Nude photography


TPF Noob!
Apr 6, 2006
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First post so hope this is in the right forum.
I'm looking for theory books that discuss the nude in photography. Failing that, general photographic theory books that have a decent chapter on the nude. Does anyone have any suggestions? It's something that's been puzzling me a lot lately so I'm sure I say something in more depth sometime soon.
Hi Enelpozo, Nude photography is not (IMHO) a subject which receives sufficient critical attention due to political considerations especially here in the UK. If there isn't an academic course then there is unlikely to be any impetus to write a text (no market). That being said "Photography, a critical introduction" by Liz Wells offers an overview of the discourses in photo theory. "The Nude" by Kenneth Clarke offers a classical view of the nude in Art and a search on Amazon for - Photography and the Human Body - should throw up some texts to start you off. Hope this is of some use. Was their a particular aspect of nude photography you wished to investigate (did I really write that !) ?
Just seen that people have replied.
I'd seen a book called The Photograph (I think it was), which had a bit on the body but the language was gobbledygook and I don't think it really addressed what I'm trying to work out.
My biggest question is 'why nude?' I consider myself to have an extremely tolerant attitude towards nudity and I like nude photography, I find it interesting. But a lot of what I see, when I think about it a bit more, I think it's not all that good. I think if the model wasn't nude the photo wouldn't be interesting and perhaps that nakedness is used to make an otherwise boring photo interesting.
So why nude? For me, some of it has reason. Pornography, for example, and nudes that could be considered documentary like Bailey's Democracy. But, otherwise, why must the model be nude, it's not like we don't know what the naked body looks like.
This is a subject I'm still struggling with, and have been for months and months. I have tried writing something on this but perhaps it's best to discuss this with other photographers.
There are two books that you should get hold of and read:
Image of the Body - by Michael Gill.
It looks at how the body has been represented in Art since Neolithic times and examines how politics and attitudes have changed the way theat the human body is used and viewed.
The Body - by William A Ewing examines all the different ways in which the human body has been photographed, starting with medical photography and working on up.

The nude is one of the most complex subjects in photography as there are so many reasons why people choose it as a subject: sexual fantasy, cheap thrill, wish fulfillment, voyeurism, oppression, sexual politics and many more - but people never do it for just one of these. And of course as the Nude is an 'artistic' subject photographing it helps to bolster artistic pretensions.
In Art these reasons do enter into it but are not such a major consideration as the nude is painted, drawn and sculpted usually as a technical exercise (proportion and anatomy mainly).
It's also very easy to make the naked human body look ugly - so photographing it and making it look good can be done as a technical exercise. To see what I mean check out Edward Weston's nudes and compare them to Reader's Wives in the trashier men's mags.

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