Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Attention Seekers and Kicking It Up A Notch

I'm going to talk about girls.

Girls use their appearance to get attention. I dunno if it's all socialized in to them, or if it's built in, or whatever. No, it's not universal, not every girl does it. Boys do it to, and so on. Please insert all the sensible caveats here. But it's an identifiable girl-related thing. Of ourse, we all like attention. Boys, girls, middle-aged men with angry blogs. But let's start with girls.

In my youth the competitive landscape consisted, mainly, of one's school. You had to compete with, at most, a couple hundred other girls for the attention of, well, whomever you wanted attention from. Generally the idiot jock boys who, by some bizarre consensus, became the desired attention-sources. But even attention from dweebs like me was not entirely without value. The competition wasn't with all the girls, of course, just the ones in roughly the same social stratum.

Enter Facebook. Abruptly there are 20 million girls roughly the same age as you are, all contending for attention. The attention sources are somewhat more amorphous, but the measuring technology is much better. You can gather Likes! Now you gotta up your game. It's time for more revealing outfits and a whole lot of duckface!

A related phenomenon. Boys with cameras have been talking girls out of their clothes since approximately 15 nanoseconds after the camera was invented.

Enter the Internet. Now we're getting a double-dose of attention: the model and the photographer are both getting attention. Dropping photos of naked or nearly naked young women into anywhere on the internet appears to flip a switch in people's brains. They return to the age of 17, and enter an attention-giving mode. In photographic forums, this manifests as a bunch of facile comments about photographic things. The light is always fantastic, the processing is wonderful, the mastery of technique is, well, masterful. Even when it's not. Nobody actually looks at any of that stuff, they're simply giving positive attention, mouthing the locally-recognized praise words. On wider social media it's Likes, +1s, and comments about how gorgeous you are, which really means how nearly naked you are.

Taking pictures of naked girls is an easy road to genuinely beautiful photos. It's pretty hard to go wrong.

It's an even easier road to Internet Approval, and it doesn't matter whether you go wrong or not. The only things that matter are the age of the model, her body shape, and her degree of nakedness. Literally. Nothing else matters. Find a hot model, get her naked, and photograph her any goddamned way you like, it just Does Not Matter. You'll be told that you a great photographer by pretty much everyone, except some other dudes who also photograph naked girls who will nitpick a bit mainly because you are stealing attention away from them.

Finally, we come around to kicking it up a notch.

Remember how we all seek attention? Maybe you're too shy or cheap to shoot pictures of naked girls. What can you do?

Well, find a place where attention is given, and then take pictures just like the ones that garner attention there. Then kick it up a notch. More saturation, more contrast, more of whatever it is they like there. This is the photographic analog of more naked, and who doesn't like more naked?

OK, so what?

Nothing in here is about photography. It's 100% about engineering your social situation.

But here's a puzzler for you: Isn't great photography supposed to be pretty much about social engineering? Doesn't that great iconic image create a social impact, and isn't that pretty much the point?

So why do we feel it's cheap and stupid to generate a desirable reaction with a naked girl, but it's awesome and cool to do it another way? I don't have an answer here, but I'm gonna noodle on it.


  1. (Ano2 again)

    Obviously, you have not tried to take this kind of images yourself. They are a bit more difficult than you believe.

    I did. Basically, I had the choices between the following extremes:
    -“nice” girls, which will not strip and
    -“less nice” girls, which will strip for others but will not even talk to me because I am not a “cool guy”.

    At least that was my experience. Women who would be interesting to photograph, think “suicide girls” type of woman, will not accept photoshootings from nerdy-type guys. More ordinary women will accept photoshootings, but insist that the end picture should like a fashion shoot or a wedding proposal. I can pay them to strip, of course, but then they are uncomfortable and it shows.

    That is what Jimmy can and I can’t: he can get the nice girls to feel comfortable and strip. Can you?

    1. How do you know they're nice girls? With respect, what do you even mean by "nice girl"? I think it's worth thinking that through, because I think you probably mean "a girl who doesn't wave her tits around for attention" in which case Jimmy's models are manifestly not nice girls.

      What they are is girls who do, but can muster up the coy look of a girl who doesn't.

      That's just a sorting problem, or maybe Jimmy's good at directing. Maybe he's got a gimmick like yelling "Ok, think of puppies!" just before he presses the button.

      It's not a "nice girls" and "bad girls" thing anyways. Young women like attention, it's mostly built in. In this day and age lots of young women don't see a problem with stripping down a bit to get it. And I approve. Not just because I'm a dude, but because I think people should be comfortable with their bodies and their sexuality.

      Whether or not I can or cannot do it myself seems to be beside the point. I'm confident that I could figure it out, but I dare say it would take time and money, for a result that I'm not interested in.

      Taking pictures of girls looking relaxed and happy with their tits showing isn't rocket science. I don't offhand know how to do it, but tons of people have figured it out.

      Also, keep this in mind: Most dudes who shoot naked girls will trot out some sort of "oh, they pay ME!" or "I never pay models" line of shit, and most of them are lying. Go hit modelmayhem.

    2. (Ano2)

      When I said "nice" girls, it was not a judgement of value on my part! I was just trying to find a way to express a difference between the different type of girls I tried to photograph.

      As to taking pictures of girls, I was just stating my experience. I could not do it, I could not figure it out. I just described the two kind of basic reactions I had. You said all girls want attention, I think they want attention from cool guys, but not from me. I'm not a cool guy.

      As to modelmayhem, I know the site and I even saw that you modeled there. I've never used their services, but I have used the services of other sites and paying models was not a solution for good pictures either.

      Just in case you wonder: I am not a pervert, I just wanted rather soft pictures, everything was clear and open from the onset, they could come with their boyfriend and I did not ogle them or try to get them to do anything sleazy. I still got no respect.

      But maybe you are right, it's not rocket science and every other man can figure it out but me. Thank you for insinuating that I am a monster.

    3. I didn't *really* think it was a value judgement, but I think if you look closely you'll find a false dichotomy in play. It's really about finding models who will work nude, who have whatever look you're after, and making them look the way you want. It's not really about one kind of person versus another.

      Sure, Jimmy and a bunch of other dudes have a knack for it. I am confident that it's teachable and learnable, based on the fact that so many dudes seem to manage it.

      It's a good and fair point that I seem to be saying two conflicting things: girls want attention; you have to pay them to get naked.

      Possibly I am in fact saying two conflicting things, or maybe if I thought about it more I'd be able to explain that they are two facets, somehow, of the same thing.

      It's certainly true that girls running around on beaches half-drunk want attention. It's also true that girls who are not morons are aware that their sexuality, their image, is a commodity which can be traded for goods.

      If I wanted to break in to the genre, I'd begin with pretty expensive models and I'd pay them well. There's a lot of mechanics to be figured out, as well as simply getting time with models learning what does and does not work in terms of direction.

      Then I'd buy some good clothes, and a Leica or some other identifiably hip camera, and a large amount of cocaine, and I'd head out to South Beach or similar, and start talking to girls.

  2. (Press send a bit too early)

    It is not cheap and stupid to generate a desirable reaction with a naked girl. Only the ones who cannot do it pretend it to be this way, but there is an enormous amount of classical art to prove that female nudes are an accepted genre.

    It is considered cheap and stupid to get into this genre by paying your way into it, just as is considered cheap and stupid to pay for an escort.

    1. Which is why the guys who do it universally lie about not paying models.

  3. Don't lose sight of the fact that part of who I am talking about here are the Jimmy's of the world.

    Jimmy also wants attention. He goes about it in a somewhat different way than the drunk beach bunnies, but he's still attention-seeking. As such, he's curating the world's view of Jimmy pretty carefully.

    He's probably using a combination of charm, cash, drugs, and booze to get these girls to work for him. He's paying them with some combination of attention, goods, and money, in order to turn them in to attention magnets for himself.

  4. (Ano2)

    In my experience, that is not quite how it works.

    What the girls and also Jimmy look for is to raise their social status amongst their friends. This is only indirectly linked to attention: getting the attention from the right persons will raise the social status. Getting attention from the wrong persons, less so.

    This also explains why there are different kinds of behaviour amongst girls (and men, of course): they don’t have the same friends. In my experience the girls I foolishly characterised as “nice girls” above would get points amongst their friends if they got attention from guys who could be considered “husband material”. The girls who corresponded more to the “suicide girl” type of model would get points for getting attention from different types of men. They would get points for being more adventurous sexually than the first kind of girls, for example. Either type would undress for the right guy, however.

    If you want to take pictures of these girls naked, you have to find a way to make it acceptable for their friends. Jimmy has found a way: he is the adventurous, traveler type and has rich parents. That makes him a high social status guy for many girls and, as a consequence, will lead these girls to agree on taking pictures and publish them: it will make their friends jealous and raise their social status.

    If I try to do the same pictures and publish them, it will lower their social status. By accepting to be paid to pose undressed for me, they will come close to the status of a prostitute and be the mockery of their friends. And since they have these thoughts when I take the picture, it shows on their face and the pictures are not good.

    Now you said it cannot be that difficult since so many men manage to do it. I beg to differ. Sure, there are other photographers like Jimmy, but this is simply a consequence that there is a proportion of men who are “cool”, have rich parents, whatever. They are the 10% of guys who have the highest social status in their local group, which is a lot of people in absolute terms. That does not make it possible to be Jimmy for the guys of low social status, or from a group where this kind of photography is not done.

    You can’t fake social status. You can’t fake belonging to a cool group of people when you don’t. Humans are very, very good at judging these matters instinctively.

    1. There's no way it's going to be cheap, that's for sure.

      You can buy good clothes, drinks, coke, Leicas, good haircuts, trips to Orlando, models, and so on. Any three will probably work. The one constant is that you're paying out.

    2. (Ano2)

      It is not about money. Money may help, but not even in all cases. It is specifically about social status amongst the chosen group.

      Just try to visit your local art school. You will find guys there who have very little money (to the point of being evicted from their house, for example), yet will have no problem convincing a model to strip. The reason is that, in that particular setting, having less money is a sign of you being more of an "artist". The more an "artist" you are, the higher your status in that particular setting and the best your chances are at convincing models to strip.

      Even Jimmy, which we discussed before, does not seem to have that much money.

      In some settings, money may help a lot more. Hugh Hefner's models are probably a lot more impressed by money. Maybe you were thinking of those, but they are not Jimmy's models. And if you look at the pictures carefully, you should also see that the interaction between model and photographer is completely different. If you want to see Hugh Hefner's models behave like Jimmy's models in front of a camera, have a look at the pictures from Ellen von Unwerth, And then again, Ellen did not pay her models.

      I am not sure why I am posting this, because obviously you don't understand. Maybe you are not good at perceiving social interactions and status, some people have real difficulties with it. Maybe you could try to read a book about tribal marketing, it uses exactly the same concepts.

  5. Photographs of pretty girls can be grouped with photos of sunsets; sure, they're real pretty, but they are also banal. There's millions of them out there, and they are all more or less the same.

    1. Definitely:

      One of the things I am always wrestling with, though, is these 'bad' pictures which are nevertheless successful. People like them. The picture is doing most of what we want a picture to do.

      So, what do we mean by 'bad' anyways? (That's a rhetorical question)

    2. (Ano2)

      If these pictures are so banal, why don't you try and take some, Greg? They would attract some traffic to your blog.

      We are both middle-aged, male, unsuccessful photographers with a blog nobody reads (I closed and erased mine). I think that the only difference between you and me is that you pretend that taking pictures of pretty girls is below you while I had the curiosity to try and found out that I cannot do it. You remind me of the fable of The Fox and the Grapes.

    3. Please try to be polite to one another. You may, within some limits, be, um, direct with me. But I ask that you treat one another with respect and good manners. This last is flirting with "too far", but I let it pass this time.