There are a few themes in fashion photography with lesbian undertones. Two of them are in the ad below, which I nicked from the Vanity Fair March 2010 issue at my doctor’s office. It’s from the Leon Max for MaxStudio Spring 2010 ad campaign.
Theme # 1 is alienation. The two women are physically close but don’t look at each other. The right woman’s arm touches the left woman at an intimate part of the body (the waist) but if you look at her face there is no evidence of any emotion.
Theme # 2 is what I call the sister thing. I don’t know if there is an art-theoretical word for it. Both women are made to look similar, almost like twins, or a mirror image of themselves. This is an old idea about lesbianism- that women had sex with other women out of a desire to have sex with themselves. Autoeroticism to the extreme.
Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siecle Culture by Bram Dijkstra has a great chapter on this subject, focusing on male paintings of perceived female autoeroticism in the late Victorian era. For example, this drawing by Fernand Khnopff, “The Kiss,” 1887.