Why I Shoot Nudes
I’m a nude photographer, sometimes literally, as befitting a nudist (if shooting with a fellow nudist or nude-friendly people), but I mean more so that I like to shoot nudes. Because of the social attitudes that surround nudity, that can cause some confusion and misconceptions to people who do not understand nude art. Even in more nude-tolerant cultures, nudity is largely taboo and highly sexualised. So here are my many reasons I shoot nudes:
The purest expression of humanity.
Perhaps most fundamentally, I feel naked people are the most real versions of themselves. Not clouded by the messaging of clothing; of costume, of uniform, of fashion, of culture. Literally stripped of all that, an individual becomes who they are in that very moment, not who we assume them to be via the picture of themselves they present from external signifiers.
Of course, it isn’t possible, even when naked, to strip away every marker that might lead us to form a certain view of a person from their image alone: Many people now have tattoos and piercings, and even the naked body has fashions, in how we style our hair, or remove our hair. Plus of course, the body itself tells a story of who we are and where we’ve been, in scars, stretch marks, and more.
But even considering all those things, taking away clothing takes away so much more external conditioning; so many things that lead us to jump to conclusions or narrow our view of a person. Left behind is the true individual being inside all the fabric.
I can absolutely accept that fashion, costume, and culture, are all interesting things to explore in themselves, and the subjects of many beautiful and intriguing artworks. But they’re not what I choose to explore; I’d rather strip them away and see who is left when they are all gone.
Self-expression and exploration
A major element of my work is self-portraiture, indeed my photographic practice has grown significantly out of my use of photography to explore myself, to get to know myself, to document myself.
My interest in photography, as a serious pursuit, grew in tandem with my interest in nudism, and the two have always sat hand-in-hand. They are for me two side of the same philosophical exploration, seeking to know my body, and to know that bodies are acceptable, and indeed wonderful things.
Particularly when I was younger, my photography was an important tool in my growing to understand and appreciate my own still developing body, and ideas about how the body can be seen and expressed.
I would strongly recommend everyone indulges in self-portraiture, as a powerful tool in getting to know yourself. Taking the time to really see yourself in an artistic context is much different from simply looking in the mirror. I feel the connection created with the body through photography and nudism is a powerful tool in knowing and loving yourself.
Moving beyond my own body, I see nude photography (and nudity in general) as an important way to promote positive body image. We live in a world where the idea of beauty is disturbingly narrowly defined. A limited spectrum of bodies are seen, and promoted, in mass media. Fashion and beauty companies control the image of what a normal body is, and in doing so actively exclude almost every type of body that exists, and make all the people that have any other sort of body feel pushed outside the bounds of normality.
Men are expected to be perfect muscular athletes, the epitome of masculinity. While women should be just right; not too thin (actually too thin), not too fat (don’t be fat at all), perfectly symmetrical, hairless below the eyebrows, eternally youthful and blemish-free. European beauty standards, European features, dominate, even in the media of non-white majority countries; fair skin, straight hair, big blue eyes…
But humanity is so much more than that! So much more interesting than that! We are not perfectly symmetrical and smooth, we are not stuck in the later stages of puberty, we are not all white super-models. We have texture, we have hair. Our bodies tell the stories of our lives, and genetic inheritances. We come in myriad shapes, sizes, and colours. Our features are all a little different, almost never perfectly symmetrical, all beautifully unique.
So part of my mission as a nude photographer is simply to capture and celebrate the reality of bodies. To show each one is special, and beautiful in its own right. To show that beauty is not a hard-to-obtain ideal, but is abundant throughout humanity!
Challenging taboos and sexualisation
Nudity is strongly associated with sexuality, and so many people blindly paint almost all nudity as inherently sexual — and because many cultures aggressively shame sexuality, that in turn makes nudity a huge taboo for many people.
Yet nudity is also natural, and should be wholly normal. Indeed if even the most prudish people took a moment to consider it, they would probably find that most of their encounters with even just their own personal nudity will be in the most mundane everyday things; like bathing, getting (un)dressed, and going to the toilet! Indeed even sexual organs are not in fact used for sexual activities the vast majority of the time. As I’ve written before, any body part can be sexualised, but that is wholly dependent on them being seen and acted upon in a sexual context — which most of the time they are not.
So understanding that, a big part of my work has been simply to present the nude body as that everyday normal thing. To seek to actively challenge the idea that nudity is sexual, when it is so perfectly self-evident that just being naked, being seen naked, and seeing nakedness, are not in any way sexual acts, unless and until you chose to make them so.
A contrast and commentary in different environments
Another area I really like to explore, is using the nude figure as a point of commentary in both the natural and constructed worlds. In both cases, putting a human there, in their most natural form, makes an immediate connection, but also highlights how unusual humanity is in both places.
In the natural world, it feels completely right for humans to also be natural. Yet, it is still unusual. We are as a species often disconnected from nature; very few of us are truly a part of the natural world. It’s easy to see how urban dwellers are very distant from nature, but those of us who live in rural environments are barely more connected; the agricultural world features vestiges of nature, but in reality, is as constructed by humans and denuded of any real nature as any urban setting. So when humans are presented in natural places it can seem almost jarring, that we can be truly natural beings, and a part of these environments.
Perhaps more unexpected though, is that humans feel even more out of place in human-created environments. A nude figure in an urban setting is so counter to everything we expect from an urban environment; even though these are places built by humans for humans, it feels alien for a natural human to be there. I find the least human human-spaces to be the most interesting to explore with nude figures—There are so many built environments where humans have either forgotten them, barely visit, or only transit through them; abandoned buildings, car parks, industrial sites, etc. These are places so fundamentally human, completely and harshly unnatural, and yet the last place you expect to find humans being simply human.
Bodies are beautiful
Finally, and perhaps most simply, I think bodies are aesthetically amazing beautiful things. It feels almost criminal to me that as a culture we choose to hide behind clothes the beauty we all carry with us every day. The subtle shapes of the body; the lines, the shadows, the undulations, the structures of bone, muscle, and skin, the patterns of hair, or moles and freckles, the textures of different areas of skin on different parts of the body.
We each of us are a masterpiece, a living breathing perfect sculpture that carries with us history, stories, and love. If I can capture even a small part of that in my artwork, I will be a most fortunate creator.
So that’s why I shoot nudes; to explore, to celebrate, to inspire. To make people feel better about themselves, to try and make society a more open and happy place to be, to throw away taboos, to embrace the beauty and wonder of humanity.