December 2019

As a beginner magazine writer, back in the Golden Age of Magazines –  and, yes, I want those caps! – I got to know some terrific photographers and Eve Arnold was one of them. Arnold, an American in London with hair swept back into a no nonsense look, was with Magnum, which was a photographer’s sect as much as a major agency, and she once shared memories of working conditions during the austere post-war years, such as a big shoot for Life magazine, who allotted her just six rolls of film. Is it a false memory that the subject was Marilyn Monroe? Arnold did indeed shoot the filming of the John Huston movie, The Misfits, bonded with the actress and produced a book. Just why did this show prompt these memories? Because Arnold made it clear that she had an advantage on such a shoot, a situation which involved both chance and intimacy, a single word: Trust.

So to The Female Lens, the show of photographs of women by woman photographers at New York City’s Richard Taittinger Gallery, the very name of which will be likely to bring to mind its polar opposite, The Male Gaze. This phrase was coined some four decades plus ago by Laura Mulvey, a British film theorist, as part of her description of the way a man is likely to look at an attractive woman unknown to him, and it remains in widespread use today, suggesting both the eye of the connoisseur, the would-be collector of beautiful objects, as also the instinctual eye of the hunter, checking out prey. Which seems spot on to me.


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