chapter  7
20 Pages

The Blatant Image, lesbian identity, and visual pleasure

WithMARGO HOBBS

The Blatant Image, a feminist photography annual published from 1981 to 1983, plays on “latent image,” the invisible image on photosensitive film that has been exposed to light but not yet developed. According to the first issue’s editorial collective, the journal would circulate photographs likely otherwise to remain unseen because their content was “too personal or too political” to interest mass-market publications.1 It was a place for women to share what they had recorded “in our festivals, in our rituals, in our conferences, in our kitchens and bedrooms, in our offices and workshops,” editor Ruth Mountaingrove wrote.2 Scores of women, most of them amateurs, answered calls for submissions placed in Ms. magazine and regional feminist and lesbian publications. This was a high stakes initiative to show women’s truest selves, Mountaingrove declared: “When we photograph women as we see them, as no one has seen them before, we make these things real-we change the way of seeing and in so doing, we change the world.”3 The photographs in The Blatant Image were tools for consciousness-raising and interventions into patriarchal modes of repre - sentation. They presented a new feminine type to the reader, who was independent of men and lived her life according to her own ethical and affectionate codes. This ideal woman was a lesbian, represented in these pages as a paragon who enjoined The Blatant Image’s feminist reader to follow her authentic self.