Gender Cliché #1: Women photographed from above, men from below (2022)

Okay, time for gender cliché #1, as I call it. Not that it’s necessarily the most common cliché, but definitely the least subtle method of diminishing women’s authority and inflate mens (so that both fit better into their gender roles). By photographing women from above and men from below. A difference in camera angle which according to media researcher Anja Hirdman (in her thesis Appealing images) has this effect:

“A from above-angle often portrays the person in the picture as small, while an angle from below gives the impression of the opposite. The former often establishes a relationship in which the seer has symbolic power over the shown, while the bottom-up angle of the printer depicted a higher degree of authority.”

Let’s start with the former perspective. Four examples, and one wonderful exception that proves the rule.

1. Nooshi Dadgostar, party leader of the Left party, photographed at the bottom of a majestic spiral staircase.

Photo: Lars Pehrson, SvD, 2021.

2. Annie Lööf, party leader from the Center party, caught in the same vortex of marble.

Photo: Foto: Lars Pehrson, SvD, 2021.

3. Nyamko Sabuni, party leader of the Liberals. New staircase, same cliché.

Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT, Helsingborgs Dagblad, 2021.

Note how the stair railing and the curvature of the room also give the image a bit of a heart-shaped structure.

4. Five little women and a baby.

Photo: Lars Lindqvist, Dagens Nyheter, 2015.

Photo: Spiderman??? (Seriously, how was the picture even taken?) And if you have a hard time distinguishing who the microscopic power holders even are, it is (clockwise) Center party leader Annie Lööf, liberal politician Birgitta Ohlsson with baby, Social democrat Marita Ulvskog, former Feminist party leader Gudrun Schyman and DN journalist Karin Eriksson. Lots of power in the same room! And ironically, they are gathered for a group interview where they, among other things, talks about how the media has historically invisible, sexualized and diminished female politicians. 🤦

5. Former party leader of the Left, Jonas Sjöstedt!

Photo: Tomas Oneborg, SvD, 2020.

With the same cute, vertical perspective and good eye contact. Nice picture, isn’t it? And for me it becomes so clear how pictures that breaks patterns can stand out in a very positive way.

… Note how here too there are certain, telling gender differences, though! Sjöstedt is photographed on the same stairs as Dadgostar and Lööf – but near the top, while they’re at the bottom of the staircase. And his hand on the railing makes it look like he’s on the run, busy, important. Same angle and environment, but somehow the man still manages to be portrayed as more active.