Approaching men on the street and asking them to undress and be photographed can be frightening – and highlights the struggle for women to find equality. Alex Brew explains
“Why do so many female artists put themselves in their work – often with no clothes on?” asked an article in The Guardian by Germaine Greer at the beginning of the year.
I have been photographing men for the last six months and I think I have the answer. The project ‘Asking For It’, showing at Ladyfest London in May, involves me approaching men in public places and asking them to fully or partially undress in a more private space for me and my camera. During this time I have grappled with going against the grain: with being something other than object.
Greer gives only one reason why female artists do not put other people’s flesh – either male or female – in their work: “That the use of the nude is necessarily exploitative, and therefore a female artist who needs to use a body has no option but to use her own.” Noble indeed, but our collective female conscience fails to kick in when we “exploit” other women, children, male adolescents – and of course ourselves. One example is Vanessa Beecroft whose work shows rows of nubile naked young women – with shorn, partially shorn or closely cropped pubic hair – wearing only heels and red wigs.