Thursday, 29 October 2015

Leading and photos

I have noticed this year that the number of photos people take of me leading seems out of all proportion to the amount of time I spend leading, compared to following. I might lead only five or six tandas in a three-day festival where I hardly sat down, but four of them get photographed. At home I might lead half my tandas, but I'm still much more likely to get photographed leading. So if you looked at my facebook feed, you would have the impression that I lead much more of the time than I actually do. Why?

Obviously, almost every photograph of someone leading necessarily includes their partner as well, so I don't think it's possible that leaders as a group are more likely to be photographed than followers as a group. Nearly every picture clearly shows both. Yet, my personal chances of appearing in the pictures from a given event seem to go up suprisingly if I lead.

It's possible that I look better leading (my face is more visible and more animated), and I am therefore a more tempting subject. I certainly tend to like the pictures of me leading. If so, then, a photographer who is not trying to photograph everyone is more likely to choose me, rather than someone else, when I am leading as opposed to when I am following.

It's possible that everyone, considered as an individual, is a more tempting subject when they're leading, just because the follower's face is often hidden and the face is the most visually interesting and expressive part of any human. So that anyone who dances both roles is more likely to be photographed when leading. I think, if so, this means there should also be more multiple shots of the same leader with different partners than there are of the same follower with different partners, becaues the photographer is selecting leaders rather than followers.

It's possible that the whole thing is an illusion because I don't see all the photos of me following; some of those that don't show my face don't get identified as me, even though from the photographer's point of view they are photographs of the couple as a whole. Although nearly all the photos that show me will be seen and tagged by someone who knows me, Facebook, which is the primary tool used to communicate these things, intermittently makes it difficult to tag the back of someone's head, and people may not think it worthwhile to try.

It's possible that a woman leading seems worth photographing in itself because it's unusual. I wouldn't assume this, as it's not actually very unusual. But I would be interested to know if a man's chances of being photographed go up even more dramatically if he follows, that being so much less usual and therefore more interesting.

It could be a combination of all these, or something more complicated and subtle that affects the photographer's choices and their understanding and interpretation of what they see. Most of the people who take photographs at tango events are dancers themselves who understand very well what they are seeing, but some are not, and there may be a difference.

Any data in the comments, please. I have no problem with any of this. I just think it's intriguing.


Anonymous said...

Everyone I've asked about this, men and women alike, agrees that girl-on-girl dancing is hot.

msHedgehog said...

Interesting point, I am not sure anyone has photographed me leading a man yet. However I don't do that very often because there are not enough men who follow well enough that it's worth switching roles - with most of those who do, I'd prefer to follow - and I am perhaps somewhat spoiled as the quality of following I consider normal. There was one tanda recently where I really should have switched, now I come to think of it, and would have done if I hadn't been so tired I could only stand up if I was dancing.

stompyzilla said...

The typical photographer wants to make an image interesting to as wide an audience as possible. Interesting in the context of tango means many things, perhaps mostly things that are neutral with respect to the sex or role of the dancers, such as emotion or technique. What's not neutral could explain your observation....

In general, I believe women lead more often than men follow, partly because of having more willing and skilled partners, partly because the population imbalance provides more motivation (and other reasons). And reversal of the typical sex-role tends to mark someone adventurous and skilled--generally interesting qualities--especially interesting in the context of the eternal search for partners.

At most dances, women follow more often than they lead. Certainly there are many other remarkable characteristics (passion, form, color, geometry, fame, etc) that are role-neutral, but women leading at an event and looking relatively good doing it is a source of interest.

The female form and dress is often more publicly interesting than the male form, partly because many women emphasize them. That's a much bigger subject, but it's observable across sexes, whatever the reasons. So while males are interesting for many reasons, if a woman is leading another woman, there's a greater chance of visual interest. I bet most dancers would be fascinated to see more photos of men following, but it's fairly rare, especially at an event.

NB I'm male and greatly enjoy following, and it's such an uphill battle to learn well, but that's another subject :-) And I've never to my knowledge seen you dance, so I can't comment on your specific situation.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if your expression, and come to think of it, those of women leaders in general, is more enthusiastic when leading women?