Gaze – In relation to Power Dynamics, Objectifying a person and the four evident gazes.

YHere are the definitions of Gaze –

  • To look steadily, intently, and with fixed attention.
  • to look long and fixedly, esp in wonder or admiration.

Gaze from Wikipedia –

GAZE  is a psychoanalytical term brought into popular usage by Jacques Lacan to describe the anxious state that comes with the awareness that one can be viewed. The psychological effect, Lacan argues, is that the subject loses a degree of autonomy upon realising that he or she is a visible object.

History of the Concept – 

  • Numerous existentialists and phenomenologists have addressed the concept of gaze beginning with sarte. Michel Foucault elaborated on gaze to illustrate a particular dynamic in POWER RELATIONS and disciplinary mechanisms in his Discipline and Punish.
  • Foucault uses the term gaze in the distribution of power in various institutions of society.
  • The gaze is not something one has or uses; rather, it is the relationship in which someone enters.

“The gaze is integral to systems of power and ideas about knowledge”.

  • Three main concepts that Foucault introduced are panopticism. > power/knowledge, and biopower.
  • These concepts all address self-regulation under systems of surveillance.
  • This refers to how people modify their behaviour under the belief that they are constantly being watched even if they cannot directly see who or what is watching them.
  • This possible surveillance, whether real or unreal, has self – regarding effects.

The “Male Gaze”

  • Laura Mulvey wrote the essay,”visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinima” in 1975.
  • She introduced the concept of male gaze as a feature of gender power asymmetry in film.
  • Mulvey stated that women were objectified in film because heterosexual men were in control of the of the camera.
  • The male gaze occurs when the camera puts the audience into the perspective of a heterosexual man.
  • The woman is usually displayed on two different levels: as an erotic object for both the characters within the film, as well as the spectator who is watching the film.
  • The man emerges as the erotic power within the film.
  • The woman is passive to the active gaze from the man.
  • The female gaze is the same as the male gaze.
  • This means that women look at themselves through the eyes of men.

“The male gaze may be seen by  a feminist either as a manifestation of unequal power between GAZER and GAZED, or as a conscious or subconsious attempt to develop that inequality”.

“From this perspective, a woman who welcomes an objectifying gaze may be simply conforming to norms established to benefit men, thereby reinforcing the power of the gaze to reduce a recipient to an object. 

Concluding statement about Mulvey’s, male gaze –

“From the male perspective, a man possesses the gaze because he is a man, whereas a woman has the gaze only when she assumes the male gazer role – when she objectifies others by gazing at them like a man”.

Spencer Murphy, lecturer in media and communication taught me about the four gazes/looks –

  1. Your looking at the image, the spectator. Your view, you’re experience of viewing it. There is always different ways of looking at work and this ruins the visual pleasure. 
  2. The photographer,  the parameters that the photographer had to work in. The object is always the same.
  3. The subject, how they are represented, how the viewer spectates the image, forming opinions of the imagery.
  4.  Watching people view/watch something. It’s often a gender experience. Breaking down certain ways in which we obtain visual pleasure.  Mulvey – the camera is always from a male perspective = visual pleasure. Reflecting information back to the viewer, challenging there perspectives about what the material there viewing is about.

The forth look is what holds the power within media!! – An aspect of the power dynamics that are evident within Erotic photography and pornography. 

Having sat through the lecture from Murphy about the four gazes it’s clear to see how these for ways of looking at media can be associated with my research project. I find it deeply interesting how there four ways of looking apply to media in todays society. Personally I feel that most Pornographic/ erotic works actively incorporate the four ways of looking, however they particularly involve the fourth look where males and females produce these types of work from the view point of a male.

Here you can find Spencer Murphys lecture from the Phonar 2012 web page –


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Filed under 3rd Year, Working with Photography in Context - Symposium

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