As the Guerilla Girls have pointed out, representation of female artists has been notably scarce, with only a few making their mark. In the realm of photography, as illustrated in works such as Taschen’s Photography A-Z, a prevailing pattern emerges. While women are frequently overlooked as photographers, their male counterparts, who secure a prominent position in art history, predominantly engage in capturing nude female subjects. More often than not, they have mostly presented women through a male gaze, an idea of women that exists in their minds, a fiction that is often pornographic and objectified.
An artist by the name of Nananano, a young Japanese photographer has emerged to challenge this status quo by presenting her female gaze as an alternative, taking charge of how women are represented in photographs as a form of art. Her portfolio consists mostly of nude photographs of women, including those of herself, seen through a dreamy filter reflecting on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for Gender Equality
According to Nananano, when it comes to the female body, there's no strict right or wrong but rather it's all about personal taste and what's considered acceptable in the current times. “I consider all the female body to be beautiful and photograph it. Therefore, I just want to photograph the beauty that is there,” she expressed on Instagram.
Nananano’s photographs of nude women, her models, are captured mostly in their homes looking content and at ease. Here, they are not posed rigidly but are carefree and playful, unlike those seen in many works of male photographers. Presumably, they are also not afraid to look into the camera and engage with the photographer behind the lens, since being photographed by a woman would most likely have them feel an instant connection of trust.
Capturing images of these women within the confines of their homes adds another layer of vulnerability. It goes beyond mere nudity; it's a genuine unveiling of themselves. The models in Nananano’s photographs expose not only their bodies but also invite the viewer into the intimate realm of their tranquil personal space.
Nananano has previously released two art books: First, Nude (2020), which contains a series of self-nude photographs of Nananano herself. The dreamy filter persists, but the atmosphere is darker, capturing a pensive artist’s self-portrait. Perhaps the darker tones are visual metaphors for the uncertainty and anxiety that comes with being photographed nude. The artist's choice of doing it to herself also means that she’ll have to be very brave and be honest with herself, something that is not easy to do.
Her second art book, My Aesthetic Feeling (2019), which was the first art book she worked on, contains a series of group nudes composed of Renaissance and Baroque paintings. The experience of working on the project allowed Nananano to declare that to her, the ”nude is a form of clothing.'' Questioning taboos that are often associated with a nude female body that the artist feels is unnecessary.
In September 2023, she also released her latest art book and exhibition, Long Vacation, which featured group shots of models in a leisurely and indulgent mindset, much like one would have during a long vacation.
In this series of photographs, the group of women are seen lounging together, either sharing a meal or watching television. All while the sun shines and silhouettes of trees cover their bare skin, reminding viewers of laid-back summer afternoons. It is in this carefree state that Nananano precisely upholds the female gaze, by bringing to the forefront of large audiences' eyes, women’s joys and freedom that are often constrained in today’s patriarchal society.