‘Girl on Girl’: Photographer explores the female gaze in delicate but deliberate portraits

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You’re probably familiar with the ‘male gaze’, a term coined in 1975 by feminist critic Laura Mulvey, and you’ve certainly come into contact with it if you’ve seen a single film, photograph or television show in your lifetime, so pervasively masculine is the point of view of most cameras.

But what about the female gaze? How does the depiction of a female nude change when shot by a woman, and how are these notions of ‘gaze’ changing as gender is accepted as a more permeable divider?

These themes are central to photographer Maisie Willoughby’s new exhibition Girl on Girl, the result of her spending the last decade capturing women “in various states of undress”. It started off as a hobby, but through photographing more and more women her “understanding and interpretation of the female gaze has fluxed, particularly when addressing female sexuality and nudity.”

It’s easy to assume that putting a woman behind the camera simply leads to decreased sexualisation, but Willoughby doesn’t think it need negate the results’ sexuality.

“I honestly believe that these images still resonate sexuality,” she told us. “Perhaps in a few of the images, the traits of sexuality portrayed are often hidden in popular culture (such as vulnerability and trust), therefore they feel unusual?”

A crucial component to Mulvey’s idea of a ‘male gaze’ is that of the spectator. So how might male and female viewings of the portraits differ?

“I find it difficult to separate how a man should view these compared to how I should view, as a woman,” Willoughby explains. “I think the difference between the two is becoming ever more blurred and either gender can subscribe to the most relevant one to them as an individual.”

Girl on Girl involved around 30 female subjects and is being exhibited at Mother in London until 25 November, 2016.