Art historian turned fashion photographer Samantha Wolov has much to say about feminism in the fashion world, and so does her imagery. She owes her photographic style to her background, and pulls elements from paintings studied into her digital images. This process involves stripping down her sets to the bare minimum, allowing for a more straightforward approach. Aesthetically, her ideal scenes are minimalistic with little to distract from her subjects.
There are patterns in how women have been historically portrayed in the arts that she believes people take for granted, or misinterpret. If you look at the history of this portrayal, there are subtle details that promote a certain idea of femininity today that would have been ground breaking even 100 years ago. One of those common ideas is that of the “male gaze”, which is the idea that the woman being portrayed is allowing for the male gaze to take place, not the idea that the man is looking at the woman and desiring her. By having the female subject make eye-contact with the viewer, she is letting you know she is aware that you are watching her. She’s aware that she has an audience, and this is central to Samantha’s own work. Much of her work features a model simply making eye contact with Samantha, and in turn with the viewer. When she’s making these portraits, Samantha is engaging her future viewers, inviting them to keep looking — to stay a little longer with her.
For Samantha, to be a feminist photographer working in the fashion industry, it is not just about “girl power and supporting the sisterhood”, but is more about creating awareness and exposure. Much of women’s history has been dictated by their censure and invisibility. With fashion photography, Samantha hopes to create a greater visibility and make some contribution to changing the way women are portrayed not only within the fashion world, but socially in general.
Historically, models have been seen as tools for the artist. Samantha rejects this idea outright. When on set, Samantha brings her models into the creative process, wanting to create a collaborative dynamic whereby her models feel emboldened to reflect their own intrinsic power and beauty. Focusing on expanding the visual dialogue of fashion photography, Samantha makes it a point to use women of diverse sizes, colors and cultural backgrounds. In doing so, she transcends cultural limitations and expectations, arriving at fresh conscious look at beauty.