Easy on the Eyes
Easy on the Eyes presents slick photographs of beautiful men, but the work does not only create seductive images. It also examines how women have been able to look at men within the confines of Western visual and textual narratives. It considers the female gaze via the genre of directorial photography. These carefully staged photographs utilize a cinematic look, enigmatic symbolism, and implied narrative. Unlike most work in this vein, which focuses on young female subjects, here the camera surveys desirable men. Each scene includes a male character depicted in mid-storyline and an “implied woman” somewhere just outside the frame. She is not visible, but we do see her cast-off shoes, dropped purse, or other clues. In fact, her role in the narrative may be more significant than his: where has she gone, what game is she playing, why does she need three passports? He is the photograph’s subject matter, but she is the narrative’s protagonist.
These photographs provide visual pleasure with a heterosexual female viewer in mind—though others may look over her shoulder. Where else do we find images of attractive men created for a woman? Western visual culture only recently produced advertisements and films for the female gaze (nonexistent when film critic Laura Mulvey wrote “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” in 1975). In contrast, the novel provides a longer history of offering male bodies to female readers, including detailed descriptions of women finding pleasure in gazing at beautiful men.
And so Easy on the Eyes juxtaposes a visual narrative against a passage from a novel by a prominent female author describing a male character. Once text accompanies these photographs, the visual narrative is no longer entirely open. The pairing creates neither irony nor parody but rather a disruption of the viewer’s desire for an uncomplicated tale. The implied narrative is misdirected by an image and text combination that both produces and questions meaning. In Easy on the Eyes, the female gaze must be acknowledged and the representation of male beauty reconsidered.
Easy on the Eyes, 2008-10 © Jeanette May
The photographs in this series are captured digitally and presented as archival pigment prints in editions of 10. Print sizes include 20 x 40" and 15 x 30".
The Easy on the Eyes catalog is available from Blurb Books.