Why nude photography? Pictorial art, whether with canvas and paint or the modern painting in Photoshop, has a long history of capturing the human body. I’m not an art historian, but the Met has excellent essays on art history on their website for the curious. From paintings of Adam and Eve forward, there have been nudes in art, with most of the famous names including nudes in their “body of work”. Renoir, Goya, Manet, Picasso, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Rubens, Modigliani…that’s just to name a few painters who have painted the human form. As humans, this subject matter is and will be timeless for us. While dress and external trappings may change, the basic human form not so much.
Similarly, famous photographers also engage in at least a portion of nude photography. Though not all photographers shoot nudes and not all painters paint them, most well known ones do. Leibovitz, Mapplethorpe, Bernhard (Ansel Adams’ favorite), Avedon, Richardson and so on all include some nude shots in their portfolios. More personally relevant, I’ve been influenced in part by those who have helped educate me as I am learning this art in more depth. Aaron Nace of Phlearn.com has helped me learn Photoshop, which is the technical foundation of photo processing today. He shoots a number of nudes and implied nudes. A long time friend, Alex Waterhouse-Hayward, from Vancouver, B.C. has an impressive portfolio worth checking out, and he shoots people in all states of attire. None of these shots are in the least pornographic, nor are they simple Playboy layouts. They are portraits, capturing that something extra in the process.
So yes, in my youth, it was exciting news when Jane Fonda made Barbarella or I saw my first issue of Playboy. But I’m long past that time. At this point, when I shoot a nude photo, my thoughts are not on “Look at those boobs” but on light, angles, expressions, and how I may be missing the best ones of those due to lack of experience. At this time in my life, I’m lucky enough to have tutored under accomplished landscape photographers such as Charles Mann (www.charlesmannphotography), Charley Gurche, and Gregg Beukelmann. I’ve taken many thousands of landscape photos on many, many trips to the desert, the seashore and so on. I’ve become a competent landscape photographer. But when it comes to portrait photography, you have to schedule shoots to practice. The goal is to learn and advance. It is how I will grow as a photographer and artist.
My current website layout includes 14 photo galleries, of which only 1 includes nudes or partial nudity. I’m not seeking to be exclusively a nude photographer. For me, the question of “Why Nude Photography?” is answered “Because the Art of Photography Includes Nudes”. I’m not embarrassed by nudity nor am I low on impulse control. I am respectful and I know that the “situation” offers no temptations to me. I’m there to work, just as a doctor is there to work when he/she examines a patient. Not a “whoopee” situation. To the contrary, I get so few opportunities to shoot nudes or implied nudes that it is much higher pressure to be figuring out the light and so on. When you first start downhill skiing, you have to pay really close attention to the tasks at hand. But with practice, you get good at it. I have faith that I’ll learn, so long as I get to practice. It is part of the work I’m tackling.
Speaking of faith, this work is just that, work. It is not coveting, it is the pursuit of art. I do not see it in any way in conflict with faith. Some might see it that way. I don’t.
So I love doing photo shoots. I enjoy shooting on location, I enjoy shooting in my gardens, and I enjoy studio shoots. Professional models and celebrities often include partially clothed or implied nudes in their portfolios or publicity shots (for example, Heidi Klum, the Kardashians, Miley Cyrus, etc.). Many in the Spokane modeling community are less adventuresome, so disrobing is not commonly done. I don’t discount the value of regular (fully clothed) shoots. For the most part, those prepare one for better senior or family portraits. Those are bread and butter if you rely on the camera for a living. And a great headshot can be as artistic as a nude shot, but to be an accomplished photographer, one must have the same approach as a painter or the famous photographers and capture humanity in all its forms. And the form is capable of elevating the art in the shot.