Rebellious Attitude…Artistic State of Mind

The Edge of Arwen

We’re a husband/wife photography team and, for the most part, we’re on the same page when working a subject. Sometimes, though, we have “debates” about the artistic merits of one pose or another or one lighting arrangement or another or color saturation or any number of issues that have a great deal of impact on what a photo finally looks like. So we decided to try a little experiment and we invite you to participate.

We want to explore whether our occasional debates result from some friction between a “masculine eye” and a “feminine eye.” That’s why we call this blog post “The Edge of Arwen.” Arwen is a Celtic symbol sometimes referred to as the “three rays” or the “triple flame.”

An example of the Arwen is shown to the right. The outside rays are said to represent the male and female “energies” while the middle ray represents the balance between the two. Now, we acknowledge that there is often well informed disagreement on the full meaning of ancient Celtic symbols so we’re not making a stand as historical authorities here. For the purposes of this blog we are accepting the Arwen as something like the Celtic version of Yin-Yang. We chose Arwen instead of Yin-Yang because it’s different, we’re Celtic and this is our blog.

Here’s how we hope our Arwen project will work:

– Once a week (for an as yet undetermined number of weeks) we will each take a photograph of the same thing. We use the term “same” somewhat loosely because we won’t actually photograph the exact same person or object or whatever. We’ll choose a topic and then seek to represent it with a photo.

– We will post our photos on this blog. They will be labeled “Photo A” and “Photo B.”

Here is where your participation comes in:

– When we post we will not tell which of us took which photo.

– You will look at the photos and tell us whether you think “Photo A” was taken by a man or a woman or if it in some way reflects the masculine or the feminine. You’ll do the same for “Photo B.”

– We also want you to make suggestions about what we should photograph for the next week’s blog. Your suggestions can be as specific as “door knobs” or “cat whiskers,” or can be as general and conceptual as “love” or “fear.” We’ll pick the most interesting and work on it.

We will analyze your input to try to get a feel for whether Mike’s “man-ness” or Jill’s “woman-ness” is playing any part in our work. We don’t have the foggiest idea what long term implications this project will have. Maybe it will help us resist influences we don’t want to be influenced by, or maybe it will help us channel who we are more meaningfully. We just don’t know yet.

We do know that this is about as unscientific a project as one might contrive. There’s no control group or double blind or anything like that. It’s just a fun way to play with photography and personality and think about things a little bit.

We also know that masculinity and femininity are not so simple any more. We can’t say that Mike’s a guy so he’s masculine and everything he does will be masculine, any more than we can say Jill’s a girl and so everything about her is feminine. Maybe we’ll discover that Jill is actually more “masculine” than Mike is. And that’s something else…what, do the words “masculine” and “feminine” really mean and how do they play into art?

That’s the kind of discussion we hope to stimulate. So let’s begin…

The first two photos are posted below. The topic is “Something in Our House.” Take a look and tell us which one was taken by Mike (the guy) and which one was taken by Jill (the girl). Tell us if you can see anything akin to masculine or feminine and why you see it that way. If you want, make a suggestion for what we should shoot next week.

Thanks for you input.

Mike and Jill

Photo A

Photo B

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19 responses

  1. Heather

    A seems more masculine not b/c of the subject matter but b/c in comparison to b …. It is clear and direct in it’s vision while B is blurred and soft

    August 17, 2010 at 5:32 am

  2. I LOVE THIS. What interesting responses above. I have to say- I would think Photo A is by Mike. Bras/toys…all in one photo….sorta a given. :))))

    I think next week should be an architectural photograph. 🙂

    August 14, 2010 at 6:51 pm

  3. Tina

    50/50 right? I couldn’t tell. Interesting to see the results. I guess I think like a man because I took a wild guess and thought Jill’s was Photo A and Mike’s Photo B. Maybe I should tap more into my feminine side.

    August 14, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    • Yes, most of the answers are about half right half wrong. I can’t wait to reveal the answers on Friday!

      August 17, 2010 at 6:58 pm

  4. Meghan

    Interesting. I’m gonna make this short, sweet, and accurate. Photo A a male. The delicate overlay of the bra resting so softly on the faucet represents the metaphorical perception of the males view of the womanly body. Photo Bs subject is a clock aka time. Being a woman I try to take every moment for all its worth because its clear that when the clock stops ticking…nothing else matters. This photo seems to represent the importance of time and the precious view on life that women seem to carry. ( Yes, I know, I’m a genius.)

    August 14, 2010 at 12:03 am

  5. Michelle Himmelman

    I think that A was taken by Mike and B was taken by Jill. First, I agree with Sheila, the bra placement seems “too” posed. In photo B the warmth and mystery of the lighting seems soft and feminine. Another reason I think Mike took Pic A is b/c I know how much you like to “pose” things. I’m shocked that the rubber duck doesn’t have that bra in it’s mouth! LOL!

    Future pics should try to portray abstract concepts such as good, evil, honor, honesty, loyalty.

    Good luck!!!!

    August 14, 2010 at 12:00 am

  6. Sheila

    This blog immediately brought to mind the battle of the wits scene from “The Princess Bride.” My first inclination was to say that Photo A was taken by a girl and Photo B by a guy, but then that would be too obvious and only a grave fool would assume that this first assignment would be so blatently simple, so I clearly cannot declare that Photo A is a feminine represenation and Photo B a masculine one. BUT, the photographers must’ve known that anyone following their blog was not a grave fool, so I clearly cannot say that Photo A is masculine and Photo B is feminine. You’d like to think I’m stalling, wouldn’t you?!? Ok, you’re right… I haven’t a clue, but if forced to make a decision I would say that Photo A was taken by a guy simply based on the position of the bra over the faucet and Photo B by a girl because of the lighting and spatial arrangement. As for next week’s assignment, I’ll have to get back to you on that… this one has wiped me out. Haaaaa. Haaaaa. Haaaa…. Clonk 🙂

    August 13, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    • You’d be a grave fool to start a land war in Asia.

      August 14, 2010 at 12:09 am

    • You’d be a grave fool to start a land war in Asia. Happy birthday btw!

      August 14, 2010 at 12:10 am

  7. Ingrid

    Cool idea. The psychology major in me is totally loving it. For my thoughts, I think ‘A’ is Mike’s and ‘B’ is Jill’s.

    I would like you to do some interpretative pics, like “fear”, “courage”, “love” or some feeling or idea. It would be interesting to see what was chosen to photograph.

    August 13, 2010 at 9:51 pm

  8. This is great guys! You’re insight means a lot. I love how you explained your thinking. Any suggestions for next weeks challenge?

    August 13, 2010 at 9:24 pm

  9. Luke

    I think “A” is feminine. Other than the obvious, it is compositionally arranged in such a way that would lead me to think more feminine.
    Odd numbers I also equate with femininity.

    “B” is masculine to me because of the perspective, and spatial arrangement.
    Even numbers I equate with masculinity.

    August 13, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    • I would love to know more about the odd and even number theory.
      Jill

      August 14, 2010 at 12:12 am

      • Luke

        I don’t really consider it a theory, but more of a feeling. Culturally speaking, I know it is the other way around.
        Odd numbers are more attractive to me, and stand out, which makes them feel more feminine.

        August 14, 2010 at 5:54 am

  10. Michaeline

    OK, so I would say they are both by a woman (not because of the bra but because of the rubber ducky)and because of the swirled vase in the second picture. But for the purposes of your experiment, I will say A was taken by a woman (mainly because it might be “expected” that it was taken by a man AND I think the rubber duckie says Mama to me) and B was taken by a man with a decidedly artistic eye.

    August 13, 2010 at 8:45 pm

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