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Curious Frame - Issue #5 - Sex Sells

Curious Frame
Curious Frame - Issue #5 - Sex Sells
By Leanne Staples • Issue #5 • View online
My path to where I am now is a long and winding one. I wouldn’t have guessed 10 years ago or when I was much younger that I would arrive here. When I was young, no one ever said to me “Leanne, what do you want to do when you grow up?” I was not interested in the idea of getting married and making babies. 
I was also not able to find an inroad into the world of photography. Even though I started writing and taking photos at the age of 12, I always did them because they were all that I was really interested in. They were and still are how I make sense of the world.
Writing and photography have been the most consistent things that I have done for over 50 years. Somehow they have managed to meet in unexpected ways. Like this newsletter.
I have managed to combine my love of New York City into becoming a tour guide. My love of photography became my entry into street photography without realizing that there was such a thing. It is my happy accident. 
And my mind that is always working overtime thinking about what it all means has turned into me writing about it all. It is a path of self-discovery. When I talk with people on my tours and workshops about photography and in particular about street photography, I always tell them that I am sharing my experience and that I am always learning. 
I am on a good day, an expert on myself. I will not tell you that there is a single definitive method or answer about how and what photography should be. There are many ways. I won’t tell you that I know better than you how your photos should look. 
So not only have I become a tour guide, a workshop teacher and a writer & artist, I have become a mentor for many amazing people from around the world. I share what I know and others find value in it. So my accidental career that happened out of failures in my business world career have led me here to a place that I found without a map. There is no manual. 
I could tell you that I have followed my passions which is true. But this is not a self-help book story. It’s just who I am. This is my story and I am very thrilled and ever so happy to have met so many amazing people that I can call my friends. This is what I do for a living. It is my sole income. But I would do it all regardless of money. That’s love.
My mission is for Curious Frame to go beyond the typical newsletter and spark dialogue with you on the role of photography in the image overload world we live in. That’s why all you need to do is hit reply to start a conversation with me. Thank you for participating in the dialogue and feel free to share it with others.

Urban Bliss Two #5, New York City, August 2017
Urban Bliss Two #5, New York City, August 2017
Sex Sells
Everything that is visible hides something that is invisible. René Magritte 
It should come as no surprise to us that sex sells. There’s nothing new about that. But for some strange reason it continues to grab our attention. We respond to images that attract our attention without much thought. It is an instantaneous response that appeals to our basic instincts.
All the products and companies in the world that are vying for your attention and ultimately your cash are using the idea of sex sells in some form or other. This is the art of persuasion, of creating desire. You didn’t know that you had to have it.
The invention of photography has certainly helped to create and perpetuate the sex sells method of appealing to consumers. I’m not talking about pornography. That is an entirely different subject.
Urban Bliss Two #6, New York City, August 2017
Urban Bliss Two #6, New York City, August 2017
Whether it’s about health, fitness, fashion or cultural norms to mention just a few possible areas, people are expected to live up to certain standards that are typically influenced by campaigns that utilize sex appeal. Your life will be marvelous if you buy or do whatever it is that’s being advertised. Look at all the sexy models they use.
It would perhaps not be entirely accurate to label it as subliminal. However, the more that we see images that utilize sex as a method of appealing to us, the more it seems normal. We no longer stop and question it. Even when we should. False ideals are created through images.
We are conditioned to take many photographic images as real, as reality. The repetition of certain images cause us to believe things without question. If certain images become commonplace to us, we assume them to be true. You will be attractive if you use a certain toothpaste. 
Urban Bliss Two #7, New York City, August 2017
Urban Bliss Two #7, New York City, August 2017
It’s obviously not possible to distance yourself from all of these images. But like viewing photography slowly for artistic purposes, we can also occasionally stop and look at the messages that we are bombarded with whose only purpose is to sell us something. 
As a society we are sold false dreams through photography. Photography enters the brain without the need to translate an image into words. It is only when an image is counter to our beliefs or so outrageous that we need to stop and examine it.
I don’t know how we escape this or if it’s entirely possible to do so. But perhaps taking a little time to have a look at the messages that you’re being fed on a daily basis and questioning their claims is a good start.
Urban Bliss Two #8, New York City, August 2017
Urban Bliss Two #8, New York City, August 2017
Once again, seeing is believing needs to be challenged. If it seems too good to be true, maybe it is. While I prefer to not become cynical of everything, it is very important to look at a photo and understand what its intention is. Photos that are used for the purpose of advertising exist solely for the purpose of getting you to part with your money. 
Photos that are produced for artistic purposes fall into a different realm. Though it is possible that they too will use sex as a method of attracting your attention.
Blue Video, London, UK, January 2018
Blue Video, London, UK, January 2018
On a side note, on a number of occasions during my street photography workshops, I have told attendees that taking a candid street photo of a beautiful woman is cheating. The typical response is, why? My answer is that it’s possible that we will not ever be able to decide if a photo of a beautiful woman is a good photo or if we are too distracted by beauty to decide that. 
Have you ever seen a bad photo of Marilyn Monroe? I don’t mean when she didn’t look good. The way that we are hardwired will often get in the way of our ability to understand what constitutes a good photo and also what’s real. Models pose. They make believe like in fairy tales.
Can we actually separate what a photo means and if it is art or even outright lies when we are attracted to the subject? Sex sells because we don’t need to spend much time to think about the correlation of an ad for jeans with thinking we would look good if we wear them like the model wearing them and that our lives will be changed for the better as a result.
So I leave you with many questions as it is perhaps not possible to come up with any definitive answers. I look forward to your thoughts on this subject.
Further viewing
Take a little trip in this short video on the New York Streets with Daniel Arnold. He is a street photographer and journalist, though it seems that he actually pulls many of his photos from videos that he takes.
New York Streets with Daniel Arnold
Indie Gift Ideas
Art, Etcetera | That Other Space (Shop)
Shop for Art, Zines & Publications - Leanne Staples
You can also find me at
Artist, Photographer & Writer - Leanne Staples
Walking Photo Tours & Street Photography Workshops in New York City
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Leanne Staples

In a world that is overpopulated with images, Curious Frame is where I share my thoughts on photography. It is always about ‘seeing with new eyes’.

I’m Leanne Staples, a photographer, artist, and writer living in New York City. Street photography and lens-based art are my passions, and Curious Frame is where I’ll be sharing my thoughts on these passions.

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