Ways of Looking… What is the definition of ‘Gaze’

Posted: March 1, 2014 in Portrait - Identities - Culture & Self

The following are examples of different ways of looking:

  • Glance = To take a brief look (intentionally)
  • The following are several examples of different ways of looking:
  • Glimpse = To take a brief look (unintentionally)
  • Stare = To give a rude look to somebody.
  • Gaze = To give a romantic look to somebody.
  • Contemplate = To observe deeply.
  • Skim = To read inattentively.
  • Scan = To read with attention.
  • Peek = To take a brief look, secretly.
  • Peep = To take a long look, secretly.
  • Peer = To observe searching something.

However, when it comes to portrait photography, the meaning of ‘gaze’ is often rather different.

Gaze is a psychoanalytical term brought into popular usage by Jacques Lacan to describe the anxious state that comes with the awareness that one can be viewed. The psychological effect, Lacan argues, is that the subject loses a degree of autonomy upon realizing that he or she is a visible object. This concept is bound with his theory of the mirror stage, in which a child encountering a mirror realizes that he or she has an external appearance. Lacan suggests that this gaze effect can similarly be produced by any conceivable object such as a chair or a television screen. This is not to say that the object behaves optically as a mirror; instead it means that the awareness of any object can induce an awareness of also being an object.

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