Toronto
3 min

Silver-tongued photographers

As a fat activist, I’ve had my photo taken, either alone or with Pretty, Porky and Pissed Off, from time to time. Inevitably, I was asked to jump into the air for the picture. I never understood the photographer’s great need to see a fat person in flight. Maybe they saw it as a challenge, or a novel approach to documenting the awesomeness of chubbiness. I’m not sure. Although I liked the photos overall, I started noticing that my chin never looked fabulous in any of these photos. Eventually I refused to jump because of said chin issues.

As a local “Japanese Canadian” personality, I was once asked to attend a photo shoot in Chinatown. When I arrived, I was handed a stuffed Sanrio toy and told to put it in my mouth and wrestle with it “like an angry puppy.” I complied, in part, because I felt that if I cooperated I might eventually be given the toy, a reasonable request given that my ferocious chewing smudged lipstick all over its face. Guess not. Not only did I walk away without the toy, the photos were never published anywhere that I know of. Which makes me wonder who has those photos and what they’re doing with them… right now.

The most embarrassing/annoying things I have ever done in photos all involved dildos. On the higher end of the regret scale, I posed for a photo where I pretended to give my (then) boss a blowjob using a dildo in a thigh harness. This, of course, is regretful mostly because it seems to me a dumb thing to do — essentially, to blow someone’s upper thigh. On the lower end of the scale, in the first photo shoot I ever did, I was asked to pose with a dildo (the shoot took place in a sex-toy store).

“Hold it like it’s a phone! Like, ‘Hello, hello?’”

Only because the book I was promoting contained no reference to dildos, I was pretty much against the idea. Eventually I compromised and posed for two photos with said dildo after being reassured that these photos would probably not be used.

Guess what? Whenever a photographer tells you they probably won’t use a shot but insists on taking it anyway, they always end up using it. It’s the Murphy’s Law of photography.

I got to thinking about my history in photos when all this weirdness started springing up around the so-called inappropriate — actually predictably sexy-with-a-lollipop — photo spread of Glee cast members in GQ magazine. Following the viral media hoopla when the photographs were released, Glee’s Dianna Agron (Quinn) posted a response (potentially aimed at concerned parents and fans) on her blog.

Agron apologized to those who were hurt or made uncomfortable by the vaguely Britney Spearsean shoot. “If you are hurt or these photos make you uncomfortable,” she wrote, “it was never our intention.”

It pretty much kills me that a) people were offended by these photos. It also b) bugs me that the photographees had to make any kind of apologetic statement about posing for them. First of all, as we know, the cast members are all adults (30, 28 and 24) who should be allowed to dress up and pose for sexy photographs without causing or getting shit. It also seems ridiculous to me that people would get up in arms about the “sexy” photos given that the show itself plays on and plays up its characters’ sexualities. I mean, come on: Agron’s character plays a cheerleader (albeit off again, on again). So it’s not that much of a stretch to see her in a slightly shorter skirt and high heels in a photograph. As for concerns over the perpetuation of sexist stereotypes, the woman plays a cheerleader. Glee is awesome, but it’s not exactly breaking the mould when it comes to empirical aesthetic standards or — even with its queer cast members — gender roles. So. Come on now.

I also can’t imagine apologizing for a photo. First of all, I didn’t take the photo. The composition includes me but it is not the whole of me. I stood and posed (or jumped and posed) and either had a good time doing it or didn’t. Part of being an artist/writer/actor/politician involves doing this kind of work. I participated in the photo (likely), not for the sake of my health but to promote something I wrote or support — or for $100US, which explains the thigh-high dildo incident.

If you don’t like it, don’t look at it. Don’t buy the magazine. Better yet, if it bugs you so much, put your money where your mouth is and buy magazines that do photo shoots that you do appreciate, with photos that are both sexy and interesting.