Recent fashion photography has been preoccupied with awkward and uncomfortable poses. In fact, awkwardness—a negative affect comprising emotional and bodily discomfort—is part of the history of fashion photography. The ‘feminine awkward’ is proposed here as a formal and critical idiom for unpacking the relations that exist between the model, the photographic frame, and the camera, and for considering the way that the image is experienced by the viewer. In fashion photographs, awkwardness is not signified in a conventional sense; instead, it arises out of deeper emotional and bodily responses that accompany signification. Historically, awkwardness has been aligned with paradigm shifts in social attitudes: with changing expectations of how a feminine subject should look and should act. Looking at fashion photographs through the optic of the feminine awkward opens up new ways of thinking about the way that fashion photography simultaneously participates in, and unsettles, the production of gendered bodies.
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