I knew Jenn from Jennisodes before I met her in person. Jennisodes is a popular indie gaming podcast that is frequented by a lot of game designers and people active in the gaming community. If you have a game coming out, you try to get on Jennisodes.
When I met her at GenCon, I immediately started scheming to get her in front of my camera. I always have photography in the back of my mind. Can’t help it. Ideas for shoots start to build the minute I see someones face. Jenn was up for the experience. Like she does with anything she’s interested in, she threw herself into it, getting cool outfits for the shoot and working with me to develop ideas.
During the shoot I asked Jenn why she didn’t have more photos of herself up and around. She told me, and I’m paraphrasing here, is that she wants people to judge her on the quality of her work first, and not the way that she looks. I assured her that she has done enough work out there in gaming that no one (excluding a troll) would judge her on her looks. After all, with her popular podcast that people were clamoring to get on, and her game, where she has a team of some of the brightest working with her, she’s no longer in a place where people would judge her that way.
Now I’m wondering if I’ve been foolish. Recent events and comments have made me second guess myself. I’ve always felt that it was to an artists advantage to engage with their audience, and that showing your face was a part of that. Now I’m not so sure. Would these photos, that show Jenn’s extraordinary beauty, actually hurt her credibility? Is it better to hide your face if you’re a beautiful woman?
As a photographer, I want to say no. I want to say that a person that has done so much, worked so hard, and supported a community wouldn’t be judged on her looks. That attractive or not, her accomplishments are what’s important, that no one would ever think that she’s popular because she’s beautiful, but because of what she does. I want to believe that. I want that to be my world. I’m not sure if it is.
It’s a damned if you are, damned if you’re not situation. A “beautiful” woman is told she’s only popular because she’s pretty, her accomplishments erased. An “ugly” woman is told she has no right to speak because of the way her body looks. Either way, both are dismissed. I don’t like that message and I won’t accept it. Not ever.
I come here armed only with my camera. Now it feels like a weapon and I wonder if I’m responsible enough to handle it. I shoot, and all I can do is hope I’m pointing it in the right direction.