Yin & Yang in Photography

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Yin yang are not opposing forces (dualities), but complementary opposites, unseen (hidden, feminine) and seen (manifest, masculine), that interact within a greater whole, as part of a dynamic system. (via Wikipedia)

Photography has pretty much been a domain of men, although there have been great and famous female photographers, yet its mostly men who wield a camera. At least they were. One reason might have been society in the beginning years of photography that wouldn’t see technology, as something a woman should be doing. And within this reasoning is already a deeper answer. Technology is the masculine that, one can see. The masculine side, the yang, manifests itself in machines, therefore in cameras. The Greek philosopher Apollinaire called machines the “motherless daughters of men”. That implicates that there is no female side involved in the machines, which is of course impossible. In order to invent machines including cameras one needs intuition as well as technical knowledge and skills. Intuition is the female side, the yin, the unseen. It is common knowledge that we all have both in us, the yin, the female side, and the yang, the male side and so does photography.
The definition of yin and yang says, that they are part of a dynamic system, which means that there is a constant dynamic between the two sides on who is stronger and dominant. I think we can state that the male side with the technology succeeded for a long time in being the dominant side, leading to big business in camera equipment and accessories. Women had the impression that the technical side of photography was something they wouldn’t be able to understand and that kept many of them away from doing photography. If someone would have explained the technical side of photography in intuitional language this wouldn’t have happened, but of course the technical language was a masculine language. But digital photography changed all that.
Everybody can press a shutter. The technical knowledge wouldn’t have such a big influence anymore on the result as it had until then. The eye, wielded by the intuition would make the difference and this is the yin part. Photography seems to get a huge boost from the technology freed intuition. It opened new creative spaces and the technical side of photography with the recent camera innovations and photo apps stimulates and supports this trend. That doesn’t mean photography will now be only something for females, males have just as much yin as females have yang. They are only rearranged in the dynamic system and move towards balance in both, in women and men. The women get more comfortable with technology and the men more comfortable with their intuition.
The dynamic of yin and yang shows itself also within the technical side of photography. Take for example Canon and Nikon cameras and watch who is using them. The men who are using Canon equipment are very different from men who are using Nikon. One could think that comes from test results and test reports, yet eventually one chooses the camera that feels right. Canon is the more masculine product, grey lenses on black bodies, and Nikon is the more intuitional oriented product. Interesting enough Canon has started offering the choice between grey and black lenses. I don’t know if they are conscious about the reason, but they would reach by doing that also the more intuitional oriented male customers, who do not find masculine dominance important and the number of intuition conscious men seems to grow.
Is photography the visualized dynamic of yin and yang? Maybe it is.

Ute Sonnenberg,