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Female Gaze Friday: Laurie Toby Edison’s “Familiar Men”

Representations of the male figure in art are far less common than works depicting women. A long history of straight men dominating the art world has led to many images of winsome women, but fewer of beautiful men (I’ve written on this subject before; if you’d like to read more about the lack of male figures in art check it out here).

Every Female Gaze Friday I will post a woman-created work of art depicting a man—one small act to reverse the male gaze! Not all images will be provocative, many will be nonsexual or even disturbing. Hopefully this will be a way of learning more about women artists (as well as looking at dudes)!

This week we’ll look at the series, Familiar Men by artist Laurie Toby Edison:

Laurie Toby Edison, Familiar Men

Laurie Toby Edison, Familiar Men

Laurie Toby Edison, Familiar Men

Laurie Toby Edison, Familiar Men

Laurie Toby Edison, Familiar Men

Laurie Toby Edison, Familiar Men

Laurie Toby Edison is well known for her black and white portrait photography dealing with social justice themes. Her most notable projects include Women En Large, a series in which Edison collaborated with Fat Acceptance and Health at Every Size activists to create her “statement on the female nude” and Women of Japan, clothed portraits of Japanese women with model input, including written contributions by the models.

This series, Familiar Men, is Edison’s “statement on the male nude”. These works are the result of five years spent photographing and speaking with men, a process which has structured much of Edison’s views on masculinity and the male form. The people in her images appear comfortable and relaxed in her presence and her work takes in not only the model, but the model’s environment. Edison has said, “Bodies are sensual, and that’s part of my work, but I am engaged with the whole person in his or her space”.

Edison’s work is unique in the tender way that nude men and women of various size and age are shown. The famous lesbian, feminist artist Tee Corinne said that Edison’s photography “is unique in focusing on the nude without eroticizing it”. These portraits are sensual, but more gentle in their portrayal of the human form than many images of the nude.

You can see more of Edison’s work here. Check back on Fridays for more images of men by women. And feel free to suggest works of art or artists in the comments!

Take a look at our previous Female Gaze Friday: Portrait photography of Arab men by artist Tamara Abdul.

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