Apropos our musings the other day on why so often photographic subjects tend to be female…

Talking about this with our friend who has modelled in the past (this is not the same person pictured in the photo above, we should clarify) she offered the following:

I always had the same question as you and asked male photographers but, non of them could answer my question clearly and they even seemed uncomfortable to be asked so. Therefore, I stopped asking but here are some of the reasons I might guess (though to be honest, my point of view must include a certain degree of prejudice against men.)

Photographs - especially portraits - have to be attractive in some way. And this sense of attraction is easier to draw out and to be portrayed when the model and the photographers are different genders (at least for people who identify as straight).

I guess many female photographers would be willing to take both genders but male photographers are not. But I suppose this is kind of a natural thing - can you imagine an am amateur male photographer and an amateur guy model staring at each other through the lens? It would be kind of awkward - they wouldn’t know how to communicate.

But then, it also depends on what kind of portrait it is. Look at this guy’s photos.

He often features male models and his work is amazing and becomes possible perhaps because he is a guy. I feel like he naturally knows the way to take photos of other men.

But returning to the topic of male photographers who only take photos of girls…..

It’s a broad brush, to be sure, but I feel that many of them have some issues with their personal relationships or family, wives, etc… For them, taking photos is kind of therapy but they never realise the fact.

What they know is that they are a photographer but also functioning as a therapist for girl models. Many amateur female models have problems or something unsettled within them - sometimes small thing, sometimes emotional problems, sometimes mental issues.

Being a model is a way for these girls to understand and realise who they are and learn to accept themselves for who they are, and male photographers usually know this fact.

So they enjoy give girls mental therapy on the photo shoot. This is good for girls and at the same time, for the photographers themselves, as they often have issues within their own personal relationships as mentioned.

I think another reason might be that many men have desire to possess. I guess they may satisfy this desire by “capturing” girls via their own lens and by “owning” the photos they take.

So perhaps then this is the reason why they only take photos of girls. Guys doesn’t meet their desire.

A corollary of this is then, often for male photographers, taking portraits of women may be borne in part of sexual desire.

It’s an interesting take to be sure - perhaps a bit more rigid than necessary in stipulating that usually photographers are male and subjects are female1 but we found it contains several key insights especially into dynamics found around services like Instagram / Facebook which have opened up an entire new domain of amateur model/photographer pairings, and the motivations behind each part of that relationship.

Our continued thoughts on this later….

  1. it leaves aside the question of why this pattern seems to hold true even when we consider non-strictly heterosexual male photographers + female models, and tends to occur with female photographers as well, or why more men do not tend to aspire to model themselves, regardless of who is on the other side of the camera_