I met another surfer this weekend – Kirsty, for a photography session in Cornwall. Meeting with her was particularly interesting as I had not found her, she found me and my project through the Instagram post of another surfer - Zoe, who I photographed a few weeks ago. Zoe had uploaded an image I took with some explanation regarding my project and had tagged me in the post. Kirsty then found me through that post and got in touch to ask if she could get involved. This is the first time someone has reached out to me and it is great to experience how social media can really benefit my project, and also how my project could spread and hopefully be of benefit to those who see it.
I really enjoyed meeting Kirsty and hearing her thoughts on the portrayal and representation of women in surfing. It was interesting how, like the other women I’ve met through my project, she also feels that female surfers are too often shown in overtly sexualised ways, and the female surfers used in advertising are all young, skinny, conventionally attractive, and usually wearing tiny swimwear. The kind of images that make other women not only feel insecure but also question their right to surf, or to call themselves surfers, as they don’t look like the women in magazines. Personally, as a woman, it is reassuring to know that I am not the only one who feels this way, and that everyone I spoken to thus far feels the same. It is disheartening that so many of us do feel this way though.
I wanted to take some portrait shots of Kirsty, as I do love taking portrait photos and trying to find ways to capture who someone is – as well as wanting to record the different faces of female surfers. I also wanted to again capture some of the surroundings/environment she surfs in; the beach, the cold water, the wind etc. So I also took some images to show the environment in the background, and also some closer in shots - for example of her feet in the water as she was wearing thick wetsuit boots (below), and her hands as through them you can see that it was cold.
These kind of images (hands and feet) are also not the normal kind of images you see of female surfers – bum and boob shots being much more expected. So I hope in choosing to include some different focuses for the shots like this, it could highlight that the images you would normally see, are stereotypically unnecessarily sexualised.
Project Research/Contextual Research
I’ve been looking further into the way women are used in advertisements for surf brands and thinking about how this affects the viewers. By only using young thin attractive women to advertise surf wear, brands are telling people that surfing = these women, therefore in order to surf you need to be that woman. If you don’t happen to look like that woman in the advert, you infer that you can’t be a surfer, or you can’t surf. These adverts equate the activity of surfing with being young and wearing bikinis. For women that are older, want to surf, or do already surf, but don’t look like women in the adverts or don’t want to wear a bikini to surf in, or can’t for practical reasons – i.e. cold water surfers, they infer from these adverts that they are not surfers. These adverts, I believe, sell product as people buy into this message – that if they buy those clothes they will be that woman in the advert. This kind of message in advertising is damaging to women as it tells them if they look different or wear different things they cannot identify with surfing By showing that not all female surfers surf in bikinis or are young and look like models, I hope my project will show another side to female surfers, to provide a more balanced view of women that surf and what they look like.
WILLIAMSON, J. 2005. Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising. Great Britain and the United States: Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd