Wednesday, March 25, 2009

No Accounting for Taste

About 60% of english words derive from Latin. The Latin proverb De gustibus non est disputandum loosely translated means "There is no accounting for taste" or "personal preferences are not debatable". A person's taste and their perceptions are distinctive. Everyone sees the world differently depending on their age, gender and culture. Any number of photographers can photograph the same thing and the photographs will be surprisingly dissimilar.

According to a recent study in published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, beauty affects men and women's brains differently, even though both men and women describe beauty as being "original, interesting and pleasant."

Alec Soth talks about gender differences in his artistic statement for Portraiture Now: Feature Photography at the National Portrait Gallery.

A critic once pointed out to me the different ways in which I photograph men and women. With men I seem to be poking fun, he said, whereas my depiction of women is more reverent. He makes a good point. Many of my best pictures of men are playful (a man in a flight suit holding model airplanes, a shirtless man with carrots in his ears). But the women I photograph look more like saints than clowns. As a man, I suppose, I identify more with my male subjects. In them, I see my own awkwardness and frailty. Women are always “the other.” In assembling this group of portraits of women, I’m aware that I’m treading on dangerous ground. When I was in college, I learned to be distrustful of men’s depictions of women. I remember seeing Garry Winogrand’s book Women are beautiful in the school library and being shocked that it hadn’t been defaced for its blatant objectification of women. But looking back, maybe I was too harsh. Whether one photographs men or women, it is always a form of objectification. Whatever you say about Winogrand, his depiction was honest. In putting together a collection of my best portraits of women, I’m trying to come to terms with how I honestly see and depict women. Are my pictures romanticized? Sexualized? Why do I see women in this way? For me, photography is as much about the way I respond to the subject as it is about the subject itself.

© Alec Soth, Ron from Fashion Magazine by Alec Soth (v. 3)

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