Face of Eve and the modern woman in photography today When God created the World, he created night and day, seas and land, birds and animals, and then he finally created man, Adam. To accommodate him with a suitable partner, he created woman, Eve out of Adam’s rib (refer Genesis 2:23). He placed the husband and wife, both naked, in the Garden of Eden. They were permitted to eat fruit of any tree except that of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. However, the evil serpent swindled the innocent Eve into eating the forbidden fruit1, which she also gave to Adam. Suddenly aware of their nakedness, they sewed fig leaves together to wear. When God discovered how Adam and Eve had defied His command, he banished them from the Garden. He said to Eve, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children. Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you." As Lord God said these words, he set the place for women in the nascent world.
That was the origin, as Genesis declares it, and till today, Eve is blamed for the fall of the human race. Woman has always played second fiddle to man, be it in the Creation, history, and for that matter, any aspect of life, domesticity, society or work. But what has been the bearing of woman, from Eve to present day Plain Jane, in terms of photography
Photography is considered as one of the most powerful mediums of communication in contemporary world. A poignant photograph or picture is worth a million precious words. It is, after all, a picture that gets engraved in one’s mind, much more than an equivalent of similar knowledge in any other medium. And when the muse is "woman", a subject loved for its subtlety, encroaching upon a mountain of power, providing enough vastness to explore unbound creativity, it formulates a form of magic, which today, runs the world, literally. Every hoarding, every magazine, every advertisement lays its foundation on this very magic, which has proven to charm its viewer towards the purpose. Whether good or evil, the tree of knowledge helped create a woman who exuded docility with her half mysterious smile2, but who also had the power to rapture the world over.
Someone rightly said, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. A woman is considered to be an epitome of beauty since the emergence of mankind. For a photographer, it is important that his message comes across to the viewer in his picture, whether it is commercial, sensual, sexual, or emotional.
The depiction of modernism in woman and vice-versa is largely mutual, as both complement each other. Today, sex sells. And modern photography banks upon this fact to give form to its Cosmopolitans and Vogues. An article by Hilton Als about the depiction of modern women in fashion magazines quotes that "the urbanness of images as fashion proposals is a new genre for Middle America: one of style, not fashion, and style is a worldly circumstance, not an editorial concept." Feminism, a blend of the origin, that is Eve and the woman today, is synonymous with fashion, style, sex, beauty, divinity, power and even money. Usury of her assets to define each of these gives rise to two sides of a coin. While she has attained a position where she is considered sacred, in contrast with her preceding stance as a subordinate to man, there be also a form of exploitation that photography deals in, which the woman has to accept. This view can be compared, inconsiderably to a beautiful dove in a cage made of gold.
Liz Conor in her book The Spectacular Modern Woman: Feminine Visibility in the 1920s makes a very strong point when she states "If the visibility of the Modern Woman helped to produce (this) subject position, the sanitary napkin advertisements, comics, and cartoons reproduced (here) show that women had to negotiate often contradictory meanings of feminine visibility: there was a great deal at stake in achieving fitting visual effects." Another time in the same book, she acknowledges that, " In the 1920s, women were a notable presence on city streets. While working women had been visible much earlier, the everyday presence of middle class women intensified anxiety about the meaning and intentions of their visibility. Commentators received them with the same ambivalence that can be seen in the marketing of a disposable napkin. Their visibility was seen as integral to their identification as modern, but it was also viewed with distrust for the ways that it might sabotage the gendered rituals of looking and being seen as they traditionally articulated sexual difference."
In the beginning, both men and women were created equal by God. The unfortunate mistake that Eve made by eating the apple resulted in her position as a sort of subordinate to man. Since then, the stance of woman has remained pretty much the same in the eyes of man and consequentially in his medium, photography, too, as a dove he would keep caged, but will all the dignity fit for his queen. Though he loves her prowess and her beauty, he still uses it as a "commodity", a step in the path to the fulfillment of his purpose. He gives her a high position in his mannerisms, a depiction of which can be seen in daily life, where he would shower her with gifts and sweet nothings. But at the end of it all, he wants to rein control over her too, especially where photography is concerned. The modern woman loves it all and usually gives in to the charm, knowing perfectly well about any ulterior motives that may exist. Whether it is an outcome of greed, arising from his enamored self (like an over-protective lover exerting control over his woman), or the laws of the land that were spoken by God himself when He was banishing Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (meaning that she would have to be dependant on him), the reason is immaterial. He directs her to pose as he would like to see her, and she does as she is bidden. The conclusion remains that modern man and modern woman share a complex relationship in the medium of photography, where the woman exploits her advantageous position as a muse for man, and the man exploits his preset upper hand over her, by being the critic who decides her success or fall in the field of photography and media. In the photograph, both maintain a complex but delicate equilibrium, and are equally necessary for each other.
Genesis (Chapter 2 and Chapter 3)
Conor, Liz. The Spectacular Modern Woman: Feminine Visibility in the 1920s (page 44)
Answers in Genesis, Creative Archive, Volume 20, Issue 1. Dec 1997
Daily Reading Of Bible, Hilton Als, Shiny happy people – modern women as depicted in fashion magazines – Fashion. Art Forum, Summer 1994