Thursday, January 14, 2016

Should More Art Photographers Be Honest With Themselves?

I've posted before about how nudity is inseparable from sex(uality). Even if I go into something with the purest intentions, I can never help what turns people on. This is a reiteration based on recent experiences I've had this past year that are all tied to the same recurring theme. Let me set the foundation for this post...

  • First off, it is OK to be a sexual being and express your interest and attractions through art. 
  • Secondly, you can do this in a skillful, well-composed, and effective manner. 
  • Thirdly, one of the few things I took away from art school (besides debt) is that you cannot define art. 

However, a lot of art (nude) photographers manage to get pulled into really odd class dynamics. How people have monopolized the term "tasteful" is just intriguing. And, a lot of them don't recognize where their sexual interests end and begin... and if they do, they aren't always honest about it. Let's just try to do away with the elitism, and in many cases, hypocrisy.

I know many photographers that also shoot erotica, but they hide it away. This could happen for professional reasons -- they don't want to miss out on clients, so they use a separate account for commercial and erotic work. These photographers execute their erotic captures skillfully, beautifully. Compared to the work most people view to get their rocks off, I definitely prefer what these photographers have done. However, how am I to say that Hustler and Playboy, formulaic as they are, shouldn't be considered art? I think this is when it comes to be a matter of intention -- practice -- volume. Sometimes it is a matter of mere documentation, but it really depends on the individual.

So where does this lead?

...If you're going to shoot the same things other people can't capture with as much skill, don't attack their class or taste level. It can speak for itself, can't it?

When it comes to models, recognize how your own attraction affects who you hire for a shoot. The majority of art models are young, thin, (female,) and generally quite fit. Why? If you really want to fill that visual environment, why does it need to be another youthful, statuesque nymph? Couldn't you tell a story with any kind of body type? Any sex? Any aged model? How would this change the story? And why are we so obsessed with repeating Classical Mythology over and over again?

What specifically has come to affect me this year, numerous times, is the argument over bush.

Whether you want to hire a model with bush is up to you -- but be honest with yourself as to why. I am neither pro nor anti-bush. But if you are in the same group of people that monopolizes on "art" and artistic nudity, that condemns the flat lighting and sloppy work of amateur photographers, and think you have a definition for what art actually consists of because you make it...

I don't want to hear from art photographers that bushes are better because they are more "adult" and "less childlike." I don't want to hear that shaved is fine, but it's the "five 'o' clock shadow" (which actually made me laugh) that's the problem. If you're open and honest about how your sexuality affects your work, cool. That's what was in when a lot of older male photographers were coming of age, and I get that. But how is that language fitting for art photographers? (Ones, quite often men, that are committed to the dignified objectification of the human figure.) If you like the contrast pubic hair provides, fine. I understand that. If stubble is distracting from your message, I definitely get that. If you're worried that a shaved crotch will draw more sexual thoughts to the area based upon how society treats body hair right now, that also makes sense.

As an artist, I can appreciate an uninterrupted, shaved figure. I can also appreciate a majestic nether-patch. I'm completely at ease with someone not wanting to work with me because of their personal philosophy on art and body hair, or that they just don't like my look. I'm just not at ease being shamed for it. 

Just ask yourself, especially if you're male -- and I welcome any comments on shooting philosophy/psychology --  am I fulfilling my fullest artistic potential by only shooting one kind of model? Am I being honest about my own motivations when it comes to artistic capture of the nude form? Do I need to re-compartmentalize?


  1. Very thought provoking and very enlightening article written. Being a photographer and a model, I get what you are trying to say. Sometimes it is a thin line when it comes to art and photography and with that medium, both should compliment one another, but, other times is does not. As both a model and a photographer, my philosophy has been this: Creating the best work possible without compromising the artistic integrity of the work being created by both parties. That means for me, since I've experienced it from different photographers who have been attracted to me, and it can get uncomfortable at times, not to do the same to someone I am creating art with. Rather create a professional environment and have fun at doing it, whether it be artistic, erotic, or otherwise.

  2. Of course you shouldnt be shamed for your body but as a nude model one should be comfortable if someone asks you if you can change body hair based on their interest or artistic need without thinking they are insulting you(though that said Im sure some jerks have mixed the shaming in with their artistic need statements).

    As far as photographers being protective of erotic work I absolutely understand that. No matter what your intent with nude photography there is someone out there who thinks what your doing is shameful pornography so it is only sensible to be guarded with your more explicit works. Ive put one or two of my more explicit pieces onto my model mayhem page and its like laser beams to some models. and they get offended that I even asked them to shoot at all like I was supposed to understand their sensibilities instinctually. and alot of models decide that if you have one image like that on your port then that is actually all your looking to shoot.

    I dont think it is possible to change the way this interaction will go though. there are always going to be people out there who judge you and want you to change for them. especially in the 'dubious artist' to model interaction.

    I also dont think it is appropriate to approach a model cold and say "Hi I am interested in maybe shooting with you. want to shoot extremely explicit things?" I would always ask 'What are you comfortable shooting?' Im confident I can shoot cool things with any comfort level but when a model is comfortable with explicit I have some cool concepts down that path too.

  3. I dont know how to change my anon thing on here. previous comment is by me Shattered Vortex Design on Model Mayhem. If you so wish to look me up. :)

  4. I agree with everything you wrote and I've been thinking about this too. Being honest with yourself isn't always easy.

    Jack (White Light on MM)