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photographing exotic dancers for assessment?

(19 Posts)
studentphotographer Tue 28-Jun-11 14:50:31

As part of my course i have to do documentary photography. I have to choose something that i believe in. I was thinking about highlighting the issues which surround exotic dancing, and i felt here would be a good place to ask for opinions. What photographs do you think i should take to get my point across that it is wrong.

MillyR Tue 28-Jun-11 15:23:05

I am not convinced there is a way you could take such photos that would itself be ethical. The obvious way to make the point about female 'exotic dancers' is to photograph men in exactly the same position, by which I do not mean the idea that some muscular man taking off a fireman's uniform is equivalent to a female stripper.

So if an average female pole dancer looks 18, slender to underweight, waxed, wearing a lot of make up, dressed in heels and a skimpy, strappy outfit, often with childish motifs like school uniform or other fetish clothing, dancing on the lap of some man in a business suit in front of a room full of men, then you would reverse the gender of the participants and photograph them.

But I'd be furious if my son was participating in something like that, and being exploited, so I'm not sure how you would convince young men to do it, or that it would be ethical for you to do so. I doubt they would believe it is 'empowering.' There don't seem to be things like amateur pole dancing classes or burlesque classes for young men.

queenofthecapitalwasteland Tue 28-Jun-11 15:45:58

I'm trying to see what you're doing (this is not critisism, I'm just not quite getting it) Are you going to be setting up poses as MillyR suggests or are you going into the real strip clubs?

I like MillyR's ideas of the role reversal and I imagine a few lads would find it funny to play along.

If you're going into the clubs, I wouldn't focus so much on the women as the reactions of the punters. Are they looking at her face? Are they treating her like a human? What happens backstage? Prehaps getting shots from the dancer's viewpoint of male reactions, etc. This could however be a bit problematic depending on the club management, they're not exactly going to enjoy having someone photographing their bad bits, and could possibly be dangerous depending on the clients.

You may have considered these points already, just wanted to pop my ideas in smile

Agree with queen - if you are really trying get the point across that it is wrong then you need to look at the people exploiting the dancers i.e. management, punters etc.

Photographing the dancers will just give you a load of photographs of scantily-clad women. Of course that may be your aim [cynical emoticon]?

surelynottrue Tue 28-Jun-11 15:58:18

Won't you need permission from the management or people there to be able to use photos of them?

dittany Tue 28-Jun-11 15:58:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

queenofthecapitalwasteland Tue 28-Jun-11 16:03:54

Exactly dittany you'd need a damn good hidden camera or you're going to get a lot of pictures of people hands covering their faces, reaching for the camera, reaching for you, etc.

Either that or you get everyone's permission and photograph the best-behaved strip club in history.

surelynottrue Tue 28-Jun-11 16:08:07

I just ask that because won't the project need to pass some sort of ethics policy I imagine using photos without peoples knowledge would break that.

SybilBeddows Tue 28-Jun-11 16:10:08

I think StudentPhotographer should explain to us why s/he thinks it is wrong and take it from there.

also we need to know more about this poster (who has not posted before) to give sensible advice about the type of thing they will be able to do.

floyjoy Tue 28-Jun-11 17:33:37

I'm going to assume this is a serious idea and you genuinely want to photograph exotic dancers to show how wrong the industry is!
So, you should speak to a course tutor as it sounds like a potentially not great idea - as Handdived says. How will your work be graded and by whom? What will their attitude be towards the subject matter and your execution of it? You might be told you have freedom but do you? If I was your tutor I would tell you it was up to you but suggest you consider something else as there are so many pitfalls.

AllTheYoungDoods Tue 28-Jun-11 17:44:42

I stumbled across a photography exhibition in Barcelona last December which included a series of shots taken of strippers and travelling showgirls working in the US in the 1970s (I think, fuzzy memory). The photographs were largely taken back stage, or from the side of the stage, and really showed the ordinariness of the girls - the way they looked relaxed having a bit of banter with their colleagues, or knackered at the end of the night etc. Also sometimes it showed the punters' reactions to a very 'fake' view of the girls. It was interesting, made them very human. Sorry I can't remember the photographers' name - but the exhibition was on at a gallery on Las Ramblas in December.

EverSoLagom Tue 28-Jun-11 18:04:52

One of the problems here is whether you are presenting this as a feminist undertaking in which you the observer/photographer have a specific point to make (ie stripping is abhorrent), or whether you are supposed to be dispassionate and detached (even if you find it stomach-churning). What about the voices/opinions of the women you are photographing? They may well have an opinion very different from your own which challenges the nature of your project. Of course in a purely academic sense all this could add to the scope of the assignment. But it could also put you in quite a conflicted position.

How about taking photos of dancers not dancing. As in, sitting at home, playing with their kids, working their day job etc? More of a biographical emphasis?

dittany Tue 28-Jun-11 18:40:47

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LilBB Tue 28-Jun-11 20:32:05

I personally like the idea of showing the women for what they are beyond exotic dancer. When they are dancing the men don't think about these women as normal women who visit their grandmas, take their kids to the park, go shopping with friends, go to college and I think it would be great to show that. They are treated like objects but they are much more than that.

Although an expose of how the industry works would be great you would not be able to do it for a college assignment in photography.

studentphotographer Tue 28-Jun-11 20:45:11

Thankyou, that is a lot to think about. I think the single most powerful sentance to me was what dittany said "Even supposedly "disapproving" pieces on the sex industry can't help but use women's bodies for the titillation value when they illustrate it" That really got to me as i guess if i did the project then i would be adding to the industry.

I also loved the idea of putting a man in the place of the dancer, but it is not allowed to be set up.

eversologom, im allowed to take the project any way i want, its for me to show something i am passionate about. I do quite like the idea of not using the dancer at work, so instead of showing the made up/pretend exotic version, i show the real person behind the job. single parent struggling to make ends meet maybe?

Anybody in the shots i take have to sign a model release form to be used, therefore as much as i'd love to capture the punters leering at the girls like a piece of meat. this is all still at ideas stage, ive still to get the okay from my tutor before i begin any of the work.

HandDivedScallopsrgreat. no thats not what my aim would be at all, thats why i posted asking for opinions on what to capture as that is the last thing i want. i want to convey the person is real and not just a sex object! i want to convey the emotions/ the hard work/ etc

sybilbeddows, im not a new poster, if you would like i will give you my normal username, i changed because i posted something quite sensitive yesterday but would happily give you it to verify im not new.

beanlet Tue 28-Jun-11 20:51:41

I'd hate to be on your ethics committee...seriously, it would be really hard getting this past ethical review even if you were an experidnced researcher.

Please talk to your course tutor about what might be appropriate!

studentphotographer Tue 28-Jun-11 20:53:01

LilBB why do you think i wouldnt be allowed to do it? i just want to do something different instead of taking the easy option? For instance last year i had to do something along the same lines but for reportage, I choose to do animals in captivity, all the other people students showed the nice side, childrens visiting the places, baby animals etc. I showed the animal showing signs of stress... the tiny enclosure for a large animal, the animals tethered to a bit of chain, etc I guess I was thinking along the same lines for this project. to showcase something i believe in. I know some people dont think there is anything wrong with zoos/stripclubs but for me i disagree with them and would like to use my work to show that? ah well back to the drawing board. Thanks all for your help.

studentphotographer Tue 28-Jun-11 20:54:40

thankyou beanlet too, as i said this is all still at ideas stage so havent discussed anything with the tutor yet.

LilBB Tue 28-Jun-11 21:07:05

I was thinking because you wouldnt be able to get the release to use the photos.

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