Flashing Bodies is an initiative from Completely Naked artists Pau Ros, Pablo Goikoetxea and Rania Bellou staging nude interventions in public spaces.
Images from Flashing Bodies Action Eight “Censura Emocional” which took place in Évora, Portugal this September are now online. A series of books are also available.
I have two portraits in the forthcoming book “Nude Closeup” edited by EG Irwin, to be published early November from Publishers Graphics.
Sourced from online portfolios it promises the subtle to edgy. More details and purchasing information as and when available.
Joan Semmel “Camera Choreography” Oil on canvas 76”x100”
Hester Scheurwater “My Weekly Upload” Digital photograph
There is that running joke said whenever someone introduces themselves with “I’m a nude photographer” but whenever I meet someone who does art nudes I find myself prone to ask “Would you pose nude?”.
(By the way I don’t take art nudes – I take photographs of naked people). Terry Richardson perhaps a little too famously, Helmut Newton yes, that’s about all I can think of. There are of course quite a few women photographers who have appeared nude, the majority of which has migrated from modeling to directing.
“What’s wrong with being on the other side of the camera?” asks Betty Schaefer of Joe Gillis in “Sunset Boulevard”.
It’s occurred to me that you shouldn’t ask others to do what you’re not willing to do oneself. The aforementioned
two ducked the issue slightly by doing a self-portrait: where one is in control of the environment and perhaps more crucially of the choice and production of the released image. To truly go the other side of the camera means being a model for another photographer.
Pau Ros is one half of Completely Naked, a naked performance troupe who recently staged their action #8 in Portugal. Publicity material was needed as part of the run up to the event. It seemed only fair that I should put myself where others tread on my behalf. To be shot naked where I had no jurisdiction over the final image.
To be honest I had posed for them before as a “moral experiment” to put myself on the far side of the lens but didn’t propagate the fact. Which on reflection seems only half the process. The other is a willing public dissemination; releasing the nudity.
The curious can see more from the shoot by repeatedly reloading the event page and the truly adventurous can view the material from the public intervention action #7 I first participated in at the Elephant and Castle. Those familiar with my work may recognise a few faces (or other parts).
“The girl’s got a goldmine above her knees…
…Glitter between your legs and I walk”
See See Rider, “Girl Gone Crazy” 1991
See See Rider were the foremost if not the only exponents of Glam Country Rock. I had the great pleasure of both photographing them and designing the sleeves for their two EPs, their music has stayed with me ever since. In particular the imagery that their track “Girl gone crazy” conjured up.
News has reached me that the lost album may finally be released next year.
Two artists exploring notions of time and exposure to reveal different concerns in choosing to be seen naked. An aspect of nude portraiture that interests me is the relationship between the voyeur and the model, or in more plain speak the watcher and the watched. In art nudes reference is occasionally made to the artist and the muse, but it is an invisible relationship. The presence of the photographer hidden, masked by “the eye of the camera”. A sterile eye. The defining terms of the art nude, or figurenude to use a self-declared title (although it exists on Wikipedia the OED does not include it) forbid eye contact – www.figurenude.com states “Eye contact and a smile is NOT a figurenude”.
Ruth Bernhard, acknowledged as an early pioneer in nude photography said “I never have made a nude where there is a facial expression. When the model and the photographer look at each other, it’s very different than seeing a shape that is strong all on it own, without a facial expression.”
The body isolated as object, presented in a vacuum , as if there is no relationship between photographer and model. The anomaly here is that none of these definitions allow any viewer other than the originating artist. But these are works of “art” made to be presented publicly, created for an audience. An invisible audience, at no point is a relationship between the voyeur and the naked person admitted. This strikes me as strange, in denial. During the decision process in becoming an art model the thought that they will be viewed naked by strangers must occur to them, their body scrutinised, and if the image is popular or distributed through the rapid transport of the internet, very likely seen by friends, relatives and colleagues.
The work of Andrea Fam and Vanessa Ban directly acknowledges that there is a relationship between model and viewer (not body and camera). The subjects are invited to take a nude self portrait on a slow shutter speed allowing them to move therefore blurring any recognisable definition.
…a photographic experiment was conducted whereby the photographer is removed from scene, leaving only the camera and the subject. The naked subject stands before the camera with a shutter speed of 25 seconds. The lengthy shutter speed acts as the choice of manipulation for the subject. The elimination of the photographer passes the power of manipulation over to the subject, who is then able to show the viewer their perspective on their body…
Jemima Stehli does not directly refer to the unseen audience but utilises the presence of the capturer to make comment on the subject-object relationship. In part putting the overwhelming male art industry “on the spot” and making overt reference to the guilt of looking at someone nude. It is this guilt or admittance that the human body is attractive to us is ways different from a pot or vase that the figurenude seems to mask.
…By using the power of a body stripped bare to agitate and fluster, Stehli denies her subject control of his own image, while simultaneously relinquishing her own control by asking him to decide on the moment of representation. Her exhibitionism creates a complicated web of subject-object relationships, as the man is forced to objectify himself while in the process of projecting his own gaze alternately at the artist and her camera, and hence also at the viewer. Ultimately Stehli undermines the position of the privileged, removed voyeur, and its effects are visceral.
With thanks to The artist and his model
For some time now I have been wanting to post a few portraits by fellow photographers and have dilly dallied under the apprehension of finding a suitable title to encompass them with. Retrospiration – a portmanteau of “retrospective” and “inspiration”. Not ideal perhaps, but better to utter a duff word than forsake a beautiful image because of it.
When I embarked upon the Coupled series I wanted to present the naked person in a context outside the usual paradigms of art nudes. We are not short of nude pictures but most, that aren’t in some way defined as erotica, fall between idealised and candid. There is little I have seen where the body, it’s skin, it’s presence is presented as formal portraiture: with no intention of sexual pleasure (even mental). Where the beauty is in the being, that life is wonderful, that without relationships we are undefined.
A couple of Coupled portraits in (no really, it’s true and not just for pun’s sake) I saw Katrina Lithgow’s photographs. Her series features female family members naked together, perhaps the intimacy partly invoked by no males being present. Both formal in being sat in front of photographer and intimate in the sense that you become the camera, in the room with them.
They are the most beautiful photographs of naked people I have seen.
They capture many of the considerations I have thought about and whilst veering from the paths that I’ve been exploring share mutual ground. I can hardly continue shooting without acknowledging these artists who have trodden similar paths. They may not be inspiration in the true sense but once seen it will be hard for their work not to tread on my toes a little as I proceed.
I have heard that much of her work has been lost and she now has an alternative career. Only one of these images shows when her name and photography are Googled; a shame. Hopefully this post can rectify the situation a little.
“Sarah with her daughters Lily and Izzy, London, 2002” Katrina Lithgow
A small sample of further portraits in the series can be seen at www.magnet.gr/photosynkyria/2000/wmwy2_en.html