Announcing the subject|object project


subject|object business

 New and Interesting Times Ahead

So, as I said in my post yesterday, today I’m announcing a new fine-art photo project: subject | object. I’m announcing it before I’ve shot a single frame for it — before I’ve even got a studio booked to start work on it, because the project needs your help.

I’ve long been interested in the subjects of objectification and sexualisation in our society. I identify as a feminist, and that means that when I come to make art that involves women I start to wonder about my motivations — is my framing, or subject, or concept motivated by a desire to make art, or by the male gaze? Am I in fact making nothing that is new, just something that is conventionally beautiful? Am I — and this is the worst one for me — actually any better than those guys with cameras?

Doing some research on this whole topic made me realise that I actually have quite a lot that I want to say about objectification, sexualisation, the nude in art and modern society. And so the idea of subject | object was born.

Here’s what it boils down to:

The subject|object Project Manifesto

We objectify. Judge on appearance, on styles of dress or speech. On the way that someone’s hair is done or the size of their breasts. On the cut of their suit or the aftershave they wear.

We are all people, yet we do not see each other: just objects moving through our space.

subject|object is a photographic art project that aims to explore our perception of people, and the way we objectify those we’ve never even met.

Each subject is photographed twice for the project: A head-and-shoulders portrait (“object”) and a full-torso nude (“subject”). The two images will never be displayed together; there is no link between the “object” and the “subject”.

With the “subject” are displayed the subject’s details: their name (or pseudonym), age, profession, and their thoughts on the objectification of people in the modern world.

The “object” images are displayed alone, to allow viewers to have their own thoughts on the person in front of them.


The first step with subject | object is to work with models to produce the first batch of images. I’ve chosen to do this because I need to establish all the technical ephemera of the project: how will I light them? Will I shoot film or digital? Colour or black and white? That sort of thing. Models are used to this kind of faffing around, and being comfortable in their own skin whilst it’s happening.

But ultimately I don’t just want to work with models. I want to work with you, the person that I see on the street, the person who is at both ends of objectification: the objectified and the objectifier.

I don’t just want to work with perfectly-toned bodies that require epic amounts of work to sculpt them; I want to work with people of every size, shape, colour or gender. Conventionally beautiful or otherwise. Tall, short, thin, fat, able-bodied or not.

Everyone deserves to be part of this project, and I want as many participants as I can get. Ultimately, I aim to put a gallery show together of my work, but for now I’m going to do things on the web. Only the “subject” / torso shots will be displayed online at first; the “object”/portraits will only be uploaded in batches once they can’t be linked to the “subject” shots to which they belong, in order to preserve anonymity as much as I can (and people will be able to request that their portrait isn’t displayed).

What now?

It’s early days. I’ve got a holding page for the project up at subjectobjectproject.net. I’ve got a Twitter account started (but devoid of tweets as of right now) at @subj_obj_proj. There’s a mailing list you can sign up to (see the project website) for updates; eventually I’ll start a blog. I’m considering the best way of funding the project, and may do a crowdfunding campaign of some description. We’ll see about all that.

Right now, I just need you to come on board and help me make this happen. Come pose for me, if you’re in or near, or passing through Manchester. Drop me an email at mail [at] subjectobjectproject.net and we can arrange everything.

I have so much that I want to say with this project, and I think that there is so much that each of us has to say about it — I want to reflect that to the world.

Come with me.