Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason to not follow your heart. —Steve Jobs
Nude photos are in the news. Again. Actually, a couple of different sets. The lovely Lea Michelle (aka Rachel Berry on Glee) posed nude for Women’s Health magazine. Obviously, Glee fans took note. The photos are quite beautiful and very well done. Attention revolves more around a small tattoo than anything else. I’ve not yet seen anyone complain, and why should they? This is a lovely set of photos.
Then, there’s the other person who got naked, and it wasn’t even recent. In fact, it was several years ago, long before anything current came into play. The wife of the Republican nominee for President took a number of nude photos before she was married. They are lovely. They are artistic. They are exactly like the type of photos I would have taken had I been given the opportunity. And you would think the entire fucking world is going to fall apart because of those photos.
Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely no love nor tolerance for the Presidential nominee himself. In my opinion, which is the only one that matters on this page, there has never been a candidate more unfit to hold the office of President. However, the actions of his wife, especially these nude photos, HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING ON THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE. All the noise that has been surrounding these photos is the political equivalent of slut-shaming and it is just as wrong when it happens to the nominee’s wife as when it happens to any other woman who poses for naked pictures.
I’ve not met anyone who posed for nude photos with the explicit intent of seeing how many people they could piss off. There are times when people have taken to nudity as a form of protest, which is appropriate, but the purpose is to draw attention to a specific topic, not incite random anger over nudity itself. We saw that very thing happen the Sunday before the Republican National Convention in Cleaveland.
More often than not, though, when people pose nude it is because they desire to participate in something artistic. They want to express themselves openly, honestly. They want to be part of a rational public discourse regarding artistic elements of light, shadow, color, or contrasts. When most people pose naked for photographs, they want to be part of something larger than life. They want to be art in a very real and personal way.
Unfortunately, American society just doesn’t get it. They never have and, generally speaking, have no desire to improve. Europe, for the most part, doesn’t seem to have that problem. So, not only do we see a lot more artistic nude photography coming from Europe, women all across Europe are more likely to have participated in nude photography at some point in their lives. For those who pose, the pictures are something of which they are proud.
I have taken thousands of nude pictures over the span of my career. It is not especially unusual for there to be a negative response to someone’s decision to pose naked in front of a camera. I have received death threats for taking those pictures. Models’ lives have been threatened. Models’ children have been threatened. Models’ jobs have been threatened. They’ve been called every horrible name in the book.
Here’s the thing: it’s not the photos that are immoral. They never are. Rather, it’s the incredibly ignorant responses that lack any sense of morality or decorum. Death threats? Really? Yeah, that’s a totally “Christian” response. Equating artistic nudes with your own warped sexual proclivities and fantasies? That’s about as inappropriate a response as slapping someone in the face for no reason. Endangering a person’s family and/or their livelihood is emotional vandalism as immoral as defacing a religious icon just for the hell of it.
What the nominee’s wife is experiencing is no different than what many other young women experience when their nude photos are made public. The only difference is the volume of the immoral response. No, her actions before she was in a relationship with the nominee, and even those prior to his decision to enter the political arena, are not relevant to anyone’s ability to make good decisions or their fitness for public office. To suggest such is wholly immoral.
Does Personality Matter?
When a photographer is choosing someone to model for a set of nude images rarely is the model’s name or personality a factor. Even in this social media-fueled world where the number of Instagram followers a model has is sometimes more important than their appropriateness for a role, photographers who focus on artistic nudes look first at the body and the lines that it presents. Having a big name model in front of the camera is irrelevant if the body doesn’t match the concept and the set.
In fact, the personality of the model factors so little that a vast portion of all artistic nudes are anonymous: the identifying facial features are either obscured or omitted from the image so as to increase the focus of attention on the lines and shape of the body. No one cares who is doing the posing. There is no reason for anyone to care because the artistic purpose is not about saying, “Hey, look who’s naked!” even if you’re Lea Michelle.
Whether a model’s face is part of a nude image comes down to the reason for taking that image. Sometimes we need that touch of human recognition to bring the remaining elements into focus. Other times, a potentially recognizable face is a distraction from the message of the piece. Is one more morally justifiable than the other? No, they’re just different forms of the same artistic means of expression.
No Reason To Be Ashamed
Political stupidity aside, I see no reason for the nominee’s wife to be ashamed of her pictures. I do have a problem with the shaming way in which they were presented and the immoral responses to them. The pictures won’t affect my voting decision, nor should they. The manner in which they were published will continue to fuel my disdain for a publication that has made equally inappropriate editorial decisions in the past.
When it comes to photos of naked people, though, I think it more appropriate to find the beauty of the image rather than focusing on who is in them. So, I’m leaving you with 20 nude photographs from my catalog. Some are anonymous, some are not. You may know a model or two, or you may not. Doesn’t matter. There is no difference between the nude photos published of the presidential nominee’s wife and those presented below. If you think differently, you are wrong. There’s no discussion here. You’re wrong.
So, enjoy the art and leave the politics and shaming at the fucking door.