An interview and feature on the work of one of the worlds leading women who photographs men, Britt Marie Trensmar.
I enjoy men’s bodies as beautiful landscapes.
I love men and their bodies. It’s not just that they turn me on; I see their bodies as beautiful landscapes. It can be sexual, or not. In 1997—98 I was commissioned to photograph naked men for a daily newspaper. The newspaper originally had something else in mind, but I managed to do it my way and it turned out so well that I got a long-term commission to photograph one man every week, like a Page 3 Girl. Over three years I photographed almost 150 men all over Sweden.
I learned a lot from this — it was a training period for my own art project about sensual men. What I love best about art is the freedom to experiment and explore, to ask questions without the obligation of serving up an answer and the freedom to skate on whatever ice strikes your fancy, no matter how thin it may be. It’s an adventure.
I photograph men the way I like to see them. Some women also like it, others don’t.
Tastes seem to vary, especially among women, because we are not as brainwashed as men are to desire particular images and looks.
Many of your models are typically masculine. Is this your own taste? Why did you choose these men as subjects?
It’s my own taste, but my taste can vary. I also like men with beautiful long hair, but I didn’t find any to photograph at the time.
Is photographing men erotically objectifying them?
Once you portray someone or something, they or it will be objectified. It cannot be avoided. Some cultures take a strong stand against this, such as tribes that believe that if you photograph a person you are stealing their soul, or religious groups that forbid depiction of their gods.
We live in a media society where image speaks strongest. How can we avoid objectifying in this society — if we move to the moon maybe?
Do you think it’s politically important for women to photograph men erotically?
Yes, or men take care of that as well and bombard women with images of how they think women should look at men, which means that women are letting men decide, shape and control the image of mankind as well as erotica. These images go right into our minds, thoughts and dreams, controlling how and what we are turned on by.
Have you found any work by other women who photograph men to use as an inspiration?
Women photographing men for women is extremely rare, but it also depends on where you draw the line. Artists don’t like to tell people how to look; it’s up to the viewer to decide if the work is erotic or not.
Internationally, Scandinavia is considered sexual liberal. Do reactions to your work differ at home versus abroad?
I haven’t noticed any difference between reactions at home and abroad. Finland is the home of the world famous Tom of Finland, but don’t for one moment think that Finnish men are more tolerant of gay men.
Gay men’s culture seems to own representing the male body. How can women begin to take the reins?
Women have a long way to go here and we may not yet be ready for this step. Right now it seems that women are too loyal toward men in a way that has no comparison with male attitudes towards women.