I am in my sleeping bag on Ilka’s sofa, face pushed up against her book-case. Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, Anais Nin, Laura Mulvey, Simone de Beauvoir’s Das Andere Geschlecht, Sexism and God-talk, Was Wollen die Frauen? by Susie Orbach and Luise Eichenbaum, Fear of Flying. I pick out one by Karen Kleinfelder because it was published in 1993, two decades on from some of those old-hat feminists.
It turns out to be a criticism of Picasso’s way of relating to the model. It is poppycock. A total throw-back to the 1970s ‘male gaze’ debate initiated by Laura Mulvey, a debate that Bel and I recently explored in the performance piece we made, just after we met. Well – maybe not that recently, when I think about it… God, was that four years ago aleady?
Tamara (my last crazy flingette before I came to Berlin) hammered into me – being the domineering type – that the ‘male gaze’ theory is well dead. If models suffer vis-a-vis their artist employers, the gender relationship isn‘t the crux of the problem. Inter-personal relationships are absolutely – said Tamara – about power, but nowadays we are likely to have chosen our dominant or submissive roles, no longer hidebound by the old social conventions of male-female relating.
Above the bookcase, Ilka has hung an original print showing artist and model – Janey Walklin and me – juxtaposed. When the artist-voyeur of the female model is also female, is that still problematic? Would Kleinfelder define my relationship with Janey as one of sexual domination and submission?
Can I be bothered with this nonsense any more?
I was almost asleep. It’s Bel, answering my hyper-enthusiastic Shanghai here I come!
Great! Want 2 photograph u, explore some ideas. Been thinkin of dis 4 ages, I did Art Nude photog at Slade tho ended up photo-journalist (hence teachin photog/media here). Big Lee Miller fan – final-yr thesis ws abt her – she gets lost in Man Ray’s shadow
So Bel’s invite is because she wants to photograph me!
Why not a lovely Chinese girl? She must have students?
And who is Lee Miller? I remember vaguely, one time when Bel and I were both in London, getting a surprise text inviting me to go with her to a Lee Miller exhibition somewhere or other. But I was busy.
I search on my i-Pad. One of the most stunningly beautiful, liberated women of the 20th century. Fashion model. Art Nude model. Genius. Alcoholic. Depressive. Free-thinker. Liberated. Too liberated: she posed for an advert for sanitary towels in 1929 that ruined her fashion-modelling career. Also fashion photographer, and – aha! – war photographer.
Was it Lee Miller who inspired Bel to go as a photo-journalist to Afghanistan?
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