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Unread January 7th, 2006, 11:36 PM
James Brody James Brody is offline
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Default Extended Phenotypes: The Photographer & the Poser

Dawkins (1982) drew our attention to dams as emergent outcomes of genes in beavers. Lewontin (2000), Odling-Smee et al (2003), and Turner (2000) discuss environments as constructions by spiders, worms, coral, termites, and even corn plants. The extended phenotype also applies to photographers who take pictures of women.

First, I just completed a photographic study of narcissism and submitted part of it to some British publications: all shots of a model were taken in a mirror, even photos of the model photographing herself. Second, an established photographer plans a series of nudes and, on the basis of my series, invited me to share in the picture-taking as a aimer and button-pusher, not as a prop-man. I'm honored but a little bored with the idea: there is no conceivable way left to photograph an undressed woman. Third, I used my Starbucks gift card. Mary was a little cheap, no surprise, and spent only $10 on me but I couldn't find out until I actually used the card! I got even with her by sitting in the mall and watching girls while I drank her latté and thought about evolution.

The infusion of espresso, whipped cream, and milk combined the first and second events just as environments and variation led to the merger of ultrabithorax and abdominal A. It also led to a note-taking session in a vacant lot on my way home: use my photo buddy as a prop in my next series! My reasoning and sales hook is that female choice directs a lot of evolutionary action but nudes have been seen as a concession to male visual addictions. We gotta look at naked women! As usual when dealing with female behavior, the obvious things that males do obscure the equally powerful but sneaky ways that women use males in the competitions that occur between women. We guys not only protect the ladies but also keep them alive and provision them for conflicts with other females: after all, a woman's social standing has a significant bearing on how her children are treated. Such is true in clusters of chimps; it is also true in suburban palaces and in tar paper shacks.

Female choice relates to attracting a man but it also depends on defeating other women who might want him. Jewelers, hair dyers and skin painters, surgeons, mechanical engineers who create underwear, and SUV designers earn livings because of female demands for the best males.*

The logical extension of my narcissism series is to include the photographer in the photographs as he and the model haggle over price and what she will do. The trick will be capturing her smug elation and subtle contempt that reveal him as a puppet as much as a predator. And a bad punster would find him to be just another dam extension of a beaver's genes...

* Male dancers originally came into ballet in order to lift women up high and to suspend them while they flipped, stretched, and rolled overhead. These contests were not just to attract men but to defeat other women. (The dancer, like the model, is also an element in the competitions between artistic directors and between photographers.) And women at a formal waltz were more than just a decoration for the men; they were competitors in their own arena and won or lost as a function of their costume and the fitness of their escort.


See Lewontin, R. (1998/2000) Triple Helix: Gene, Organism, Environment. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, for an analysis of genes and environments as a mutual construction: neither player exists without the other. None of us is a passive clay for environment's thumbs. See also Odling-Smee F.J., Laland, K.N., & Feldman, M.W. (2003) Niche Construction. The Neglected Process in Evolution. Monographs in Population Biology. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. And, of course, Dawkins, R. (1982) The Extended Phenotype. NY: Oxford.

Copyright, James Brody, 2006, all rights reserved. No apologies for the pun.
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