Category Archives: Inspiration

Pink’s “Perfect” Proves Our Point

Pink is a singer who is no stranger to controversy. Her “rough around the edges,” bad-girl look and style I’m sure would scare many parents. But, there’s a theme running though much of her work, that although may ruffle some feathers, also has a powerful message.

Her latest single “F**kin’ Perfect” is a powerfully moving video about a girls journey to learn how to love who she is. In four minutes you can see the whole gamut of emotions and situations teen girls go through, starting from very little. Bullying. Self-esteem. Comparison. Self-loathing. Rebellion. And it deals with another serious issue, cutting and teen suicide. I was moved to tears watching it. Here’s an excerpt from Teen Identity team member Imahni who wrote about the video for TeenIdentityMag.com.

P!nk thinks you are perfect. Everyone here at Teen Identity thinks you are perfect. We love you. Yes, you who are are reading this right now. Can you think the same about yourself? Can you change the way you view yourself so that the first adjectives that come to your mind when describing yourself are- “Beautiful, Wonderful, Special, Loved, and Perfect.”

This is the message we’re trying to get to teen girls through the work we’re doing. To change how they see themselves. With sexually degrading videos by Lady GaGa, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and others getting millions of views, we’re happy (and encouraged) to see a video like this get millions of views too.

Here’s the clean version of the video. Enjoy. Be moved. And go make a difference.

The Sexual Objectification of Women in Media

I don’t know who discovered water, but it certainly wasn’t a fish!” ~ Marshal Mcluhan

The point Mcluhan makes here is that some things are so common place to us, that we don’t even recognize they’re there. That is what the over-sexualization and objectification of women in media has become.

Our goal with the Teen Identity Network is to encourage professional photographers and filmmakers to help change the way females are portrayed in the media. We want to educate professionals and get them to think twice about the kind of photos or video they take of teen girls. We all are so bombarded by sexualized and objectified images of women every day, that it is easy for any of us to not even realize we could be contributing to the problem, instead of fixing it.

Example of Objectification

We will continue to provide education to help Network members understand and evaluate how the sexualization of girls and women happens in media. Our hope is that you can take away real and concrete ideas to implement into your studio.

The education and information we’re providing is being based on industry experts who have completed years (and in some cases, decades) of research on the topic. For instance, here were some findings recently reported at the S.P.A.R.K. Summit (Sexualization Protest: Action Resistance Knowledge). This was for a period of study from June 2006 to June 2010 and it dealt with the coding of sexualization in music video:

  • provocative dance
  • male gaze
  • close ups on body parts (most common)
  • provocative dress – sexual stereotype, sexy school girl, body glove, dominatrix, etc.
  • 92.8% of music videos contained at least one measure of sexualization
  • race differences: black artists twice as likely to be portrayed with provocative dress, similar in other 3 areas
  • genre differences: country less than pop and r&b

As noted above, one of the key ways objectification happens is when you take a photograph that accentuates or focuses on just one body part, rather than the whole girl. The sexualization of the girl is worse if that body part is one of the five that are inherently the most sexual: legs/hips, buttocks, crotch, mid-drift, and bust. Any time any of these areas are accentuated or exclusively highlighted in a photograph, you run the risk of objectifying in a sexual way, that teen girl. (Especially if the body part is completely bare).

I know that some people will read this and think “How prude.” I don’t think it’s about being prude. It’s about addressing a real problem and issue in this country that has very REAL ramifications on the lives and esteem of teen girls. (We’ll blog a little later about those ramifications).

Killing Us Softly

Jean Kilbourne is a celebrated speaker and advocate for female self esteem and health issues. The objectification of women in media is a topic she has addressed, studied, and fought against for forty years. Much of the education and work we do with Teen Identity is inspired by her work. Take a look at this short excerpt from her latest DVD series, “Killing Us Softly.” After watching it, think about the kind of photos you’re taking of teen girls, and ask how much your work is influenced (in a positive or negative way) by the media.

Big and Beautiful: The Story of Rayna

When I (Ron Dawson) visited Maya Laurent’s blog a few weeks ago (Maya is a Teen Identity Network coach) I knew I had to have her write about the experience. When you see the photos from her client, you’ll understand why. This is such a great story that truly illustrates what Teen Identity is about and we salute Maya for her stand. You have to read this. Thanks Maya.

I hope you will be inspired to adopt Maya’s attitude as you go out to help the Teen Identity mission.

+++++++

The term model is thrown around the photography industry in all sorts of different ways. Such Great Heights struggled as we put together our senior rep program on whether or not to call our senior reps “models” or not. After asking several of our clients they thought the word model sounded okay and suggested we stick with it. So we did.

Several months ago I was contacted by Rayna, a local high school senior. She was super excited about having her senior photos taken and had great ideas for her model session. It seemed weird to me when I didn’t hear back from her for a couple of weeks after her initial excitement. Her mom soon contacted me to tell me that Rayna was afraid we might not want her as a model because she wasn’t the typical model size and she attached a photo of her daughter. I was shocked! Of course we wanted Rayna as a model and we weren’t looking for the “model” body type. I let her mom know right away we wanted Rayna on board and could not wait for her session. I was still struggling with that model word and what other studios/photographers had portrayed about their models to have a young woman feel as though she wasn’t worthy of that.

We had Rayna’s session and to say she rocked it is an understatement. We came up with lots of ideas before her session. One idea she had was to take a photo in front of a ton of fashion ads from magazines since she’s really interested in fashion and going into that as a career. My husband and I were shocked as we torn pages from fashion and teen magazines at how the models all had the same body type and how badly Photoshopped their bodies were too. It just made us sick to be honest.

The photo with the magazines turned out great though and Rayna flowed into each new setting during her session with the best attitude and interaction with us that we’ve seen in awhile! You could tell she felt confident as we laughed with her and encouraged her. Her confidence just oozed out of the photos we captured.

Such Great Heights does simple, natural looking edits and does not believe in the use of the liquify tool to add muscles, make someone look smaller, etc. These teenagers are already struggling with what they see in the magazines, television and hear all around them. Why would you go in and manipulate their body after their session? What does that say to them as they look at the photos and see that you’ve done that? Yes, we touch up faces and the common acne problem for teens but that’s all. We pose our girls and guys in a way that is flattering to their body type in order to show off what beautiful qualities they have.

Rayna came in for her session viewing and loved the photos. I watched her and her mom as the slideshow ran and they both had huge smiles on their faces and even cheered at a couple of the photos. It was so fun to see Rayna look at her photos and see how confident they made her feel. This is truly why we do what we do!

I posted Rayna’s model session up on our blog and began to get texts and Twitter messages about how much everyone loved it. And then I received an email from another photographer asking me why I didn’t liquify Rayna in her photos and didn’t I think that would be a good confidence boost for her if I had done that. I sat there reading the email several times wondering if this person was serious. How would that be a confidence boost? How would that show her that she is gorgeous just as she is?

I responded in the nicest manner I could by telling the photographer our philosophy on the liquify tool. I never heard back from them but I hope that more photographers see the importance of keeping things real when it comes to teen photography. Aren’t we just as bad as the magazine advertisements if we’re doing major body editing? We are choosing to contribute to a problem that is so present in our world. I would love to see more photographers keep it real, show off their subject’s beautiful qualities and see their clients ooze with confidence!