Nude at Home, with Rocky
This is the first of what I hope will be a new ongoing series featuring people simply living their lives naked, at home or in other personal places. My intent is to capture how nudity can be everyday, casual, and a completely normal part of our lives, and also to explore, via an accompanying interview, how each participant feels about nudity in their lives. I've started this series with one of my previous collaborators Rocky, who welcomed me into an art-filled living space:
Could you tell me about your relationship with nudity? Is being naked at home a normal everyday thing for you? Would you consider yourself a nudist?
I had been a nudist or naturist for most part of my life for many reasons including convenience. It took me over after a point that I hardly wanted friends/family visiting me at home. I always felt a sense of freedom which helped me focus on things I enjoy doing, i.e., painting, cooking, reading or doing nothing. I don’t have to do laundry often either. Ha-ha.
So you find being free of clothing actually helps you focus? Or in other words, being clothed distracts or disturbs you in some ways?
Yes, there’s a sense of freedom in nudity that I find hard to explain. Being nude has made me feel like a dreamy renaissance-painting walking around in my humble adobe and making more paintings. And only recently I came across how Artists like Tracey Emin have been painting in their studios all naked. I assume it’s only natural to let your body experience that freedom while your mind is as free and limitless doing the things you love. Practically, there’s no fear of staining and spoiling my clothes either.
And for you nudity is an individual private thing normally? If you had tolerant housemates would you want to spend time naked in company (be they nude or not)? Would you ever see yourself hanging out with fellow nudist friends, or attending nude events such as a nude swim, naked yoga, etc?
Normally, yes, it’s an intimate thing for me. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to feel the same with company but I could say I was alright during the shoot and I’m open to attend such events in the future and see how different it could be.
I know we shot some places in your flat (where you live with others) where you don’t normally spend time naked. How did that feel to you?
I did not realise that I haven’t been naked there before even though I almost lived in that space painting, writing, chatting with friends and also cooking since it was an open living kitchen. I experienced a sense of invisibility in a good way. As an artist, as much as I want my work to be seen, I also want to hide or be invisible at many stages of creating, sometimes post-making. I did have an experience of losing myself or merging with the environment without clothing. It was indeed spiritual.
At the moment when you enter those spaces normally, you have to make an active decision to get dressed right? If you were able to just casually wander into the kitchen naked without having to think about covering up, how would that change your sense of belonging in that space?
I’m sure I’d feel more home if I was able to do that.
Previously we’ve shot outdoors in more natural settings. I think that was maybe your first outdoor nude experience? Did that feel any different at all for you, being naked out in nature?
Yes, it was my first time being nude in the outdoors, thanks to you, ha-ha. It was an emotionally healing experience. The tones of greys and browns on my naked body could blend well with the natural surroundings and I felt I could fit in. By the end of the shoot, I had an answer to where I belonged. I’m surprised that my personal experience was similar in both settings despite the photographs having different aesthetics. It helped me overcome my strong sense of skin; with no boundaries of race, class, caste, or other limitations. It was rather being naked with nature than naked in nature.
That's a beautiful sentiment! Do you feel then that nudity allows you to feel more equality or freedom to be yourself than you experience in the clothed world?
Yes, while clothed I’m mostly brand conscious or there’s an anxiety of never having and being enough. Fashion is another medium of expression, can add more to oneself or even hide away. I was born into the lowest of the caste system in India. I have always had the pressure to hide my identity and belong to the world I had little access to. Fashion had helped me confuse people into thinking I’m more, only for a short span though. And I found solace in nudity and dived deeper into the person I’m beyond my skin or identity.
From our conversations around shoots, I get a feeling that you find the sensation of nudity far more than being simply without clothes. Could you describe, what it means and feels to be naked for you?
In the last shoot, I realised I had no shame, or awareness about my physical body while being naked. I was absorbed in our usual political conversations and the surrounding space with all my artworks. I undoubtedly escaped the corporeal. But the moment I put on one piece of clothing, I had this natural urge to cover myself out of shame. I was caught between two worlds and that sudden awareness was strange. It made me wonder if clothes increase our awareness of our physical body due to their constant contact with the sensory organ that the skin is. Could it be a distraction? Does clothing limit our spiritual awareness? It definitely makes us very carnal.
Thinking about your body and how you feel about it, do you find nudity helps you have a more healthy relationship with your physical being?
Nudity is more of an emotional experience to me and I don’t think it have had any impact on how I see my body. I personally think health is more important than everything else and looking forward to be more healthy and active rather than trying to fit into a favourite dress.
Any other thoughts on nudity and the body, be it in your own life or more generally?
Nudity has helped me sometimes pause and take a break from rapid modernisation and socio-cultural changes around. In my family, I remember my grandmother wearing sarees without a blouse and 20 years later, the next generation thought wearing a sleeveless top is too revealing and unacceptable. That was a quick change and it never made sense to me. And I choose to listen to what my body wants- freedom; freedom from social constructs.
I find that a really interesting observation! How social attitudes not just to nudity but the body and what constitutes being dressed or decency, have shifted over time. How do you approach the clothed world yourself? Do you want to and feel able to wear a saree in the blouseless style? Do you feel able to dress any way you please, to wear certain types of clothing (indeed to wear a saree in everyday settings not just special occasions), to be more or less revealing, to go braless, etc?
Of course, I’d love to wear a saree daily. And a blouse is the most tightest and uncomfortable piece of Indian clothing I’ve ever worn. And to top that, a bra underneath. All of these for showcasing a visually pleasing pair of breasts; dunno if its worth it. I’ve seen women feeling proud in their drape and chic blouses while also waiting to get back home and wear their nighties (me included). I think there’s no point, Ha-Ha.
Social attitudes have always confused me. For instance, many temples are filled with nude sculptures of Gods and Goddesses; people respect and worship them. I haven’t been able to understand this discrimination between the divine and common. Probably its okay because they are paintings or sculptures and not real. In reality, however divine a person or a god could be, we don’t have control on how the rest of the world sees them. I’m not sure if we have that sort of a collective consciousness yet to view nakedness in one way.
Some fascinating thoughts! Thank you for sharing and pondering. I hope you enjoyed our shoot and the photos. Always a pleasure to create with you!
Thank you, I thoroughly enjoyed the shoot. It has always been a pleasure to work with you too.