Terry Richardson Photography/Sam Roddick and the (Sexual) Objectification of Women/Male Gaze

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Terry Richardson has always been seen as somewhat of a controversial Fashion Photographer, working with the worlds icons and elite in order to create sexually provocative and objectifying imagery of mainly women, which has become his trademark.

I wanted to look further into this after deciding to use some of his recent works in a developmental and experimental pieces of work – a satirical Kylie Jenner zine as discussed in my previous post – whilst noticing also how pivotal this is to the current industry of fashion and occasionally beauty, especially with adverts for items such as Shampoo and Fake tan. This is shown in the example of a St. Tropez advert featuring Kate Moss in a provocative, sexual pose, highlighting her breasts through the cut of dress, angle of photography, and also heightened further through the crop of the image making this along with her face, the most prominent and ‘appealing’ elements of this advert, sexually objectifying Kate.


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Frederickson and Roberts (1998) noted in their writings, “Objectification Theory” that when “women are objectified, women as treated as bodies – and in particular, bodies that exist for the use and pleasure of others”. I feel as though this is represented in the small selection of photographs shown below of both Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian, as well as in the St. Tropez ad shown below which all portray women to be objects for the pleasure of men. The images below feature Kylie Jenner using her body and her figure as the key of the photoshoot, with all focus being on her breasts. Furthermore, the images of Kim Kardashian are playful and provocative, whilst sexually objectifying herself through the use of prop and pose choices, hinting at the idea of sex in a not so subtle way. I feel in the way that this shapes the idea of our self-perception and in-turn the perception of others, allows for sexual objectification to become the norm and to taint what we see as ‘ideal’, especially if one already feels vulnerable in the sense to complying to norms and fads to appeal as to what is seen as ‘attractive’.

Whilst this touches on Frederickson and Roberts (1998) theory of Objectification, this theory also coincides with the idea of the Male Gaze. Another theorist, Shields, noted that “[the] ‘male gaze’ transforms women into objects of the heterosexual man’s eye [74] … advertisements and other images of women are shot in such ways that encourage female audiences to adopt a certain perspective when looking at other women and themselves [77].”

I feel that this quote backs up the ideology of the Objectification theory, where women become objects to satisfy the male gaze. I feel through Fashion Photography such as the examples of Terry Richardson’s work, powerful photography in established, powerful magazines and campaigns, can truly impact upon one’s self-perception, and that of others also internalising these visuals and processing them as ‘the norm’.


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Furthermore, there have been Feminist perspectives discussed by Sam Roddick, a photographer, whose recent works also explore the idea of the ‘male gaze’. Roddick is not only a photographer, but also to the provocative lingerie store, Coco de Mer, which encompasses this as it’s selling point, knowing that women seek approval of males, whilst also in turn, sexually objectifying oneself as an ‘object’ for such pleasure.

A recent exhibition in 2015 titled Hidden Within, showcases her works inspired by work of the designer and architect Carlo Mollino whom throughout his lifetime collected polaroids of women which he kept at a house he didn’t live it. This obsession with women as objects, and in turn understanding how the control of the male gaze has affected such perceptions is important, as this itself is reflected through Roddick’s work.

Roddick noted that, “I came across Carlo Mollino when I opened Coco De Mer … there’s a lot of boring down days working in retail, you know, and that’s when my book collection in the shop was my sanctuary. I’d study his pictures and after a while, I realised the models weren’t posing as themselves; he’d posed them and he’d repeated the poses. Their hands were held in the same manner, flipped at the wrist and after a while you realised that he was sculpting them.”

Examples of Roddick’s work which recreate the sexually dark and controlling work of Mollino.

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Roddick continues to note that, “Terry Richardson is a wounded man. His sexuality is definitely wounded. There’s a sexual aggression in his pictures that’s obvious. From an artistic perspective I like his pictures, from a feminist perspective, he’s an arsehole. I think he wears his damage on his sleeve whereas I feel Carlo Mollino’s damage is way more hidden. When you look at his photos, they’re a lot more respectful than what you see today.” I found this comparison with Terry Richardson to be very interesting in the idea that due to an artistic approach from Mollino and Richardson there works can be said to fall in line with each other, however on a sexually derived level for the pleasure of a mass-audience of males, Richardson’s photographs put out a negative ideal of women to feminists, being more perversive, and objectifying opposed to empowering.

Roddick, S. (2015). ‘FROM A FEMINIST PERSPECTIVE TERRY RICHARDSON IS AN ARSEHOLE’ SAM RODDICK ON HER NEW EXHBITION ABOUT THE MALE GAZE. Available: http://www.thedebrief.co.uk/news/opinion/from-a-feminist-perspective-terry-richardson-is-an-arsehole-sam-roddick-on-her-new-exhbition-about-the-male-gaze-20150337965. Last accessed 15th November 2016.
Fredrickson, B & Roberts, T (1998). Objectification Theory. Psychology of Women, 22: Printed in the United States of America. 173-176.
Klein, K. (2013). Why Don’t I Look Like Her? The Impact of Social Media on Female Body Image. Available: http://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1749&context=cmc_theses. Last accessed 12th November 2016.