Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Friday, March 1, 2013

Being nude isn't what it use to be

I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t wake up and decide I wanted to do this. Nor did I sit quietly as a child and gaze dreamily into nothingness fantasizing about life as a glamour photographer. I’m still not a glamour photographer by trade. However, I’ve always said that you have to give the people what they want and right now that’s glamour. But what has me mystified as of late are varying definitions of what constitutes “nudity.” While it might be argued that society has reveled in a flagrant glorification of sexuality as of late, it still perplexes me how something so obvious can be so ambiguous. 

As more and more clients, models and just curiosity seekers began pursuing my photographic services, there has been increase in the amount of people wanting glamour and boudoir photography sessions. Don’t get me wrong, I find nothing more glorious than a well defined human body or any body for that matter. the human form is a work of art. Yet, I can’t help thinking that art is taking a back seat to an over glorification of sex and sexuality in general. Most of what we see isn’t even art. It’s just plain and simple flagrant sexualization for no reason at all. There is a vast difference in people that shoot glamour well vs those that just shoot naked and scantily clad people. It’s a matter of taste and style. I’ve found my style and place within the genre. I steer clear of those shoots that don’t reflect my level of taste and style.

But all of the aforementioned things belong in a posts all their own. What really has me baffled are the different definitions of nude I run in to. Of course everyone is familiar with “implied” nudity. These are cases where no unmentionables are visible; unmentionables like genitalia or breasts. Yet, there are other situations where full breasts are visible but a model or client says it’s implied because it covers genitalia. Then there are situations where a model is totally nude but her back is to the viewer. This is often considered implied because no breasts or genitalia are visible even though it is “implied” the subject is totally naked despite how obvious it may be. It's just a matter of visibility. Or is it? My mother or father wouldn’t say that was implied. They would be offended as would I had I not been learned in the nuances of art and what the industry has become.

How you define "nude" as a glamour or boudoir photographer or a client seeking these services will determine your publishing rights and your ability to comfortably interact with agencies, licensing stock companies, model releases and ultimately working with your subject or photographer. I recently had a model who sought out my services for her own reasons (who knows what they were). I agreed to shoot lingerie and other articles with an understanding that my pursuits were more fashion oriented. In other words... clothed with a magazine ad vibe and stye. Why? Because no matter how beautiful she is, I prefer images for myself that has a marketable commercial appeal for sake of attracting a broader client base. Being a pro glamour model, it wasn’t long before she resorted to old habits. I didn’t mind. I’m a professional after all. I’m shooting tasteful boudoir and glamour shots all session long. Besides we pre-agreed that a few shots of such a nature were fine as long as it didn’t go too far as determined by her own level of comfort and my creative style.

Aside from some obvious ego eccentricities she manifested, the results were okay and along the lines of what I expected from her. She was stunning but somewhere along the line a person’s personality colors how you view them. Whether that is good or bad has yet to be determined. I’m still confused over this shoot. I can’t even determine if it was productive or not.

When the time approached for us to both go over the model release, she wanted a special notation that she didn't want any nude images published. I immediately said, “why did you shoot nude if I can’t publish you?” What good do these images really do me? That is the point of this session. I mean, I didn’t even care to see you naked...ever.  Nothing trumps my necessity to publish and advertise short of monetary compensation for the session. Furthermore, I didn’t ask her for anything nude. She volunteered herself for it. She asked if I thought it was okay to pull certain articles off. I said, only if she felt comfortable. They were of her own choosing. She asked me after all. Maybe she was in the moment and didn’t care until the end. Then I knew how ambiguous the term “nude” had become so I asked, “what do you consider nude?” She replied, “I don’t want my breasts to show.” I asked, “why did you show them then?” I reminded her that other images of her that I’d seen taken by other photographers were nude. She said that she didn’t shoot nude with just any ole’ photographer and that there were only a few nude pictures of her in her portfolio. I’m thinking that ‘you just did a nude photo shoot; at least in part. I was here... remember.’ But in her model profile she wrote that she would shoot nude if it’s for a big magazine like Playboy or something. So, I think Oh... this is a vanity thing not a matter of personal decency or comfort level or anything like that. 

I got complimented and condescended to in one sentence. Wow! She is good with the word play. Either that or she’s super dumb. I don’t know. To paraphrase, “I’ll be naked and published for Playboy but you’re nothing and yet I choose to be naked with you. But you can’t show anybody cause I don’t want anyone to know I was this way for a mundane but equally qualified professional photographer.” What????!!!!! Is this a just 'keep this between us' moment cause if so, it was not as good for me as her ego told her it was. Let me re-iterate. She is probably considered by most to be beautiful. It just wasn’t enough to offset her unusual level of vanity and inflated ego. 

But this post isn’t really about beauty. It’s about what is nude and defining it clearly for yourself and your prospective subjects. It went back and forth to the point of my frustration and it came down to nipple coverage. So, I’m thinking what in the hell just happened? I mean, really? So she’s wearing nothing but her skin in front of a stranger and went thru every possible glamour pose of her own choosing and she’s worried about... nipples? Really? Are you using that pen you're signing the release with to sign over a fat check for what started out as a barter session?

Maybe I’m just too socially conservative to handle this kind of back and forth. Nude is nude. I know my grandmother would say that a panty/bra set is butt naked and burn her own eyeballs out if she saw a Victoria’s Secret ad on television. But times are changing and what we call “implied” will eventually become full nude and the current nude may become adult photography. Just like fashion photography is now borderline avant garde and regular portraits are more like fashion photography. Unless you’re the CEO of a financial institution, a basic portrait just won’t cut it. If you don’t agree then you’re not doing it right. 

I’m still perplexed and mystified over this particular photo shoot. I’m not quite sure what to make of it. This is all the more reason that I’ve limited my barter work. There are almost always issues. 

What do you call nude?