⟨ Art ⟩

Female Gaze

Epoch 驀 by Lean Lui

Words / Phaedrus Lam
Photography / Courtesy of Lean Lui
Translation / Fanny Chan

怎麼為之「女性視覺」的攝影呢?這是我在參觀Lean Lui攝影展時,心裡嘀咕著的問題,而尤其是她最近還參與了Dior Talks系列,成為「The Female Gaze」講座的座上客,似乎由個人到作品本身,都離不開這個她念茲在茲的議題。所以說,「女性視覺」攝影的體現,難道就在於那柔和的燈光布置,夢幻甜密的氛圍?抑或是尖銳批判的,內涵直指向性別結構的不公?逛完整場展覽花了將近一個小時,然而離開會場時我心裡就有底了,答案是:以上皆非!

“What is ‘female gaze’ in photography?” I had this question in mind when visiting Lean Lui’s photography exhibition. Lean has recently made a guest appearance on the Dior Talks podcast series, and coincidently, she talked about female gaze. It seems to me everything about her is related to female gaze. So what actually is female gaze in photography? Does it mean softer lighting for a dreamy photoshoot? Or is it a criticism of gender bias? After spending an hour at Lean’s exhibition, I left with an answer: None of the above.

生於1999年的Lean Lui本名雷安喬,曾在橫浪修的工作室實習,回來香港後替各家媒體進行拍攝,合作對象包括《Dior》雜誌、《Vogue Italia》和《Vice》等,2018年亦曾出版個人攝影集《19. 29》。這次展出竹作品囊括了《Poetic Life》、《The Time Goes By…》,《Daoism & Girls》及《A Single Operation Room》等,集結了她多年來的創作,而明年Lean將赴英國修讀碩士學位,展覽可視為一次人生區間的總結;而之所以取名為「Epoch驀」,大概也離不開這個原因,把二十年來所累積的,藉著這次展覽一次釋出。

Born in 1999, Lean Lui took up an internship at the age of 19 with the renowned Japanese photographer Osamu Yokonami. Upon returning to Hong Kong, Lean shot for various media outlets, including Dior, Vogue Italia, and Vice. In 2018, she published her first photobook 19. 29. Her latest exhibition gathered a number of her works over the years, such as Poetic Life, The Time Goes By…, Daoism & Girls and A Single Operation Room etc. She is heading to the UK next year to complete a master’s degree, so the exhibition can be regarded as a summary of her 20 years of life so far, which is probably why the exhibition is named Epoch.

進場後首先映入眼廉的,是大門附近展示著《Poetic Life》的小角落。相比起場內大多數作品,作品都用相框框起固定,這區的照片卻不加相框,像海報般裸貼牆上,營造出年輕人房間一隅的況味。《Poetic Life》是一輯壓抑著躁動的作品,儘管色調冷靜,但從攝影的主題卻能窺視出那份性的隱喻;舌尖上趟著的花蕾;水波中浮現的裸色肌膚中;或者是淘洗乾淨的果核,聚焦在中間那空洞的子房;與年輕人房間的場景設計相配合,流露著滿滿的欲望與好奇心。

The first thing that you see when you walk inside the exhibition hall is the Poetic Life series. Compared with most of the other works in the exhibition that are nicely framed, this series comes raw and naked — they have no frames and simply put up on the wall like posters creating a scene similar to that of a teenager’s bedroom. Poetic Life is a series of works about suppression of  restlessness. It has a calm and natural tone, yet the metaphoric representation of sexuality is nothing short of obvious: flower buds on the tip of the tongue, naked skin under the water, and a fruit seed with its inside hollowed out. The sense of desire and curiosity fills this tiny corner of the exhibition hall.

走到展覽場中間,空間被劃分為左邊的《Daoism & Girls》,以及右邊的《The Time Goes By…》。與上面《Poetic Life》同樣,《Daoism & Girls》是偏向詩性而內在的作品,慵懶自在的女性臉龐,與枝葉和花蕾的陰影重疊一起,展現出一股「道法自然」的陰柔美。至於另一邊廂的《The Time Goes By…》,則以家人的生活日常為主題,尤其聚焦在家族中的女性,中間被特別放大的三張人像照,橫跨三代女性,展現出老人的沉靜、年輕的跳脫、幼年的好奇心;而相較其他作品,其色調和氛圍出奇地溫暖自然,不變的倒是那份「私攝影」的本質。

The main exhibition area is divided into two sections: Daoism & Girls on the left and The Time Goes By… on the right. Similar to Poetic Life, Daoism & Girls is a collection of rather poetic and intimate works. Branches, leaves and flowers shadowed over the contented and lazy faces of various women; they remind me of the natural feminine beauty that is associated with Daoism. On the other side of the exhibition hall showcases The Time Goes By… series which features family photos that depict the daily life of the Lui’s with a special focus on the females. This could be seen from the three especially large solo portraits of females of different ages. They perfectly capture seasoned serenity, youthful excitement, and childhood curiosity. Even though these three portraits have a surprisingly warm and natural tone that is quite different from the other exhibited works, they still fit perfectly to the exhibition theme Epoch.

值得一提的是,這兩區後頭的白牆上,都用投影機放映對應攝影主題的影像,其中擺靠近《Daoism & Girls》的影像,是由Lean的妹妹雷凱媛創作,其曾在十五歲時獲全額贊助,到倫敦音樂與戲劇藝術學院受訓,是一位備受期待的年輕影像創作人。兩姊妹都從事影像創作,不過一靜一動,令人期待日後二人繼續合作,到底會產生出怎麼樣的火花。

It’s worth mentioning that there are two projectors constantly showing video clips on the two white walls at the back of the exhibition hall. One with video related to Daoism & Girls and the other with video related to The Time Goes By…. The video on Daoism & Girls was created by Lean’s sister, Yvonne. At the age of 15, Yvonne received a full sponsorship to attend the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and she is a highly regarded young video director. With one engaged in photography and the other in video creation, I am curious as to what might happen if the two sisters collaborate again in the future.

輪到最後,要進入展示《A Single Operation Room》的小房間之前,我們首先會遇到平放地板上,以金屬和玻璃框起的巨型照片。照片來自《A Single Operation Room》,腳背上有一道深刻的傷疤,旁邊簇擁著花朵,而相框的四個角落,則散落著真實的泥濘;好像花朵真是從傷疤中萌芽茁壯,而又仿佛是在告訴我們,傷害中總能孕育出點什麼。

For the last part of the exhibition, A Single Operation Room, visitors have to enter a small exhibition room. But before entering the room, there is a gigantic metal framed photo lying on the floor. The photo, taken from the A Single Operation Room series, shows a deep scar surrounded by flowers. There is real sand and mud scattered around the frame. I had an illusion that the flowers were sprouting from the scar and wondered at what such an illusion hints.

《A Single Operation Room》是Lean去年接受腫瘤割除手術,把手術中經歷的痛楚和不安,以具象的形式呈現出來。走進展區前,必須先從兩堵牆中間的窄門入內,是自成一角的展覽區。而來回看著牆上十幾幀照片,除了像傷口,疤痕和病人服,這些明顯與手術相關的象徵物外,最有趣的是各置在左右兩端的照片。在右邊的照片中,少女被頭套肉色絲襪,像是被驚嚇想尖叫的模樣。至於左邊的照片,只見一張垂下來的臉,正舔著自己膝蓋上的傷口。而明明兩張照片互打照面,又同樣是在受苦,卻好像無法相互理解,只能各自沉浸在那種令人發狂,而逼近歇斯底里的情緒。

A Single Operation Room is a visual depiction of the pain and anxiety that Lean went through when she underwent surgery to remove a tumor last year. To enter the exhibition room, visitors have to go through the narrow entrance between the two white walls. I walked back and forth inside the small exhibition room to look at those dozen or so photos on the wall. There were images of wounds, scars and patient gowns, such items being obvious symbols of surgery. Besides that, two other images in particular caught my attention. One of the images is a portrait of a young girl with her head covered by flesh-colored stockings. She looks frightened and as if she is screaming. The other image showed a person licking the wound on his/her knee. Even though both photos share the same theme of suffering, there doesn’t seem to be a genuine connection between them. Afterall, nobody can truly understand other people’s pain. One can only attempt to communicate their definition of pain and then suffer alone in his/her own self-defined hysterical world.

回到文章開頭說的,花將近一小時看完展覽後,「女性視覺」的攝影到底怎麼定義?雖然不想給出模凌兩可的答案,但誠然這是沒有準則的,因為這道題看起來就像是問「怎麼為之女性?」一樣。你既可以吐露出欲望,自信地展現身體;但也可以沉迷中國古老學術,無妨成為一個學術方面的Nerd;當別人的孫女、別人的姐姐,享受家庭賦予你的身份角色;更不必掩飾哀傷、憤怒和失望等種種情緒。總而言之,沒有人因為生而為女性,而必須怎麼做,或者不能怎麼做,不存在所謂的準則,至於「女性視覺」的攝影,應該也是同個道理。

Back to the question I asked at the very beginning, “What is ‘female gaze’ in photography?” I still couldn’t obtain a definitive answer after spending nearly an hour at the exhibition. Such a question is similar to that of “How to define ‘woman’?” — there are multiple definitions. A woman can be someone who is confident of her own body and proud to express her desires. A woman can be a nerdy bookworm who spends day and night reading ancient Chinese classics. A woman can be a granddaughter or a sister. A woman can also be someone who is free to express her sadness, anger, and disappointment. That is to say, we shouldn’t confine someone to live and behave in a certain way simply because she was born a woman, and there shouldn’t be a concrete definition of ‘woman’ at all. In a similar sense, ‘female gaze’ in photography should be open to interpretation.

下面的話,節錄自Lean Lui寫的文字,解釋她所理解的「女性視覺」的攝影。

// 我十分鼓勵更多女性去拿起鏡頭,掌握鏡頭話語權。用鏡頭或是其他表達方式,釋放自己身上的慾望和觀點,完全無需尷尬。隨性地表達自己的慾望絕對不能只是男性的權利。

極度厭倦騷首弄姿,取悅男性的女性角色在各種地方出現;網上全是教「如何讓男友幫你拍美照」,直到現在,大部分女性依然是被灌輸以皮相姿色才是最大賣點,但權力最大的不是鏡頭前的模特,而是鏡頭後決定展現模特兒那一面的攝影師,雖然攝與被攝不一定存在權力鬥爭,但女性要掌權就必須要掌鏡。

⋯⋯(中略)如今在圖像文化主導的時代,只有更多女性拿起鏡頭,「女權」才不會是一種風格,而是一種常態。//

The following words from Lean explain what ‘female gaze’ to her:

“I strongly encourage more female to pick up the lens, empower their perspective through their lens; using your own ways to release own desires and views, nothing to be embarrassed about. Plainly express the desires can’t be just a male’s right, I am sick of patriarchy’s female image who pleases men; the Internet is all about teaching “How to get your boyfriend take your good picture.” That’s quite ashamed that even nowadays, mostly women are taught to set their appearance as the biggest selling point by society. However, the most powerful thing is not in front of the camera but behind, photographer is the one who decides what can be presented. Although photographing and being photographed does not indicate a definite power struggle, holding the lens is a definite indicator of empowerment.

……In this image-dominated era, only when more women take up the lens, then “feminism” will not be only a style, but a norm that we don’t need to specially mention it.”