Woman wearing short dress inside a telephone booth with leg propped up. Pedestrians on sidewalk, mailbox at left, Budweiser signs in bar window behind.
New York 1972 illustrates “the male gaze,” a concept originating in feminist film theory, and appears to justify criticism of Winogrand’s voyeuristic book Women Are Beautiful, which shows women he encountered in the street. The phone booth obscures the woman’s face, allowing unfettered, potentially salacious inspection of her body by the passersby, the photographer, and us.
The woman’s hand covers the telephone receiver—she is mute as well as blind. Nearby text imposes commentary instead. Her leg is propped up almost enough to reveal her undergarments, turning a sign for “All Beef Frankfurters” into unsubtle innuendo. “BUD,” in addition to advertising beer, a beverage evocative of masculine culture, ironically refers to a flower, the reproductive part of a plant, soon to open. By extension, it may refer to a young woman’s emergent breasts and “budding” sexuality.
A second woman carries a copy of Cosmopolitan, the era’s leading sexually liberal women’s magazine, which encouraged women to embrace and be empowered by their sexuality. If the central woman is attracted to exhibitionism, then her relinquishment of agency is fundamentally an exercise of her authority over her own body and a demonstration of the power of her sexuality.
MD, PHOTOdocument exhibition, March 30, 2012-July 22, 2012
streets; figures; communication
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