Are you a voyeur?
This was my first encounter with voyeurism. Voyeur was the first French word I learned. It comes directly from a Middle French noun meaning, literally, »one who sees«.
To excuse my father, I have to explain, these were the early 80s. My father was younger than I am today and it wasn't a real gun. Noone got hurt. The peeping Tom never returned.
It's an odd story, though. My parents had carefully sawed an old garden chair two days before because they got suspicious as there was a sound in front of their window every morning. And the next morning, the broken chair lay on our terrace. Clearly not broken by a squirrel.
When I was 14 years old, my class went to Denmark. I grew up in the country, so Copenhagen was a huge city for me. It totally fascinated me. And while being downtown, I witnessed a photo shoot in the pedestrian zone with two women wearing nothing but underwear. Being small, I managed to meander through the crowd and stare from the first row.
Later I passed by a huge billboard by a camera manufacturer (unfortunately I don't remember the brand) with the word »Voyeur« in large letters on it. It brought back memories of what had happened in our garden in my childhood. And how the term voyeur had been something bad in my inner value system since then.
Now, a camera was being advertised and the consumer encouraged to act as a voyeur. This confused me. And it got me thinking. Hadn't I just been attracted by those two women at the photo shoot? What is bad about wanting to see and explore something, even if it is secret or hidden?
Of course, I easily figured that the wrong part is to enter a private property. And spying on someone without their consent. But at the same time, I secretly discovered that I was interested in witnessing and capturing beauty. While admiring aesthetics. I was far from becoming a photographer, but the feeling was already born.
Voyeurism allows us to experience all the excitement without any danger of hurt feelings.
the practice of gaining sexual pleasure from watching others when they are naked or engaged in sexual activity, broadly: someone who habitually seeks sexual stimulation by visual means
A fascination with looking
I am questioning the ambiguity of observation and voyeurism sometimes when producing. It is my intention to get my audience aroused by the thought of watching someone undress. To be honest, the important part is to start the inner cinema of my viewers. If I manage to create pictorials that help you immerse yourself into the story, I reached my goal.
I do this by using classical elements in my work such as hiding the camera behind foreground objects. I photograph scenes of models undressing that look absolutely genuine and make you believe what you see. You forget it is staged (and I will be the last to admit it). Showing only certain parts (while hiding others), increase your interest in the story and makes you want to hunt for more. It's a bit like the tease in strip-tease.
I incorporate voyeurism into my photo series frequently (if not always) and I try to understand how body language is part of communication. There's a flirt with the camera when the model sometimes plays cheeky. This is a nice little game, actually. The power of a woman. Her power over men. Playfulness and awareness of her own attraction.
But then, those photos where a model is not facing the camera, those are the ones that draw you into a scene the most! As no human eyes are looking at you, this is a game changer. You feel more attracted. And you dare to stare longer. Maybe you are even hunting with your eyes. As if it was an animal instinct. This might sound extraordinary to you, but think about it the next time you watch a photo set. Pictures where the model is looking away will have a stronger appeal and impact.
As a photographer I turn viewers into voyeurs
This is all artful play which happens with consent and all of my models know they are being photographed and even sign a contract. This means, you are allowed to watch. This probably separates the good voyeur from the one with a pathological disorder.
And isn't it so that my photo scenes typically allow you to watch from the voyeur's point of view? I know photo sets by other photographers where they include themselves in a mirror, for example. This feels very odd to me.
I would like to point out that in this article I am refering to voyeurism on the example of my own photography, only! I am not speaking about violating activities like upskirt photography or hidden cameras in public bathrooms. These are unlawful acts without the consent of the subjects being shown.
Are you a voyeur?
Even though, I couldn't find this definition in any dictionary, I believe that voyeurism in the context of nude art can mean more. Like a secret bond between observer and observee. There is always a deep admiration for women and worshiping the aesthetic feeling you get through watching them. This goes beyond arousal. If you leave sexuality aside, it also means you are diving deep into a pictorial and use your own fantasy. A lot more than the act of seeing, right? You connect to what you see, feel both excitement and gratitude.
Therefore I believe we could re-define voyeurism. Being a nude art lover automatically includes the characteristics of voyeurism — in a good way. Maybe the definition could be:
Voyeurism is enjoyable as long as there is no reason to be afraid of getting caught as you are secretly watching with permission.
I would like to encourage us good voyeurs to enjoy watching, discovering and admiring the beauty and appeal of the female body. Voyeurism is an art in itself.