November 28, 2008
The New Feminine–Flickr group and tagging project
As we are coming to the end of the year and I am beginning to wrap up the 52 Acts project I have been looking back on some of the previous Acts and thinking about some of the ways in which I have wanted to further the knowedge I have gained from them. Early on in the project I had a look at Flickr images and the way in which they were tagged (see Acts 5, 6, and 7. I feel this was an important element of my work because the idea of ‘tagging’ (attaching several descriptors to an item for the purposes of searching) rather than categorising is central to the concept of web 2.0.
In Act 6 I looked at the similarities between images tagged with the descriptor ‘feminine’. I found the results of this quite striking. While I have nothing against the work of the artists images I used under a creative commons license–in fact many of them I find beautiful and extremely visually pleasing on an individual basis–it what the group conveyed to me overall that I found disturbing. The work itself was made up of images from 42 separate flickr contributing artists, artists who are unlikely to have ever met or seen each others work, yet there were some very strong patterns emerging looking at the group of images as a whole. In general, images tagged feminine were overwhelmingly submissive and sexualised. Lips and lingerie were emphasised, while eyes were generally obscured, looking away, or looking up at the viewer from a subordinate position. Cropped shots of idndividual body parts seemed to be emphasised in preference to shots representing full human beings.
What concerns me about this is that ‘feminine’ is the signifier we give to that which represents the qualities of femaleness–it is, perhaps, more commonly used to describe extreme exammples of femaleness, things that point to the very essence of femaleness. And it concerns me that through image tagging it shows that the popular perception of what it means to be inherently female is to be sexualised, submissive and disected.
My response to this situation is to start up a new flickr group called ‘the new feminine‘ and I am asking flickr users to join and submit images that more roundly represent the qualities of being female to the group photo pool.
Group pool image guidelines:
Please submit images of women where:
- the subject makes eye contact with the camera/viewer, and the eyes are not obscured;
- the camera angle is no higher than eye level with the subject—i.e. the viewer cannot be looking down on the subject;
- the image includes all or most of the subjects body, or is a head and shoulders shot, in preference to body or facial ‘parts’; and
- the subject is not naked, semi-naked, wearing visible lingerie or otherwise dressed in a sexualised manner (obviously this is open to interpretation so please use your best judgement).
Bonus points for:
- posting several images that show diversity in race, age, body shape, etc; and
- images of women engaged in activity—active images are preferred over passive images.
Please include the tags ‘feminine’ and ‘the new feminine’ in your image tags.
Please join the group and follow its progress, even if you don’t have images of your own to add to the pool yet, and perhaps keep these things in mind when taking photos in the future.