Recently, I lost a paid photo shoot.
It turned out a hair stylist and sometimes photographer I shared an image of mine with, which was showing a vagina, cost me the shoot.
It was not an image I publish. It was in fact a work in progress of which I was not yet proud, and still am not proud.
I was showing the image to select artists soliciting feedback and also studying the image myself.
This hair stylist told a woman, who had agreed to hire me, that I did ‘crotch shots’ of women who did not know about it and to stay away …
This was not true. The image in question is of a model with whom I have a great working relationship and with whom I had full rights of display.
This hair dresser had also viewed many great images of mine …
Saying nothing to me, the thing she remembered, and it appears is told others, was of my imperfect image… and it cost me work.
This was in fact an experimental photograph. A work in editing progress. A learning piece shot with a knowing muse.
We photographers often consult each other and learn from each other about what works and what does not. Yet, even showing this image to someone I considered a fellow artist had a now quantifiable monetary risk.
Being an artist is a way of converting feeling into a kind of knowing, which then creates works, which hopefully will evoke feeling.
This experience, combined with receiving a book for review by a great photographer full of pussy shots which did not move me, got me to me thinking more deeply… A photograph, showing a woman’s vagina… what makes for an image which works… as an art piece or beautiful image, and what does not?
What looks like a snap shot, perhaps a well lit snap shot, and what tells a story or shows captivating form?
What makes one image erotic, another art, perhaps both. What makes an image just an image of a vagina… Is it eye contact?
I have not been able yet to distill an answer and am now actively pursuing the knowing part of creating.
This takes study and experiment.
While I know an image which works when I see it, I cannot yet reliably tell what must go into an image’s genesis for it to work as a final product, where a full on view of a vagina is present.
Photographer friends of mine also have this dilemma, regardless of subject matter.
And dilemma it is… One cannot learn to make a great omelet without breaking a few eggs… The same is true making photographs. However, photographs may be remembered long after a broken egg is gone and forgotten.
For example, in my opinion, an image is art if it has a form/substance which draws a viewer in or an emotion is evoked… This is not the only thing which may make an image art… But if it does one of these, then to me, it is art.
What is different between the images with full on vaginas which work and those which do not?
I have seen images which do work. And, many which do not.
I will like to know technical aspects to this answer very much for myself. To learn this answer, I will study images with vaginas which do work ‘artistically’ and those which do not.
And, I’m sure will make images which work and those which do not as I refine a personal style and technique. Thank you to all the muses past, present and future who collaborate in this fun learning process.
‘Artistically’ is admittedly a term which is often very personal. Others frequently have differing opinions. I accept that what may for someone be art is offensive to others… In fact, offensive itself is an emotional reaction and may, by some measure, qualify a work as art. The Nazis for instance burned many art works and books they considered offensive to or inconsistent with their ideals.
I find the question more than academic. I believe the question and its answer are vital to financial and personal success and development as a photographer or other visual artists of nudes. To include the vagina or not… and how…??
Someone once told me, a photographer is remembered for their worst image… In the case of the hair stylist, this seems true… And, one would think she would have been professional, having seen a more balanced whole…. It was not so. When people take offence, they may lash out or burn your works, or burn you. Sometimes, it is a sign of success… In this case… the image wasn’t ready for public display.
A mentor once told me, a key to success in photography is editing ones portfolio …
Editing in the sense of only showing ones very best works…
There seem to be images people love and will purchase…
Other images, they love but will not purchase… And others, well, we have many broken eggs/images as photographers, don’t we?
Personally, I am still learning. It is a great fun and sometimes frustration of photography to always be learning, trial and error, with occasional and hopefully more frequent success.
Feeling some insights or have some experience on this question? I will love to hear them as comments.