chapter  2
29 Pages

Lawless seeing

Representations are productive: photographs, far from merely reproducing a pre-existing world, constitute a highly coded discourse which, among other things, constructs whatever is in the image as object of consumption - consumption by looking, as well as often quite literally by purchase. It is no coincidence, therefore, that in many highly socially visible (and profitable) forms of photography women dominate the image. Where photography takes women as its subject matter, it also constructs 'woman' as a set of meanings which then enter cultural and economic circulation on their own account. Women appear in many types of photography: the glamour portraits of women movie stars and the quasi-documentary pictures of early twentieth-century prostitutes looked at in the last chapter are only two of many categories, each one constructing a different type of woman. Cultural meanings centred on the signifier 'woman' may become relatively fixed in use: but a certain range of meaning is still available.