Female Gaze Friday: Shizuka Yokomizo’s “Dear Stranger”

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’s work is Dear Stranger by Shizuka Yokomizo:

Shizuka Yokomizo, Dear Stranger, 1998-2000

Shizuka Yokomizo, Dear Stranger, 1998-2000

Shizuka Yokomizo, Dear Stranger, 1998-2000

Shizuka Yokomizo, Dear Stranger, 1998-2000

Shizuka Yokomizo, Dear Stranger, 1998-2000

Shizuka Yokomizo, Dear Stranger, 1998-2000

Dear Stranger, I am an artist working on a photographic project which involves people I do not know…I would like to take a photograph of you standing in your front room from the street in the evening. A camera will be set outside the window on the street. If you do not mind being photographed, please stand in the room and look into the camera through the window for 10 minutes on __-__-__ (date and time)…I will take your picture and then leave…we will remain strangers to each other…If you do not want to get involved, please simply draw your curtains to show your refusal…I really hope to see you from the window.”

Shizuka Yokomizo’s work involves strangers working together. But unlike many artists exploring the relationship between artist and stranger (for example Sophie Calle and Willem Popelier) she gains the subject’s consent. Those photographed vary in gender, age, race, and many other factors. The only things they truly have in common are their living in ground-floor apartments (in many different cities) and the fact that they complied with the anonymous letters’ requests.

I’ve selected two of Yokomizo’s images featuring men. Yokomizo’s work is particularly interesting in that she did not select her subject and therefore knew nothing of their gender prior to the taking of the photo. The male subjects are also unaware of the artist’s gender, and therefore their poses are independent of the stereotypical relationships between men and women. The subjects and artists are both responsible for the final image in terms of how the subject poses and how the artist composes the shot.

Yokomizo’s images show the curiosity and defensiveness of her subjects in their poses and expressions. The figures look closed-off; fair enough for someone being photographed by a complete stranger!

You can see more of Yokomizo’s work on her personal website. 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: Sylvia Sleigh’s At The Turkish Bath.

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