Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Contemporary Art

First Advisor

Aliza Shvarts

Second Advisor

Morgan Falconer


Laura Mulvey’s 1975 essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema laid the groundwork for feminist theory surrounding the objectification of women in media by introducing the concept of the male gaze. Since its publication, theorists and critics have responded by proposing the possibility of alternate gazes such as the female gaze, the black gaze, and the queer gaze. This thesis will analyze those responses along with the psychoanalytical backing of Mulvey’s original theory to determine how the heteropatriachal structure Mulvey presents can be dismantled through alternative identity gazes. Mulvey’s original proposition is limited by her focus on the relationship between white cisgender heterosexual men and white cisgender heterosexual women. By looking at intersectional gazes and specifically queer gazes in photography as documentary measures, this thesis explores the way artists with identities outside of those two archetypes can utilize their gazes to destabilize the heteropatriachal scaffolding of male gaze theory. I will highlight case studies of contemporary queer female and queer nonbinary photographers (Laura Aguilar, Zanele Muholi, Catherine Opie, and Elle Perez) as examples of practical applications of alternative identity gazes in contemporary art practices. While objectification of women in media is certainly present, queer female and nonbinary artists are disrupting those patterns by creating archives of diverse, lived queer experiences with photography.