In the wake of the #MeToo movement, photographers are reevaluating the portrayal of women in their work. Richmond photographer Phillup Lyons’ upcoming show, which is entitled “RAW” and will be on view at Fresh Richmond Saturday, is, according to Lyons, an exploration of the female form in a “tasteful way.”
Lyons, who also goes by Rouge Jungle, works mainly with female models. When men appear in the photos, they are clothed, but much of his work focuses on nude or almost-nude women, posing in sheets or bathtubs. One female model poses lying on the floor at the bottom of a staircase.
“I’ve always shot women, and I’ve always enjoyed the female form overall as an art form,” said Lyons. “I don’t want it to seem like it’s a fetish or anything, like ‘Oh my god I love women,’ I just appreciate them in a certain kind of way. I want to share my appreciation through my work.”
Lyons is concerned with the predictable way women are depicted in modern photography, especially in online media: “With the rise of social media, I think photographers in general have fallen into the same pattern of the ideal woman — portraying women in a certain way, and not portraying them in a variety of ways.”
He strives to represent women differently from other photographers. When asked how he accomplishes this, Lyons said, “What I think separates my art from other people’s work is that I study art. I study different forms of art, I think that translates well in my work, so it doesn’t become so sexualized.”
The low light, high contrast, and bare skin so often found in his work gives a sexual element to the pieces. “Sensual” is the word used most often, Lyons said, when he asks models and viewers to describe his work. “[The models] don’t feel like I’m objectifying them in a certain kind of way,” said Lyons.
In order to create his work, Lyons values collaboration and honest conversations with the models, although he prefers to use the word “subjects.” “I just have a really honest conversation,” he said. “I’m not perfect in my point of view, I know that. I can always grow. I want the models feel their point of view is valued — I don’t even use the word models. I prefer subjects, like a subject of my photography. I believe every person I work with has their own story, and their own experience that they bring to my art, and I try to bring that to the people that enjoy my art.”
As a male photographer focusing on the #MeToo movement, Lyons said, “I’m very conscious that I’m a guy. I’m not doing it from a guilty standpoint, or a male guilt standpoint, but I wanted to use my platform to continue this conversation.”
This exhibit will show Lyons’ “best work to date.” Lyons’ inspiration from this show in part comes from his good friend and musical artist, Suzi Analogue, who also curated the show. “Her music is inspirational,” said Lyons, “She has been a big inspiration for this stretch of my life.”
Lyons’ advice for aspiring artists: “Do what you think is dope. That’ll be what lasts the longest, what you believe in.”