirety has been the unrivaled hegemony of men. Of course, things have taken a progressive turn since the dawn of the 19th century and we have been edging towards the light that shines on equal gender representation in the realm of arts, but we still have miles to go.
Let us examine the art of photography as a sexual metaphor, and as I’m sure Susan Sontag would agree, this is how it pans out:
The camera is the photographer’s phallus. The lens represents the artistic extension of the male gaze. The female subject “makes love” to the camera, and by extension, the photographer. This metaphor simplifies the cultural hegemonic history of photography or to be more precise the ‘Western way of seeing’, when it comes to the history of visual arts.
This is precisely what makes the art of subversion so important in contemporary visual arts and reimagining traditional societal interpretations of gender. Today, we're exploring an insightful photo series, titled Emasculate (2017), by Kolkata-born photographer Bhumika Bhattacharya, where she wields the lens of subverting the male gaze — not just through her own identity as a woman photographer but also through her perception and presentation of the male body.
In this series, Bhumika’s portrayal of soft masculinity touches upon the viewers with a feather-like yet powerful tenderness. Her treatment of colors and monochrome adds gravitas to the series but it is primarily the geometry of props and the human anatomy of postures, that gives an edge to her visual grammar - the way her male-bodied subject’s subtle recline, their entanglement of the limbs, the slight side-ways tilt of their head - all of this evokes a profound gentleness. It’s also interesting to ruminate on the fact that the photographs can also be unsettling for a person with a hetero-normative view of gender and body. It might evoke a certain sense of symbolic castration and if that’s the case, the politics of subversion has been well-fulfilled. In a world of male artists and caged gender definitions, Bhumika’s work is a breath of fresh air.
About the artist:
"It's more about the world within, than the visible reality."
A firm believer in this quote, Bhumika Bhattacharjee is a self-taught fashion and art photographer. She stepped into the world of photography at the young age of fifteen. Having worked as both a model and a photographer, she considers her experiences with photographers invaluable. Her experiential learning has defined her aesthetics and evolution as an artist. Blurring the lines between genres, Bhumika believes in exploring the difference in dynamics of how male and female photographers treat their subjects. Women, she feels, have eyes for the intricate details in their worldview of things while men are drawn towards larger concepts ignoring the beauty of intricacies. For her, photography is an important means of bringing catharsis. She wishes to continue it for as long as she can.
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