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Photography by Hans Smid

The Mantis Woman, by Hans Smid

The project Feminine Confidence is  is a visualization of the current change of the position of women in human society. Since a few decennia, women have entered the professional domain, which used to be exclusively privileged to men. Jobs, however, do not merely serve to earn a living, they also determine status, the place of the professional in hierarchy. As such, they are the equivalent of hunting and warfare rituals of our ancestors.  Hunting did not merely serve a foraging goal; it was also a very important rite to determine ranks between the male clan members. Women were never present or allowed during hunting, but now, thanks to modern birth control methods and increased living standards, growing numbers of female professionals successfully started a career. This has enormous impact on the way men and women see eachother, and the parameters that determine a man or woman's  status and attractiveness are currently being reinvented: think e.g the metroman, the business babe and powergirl. Feminine Confidence is a controversial visualisation of women that combine beauty with ultimate power.
To visualize the idea of feminine confidence, I used the metaphore of the praying mantis. These fascinating animals have a strong appeal, maybe because their eyes mimic the pupil of higher animals, giving you the idea that they watch you, hypnotise you....These eyes, their ferocious claws, their patience, extraordinary beauty and superb hunting skills make them to one of the most photogenic animals on earth. The female mantis is larger and stronger than the male, and during mating, a male has to be extremely careful to survive. Nevertheless, males are still strongly attracted to females, and usually manage to escape after mating. The female mantis in this matriarchal world is a symbol of ultimate self confidence. Her combination of beauty and strength inspired me to create the mantis woman to visualize Feminine Confidence. I gave photo models the claws of a mantis, to combine their beauty with inherent, exceptional power.
Watching these mantis woman photographs may reveal the ambiguious attitude of the observer towards women; can a women be attractive while being stronger, or higher in hierarchy? For example, we are used to men who marry their secretary, but do we feel comfortable in the opposite situation?

Click here to view the photographs. Hint: hit the full screen button at the bottom left of the slideshow