November 22 through 26 marked the debut of Photo Vogue Festival in Milan, Italy. A main theme and exhibition of the festival was The Female Gaze, which highlighted the work of cutting-edge female photographers who are relentlessly revolutionizing how the female body is portrayed in fashion.
Vogue’s embracement of the female gaze as viable subject matter proves that mainstream media is finally paying attention to the perspectives of women. Photo Vogue was the first ever fashion photography festival but it was not the first event or magazine to zero in on the concept of the female gaze in photography. In September 2015, The Untitled Magazine published The #GirlPower Issue ,” a celebration of femininity in all its forms.” The magazine set out to empower women by giving them their rightful space in media representation and beyond. As The Untitled Magazine editor-in-chief, Indira Cesarine stated, “It is time for women to be fairly represented in the work forces of the media, to gain equality on all fronts, and not to have to fight for these rights, but to be able to take them as a given.” The issue featured art and images created exclusively by female photographers and artists and contained interviews with inspirational female artists, musicians, activists, and actresses. Furthermore, all articles and interviews were conducted and written by female journalists. A year later i-D Magazine presented their Female Gaze Issue. Featuring activist and model, Adwoa Aboah, on the cover, the magazine also featured images produced solely by females.
For many years women have often been a subject of desire through the “masculine gaze” in fashion photography and painting. While the female gaze has always been present in the world of fine art, it often has been pushed aside and definitely not highlighted. It is only in the last couple of years that famous galleries and art institutions have begun to reverse the marginalization of female and minority voices in art, echoing a process that smaller, independent galleries and art spaces began long ago.
While 2016 has been a tough political year for women, in the art world things are looking up for females who are increasingly seeing more representation in galleries and are finally finding space to showcase the unique viewpoint of the female gaze. In May, The Untitled Space gallery presented the exhibition, “In the Raw: The Female Gaze on the Nude.” Curated by gallery director and artist Indira Cesarine and artist/curator Coco Dolle, the group show presented the paintings, sculptures, photography, sculptures, mixed media and videos of twenty female artists’ intimate vision on the female nude to reclaim the female body through art.
Artists in “In The Raw” redefined female identity by showing women in a realistic and imperfect light. Work featured created a cultural discourse of women on women and a female intervention on patriarchal culture. The array of international exhibiting artists included Amanda Charchian, Aneta Bartos, Annika Connor, Coco Dolle, Elisa Garcia de la Huerta, Ellen Jong, Indira Cesarine, Jennifer Caviola, Katya Zvereva, Kelsey Bennett, Leah Schrager, Logan White, Loretta Mae Hirsch, Lynn Bianchi, Maria Kreyn, Marianna Rothen, Marie Tomanova, Meredith Ostrom, Sophia Wallace and Victoria de Lesseps. Other recent exhibits that focused on the female gaze included Cheim & Read Gallery’s “The Female Gaze: Women Look at Women” and the role-reversal, “The Female Gaze: Women Look at Men.
Following it’s mission to highlight women in art, The Untitled Space opened another all female exhibition after “In the Raw: The Female Gaze on the Nude.” Curated by sisters Kelsey and Rémy Bennett and presented by gallery owner Indira Cesarine, “LIFEFORCE,” explored the concept of the cyborg and the feminine by imagining a world without gender. The show featured Amanda Turner Pohan, Aria McManus, Chiara Girimonti, Elizabeth Ilsley, Hein Koh, Jeanette Hayes, Jessica Stoller, Jo Shane, Juno Calypso, Kelsey Bennett, Maggie Dunlap, Maisie Cousins, Monica Garza, Nadia Lee Cohen, Nicole Nadeau, Panteha Abareshi, Parker Day, Raine Trainor, Remy Bennett, Sam Cannon, Signe Pierce, Tafv Sampson, and Taira Rice.
Some of the same artists who displayed their powerful work at The Untitled Space, also were featured in Photo Vogue Italy, these female artists included Amanda Charchian, Juno Calypso and Maisie Cousins. Other artists shown in Italy’s premier event, “The Female Gaze,” included Aida Muluneh, Angela Strassheim, Arvida Byström, Atong Atem, Bex Day, Brianna Capozzi, Camilla Akrans, Carlotta Manaigo, Cass Bird, Cindy Sherman, Donna Trope, Elaine Constantine, Elena Rendina, Elinor Carucci, Ellen Von Unwerth, Emilie Regnier, Emma Summerton, Greta Ilieva, Hellen van Meene, Isabelle Wenzel, Janneke van der Hagen, Joana Choumali, Julia Hetta, Julia Noni, Lalla A. Essaydi, Lea Colombo, Lina Scheynius, Lise Sarfati, Liz Collins, Majida Khattari, Mel Bles, Namsa Leuba, Nan Goldin, Olivia Bee, Petra Collins, Sarah Moon, Shae Detar, Stephanie Wilson, Vanessa Beecroft, Venetia Dearden, Venetia Scott, Viviane Sassen, Yelena Yemchuk, and Zanele Muholi.
With galleries and publications lighting the way it is safe to say that the female gaze and the perspective of women artists will continue to be highlighted in fine art. Hopefully this will lead to female viewpoints being included more and more in the world beyond.