Thoughts on Nudes and Photography

Thoughts on Nudes and Photography

  1. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

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    Ian Leake submitted a new resource:

    Thoughts on Nudes and Photography - Thoughts on Nudes and Photography

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    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 6, 2016
  2. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Thank you Ian for sharing that with us. I am on the verge of getting some nudes done and I appreciate your insight.
    - Thomas
     
  3. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Well, as an art form, the nude vastly pre-dates the Greeks...in the form of fertility figures and other religious/spiritual contexts. To say it was the Greeks seems to show a little cultural bias.

    The use of the word "horndog", while descriptive, cheapens the over-all effect of the piece in my opinion. And "robot" (devoid not only of sexuality, but also free thought) doesn't quite seem to be right either.

    Perhaps a paragraph differentianting between sexuality and sensuality would be helpful.

    Vaughn
     
  4. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    I certainly would disagree that the nude as an art form originated in Ancient Greece and did not resurface again until the Renaissance.

    Certainly, following after the Greeks but within "western" culture; the nude was prominent in Roman sculpture. Even more ancient, nude renditions have been found in ancient Egyptian art - including fertility renderings that include outsized penises and female breasts etc.

    Further, one can find nude art in ancient India and China etc. And the nude carvings from Africa that inspired Picasso are also ignored by your statement.

    Moving to the Western Hemisphere, various Mezo-American cultures regularly depicted nudes in their art including, famously, "action shots" of young men competing at various sporting games.
     
  5. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

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    In many ways art is evolutionary: most artists build upon and extend the cultural and artistic legacy they’ve inherited. But what the Ancient Greeks achieved was revolutionary not evolutionary: they created a new art form distinct from everything they’d seen before; one that transcended their specific culture to influence many, many generations of future artists.

    The Romans took the nude directly from the Greeks, but the form died out with the Roman Empire. It took a thousand or so years for the form to re-emerge: re-discovered, re-interpreted and re-vitalised by Renaissance artists. And these two highly significant eras were a fundamental force behind much of 19th and early 20th Century Western nude art. For example, the nudes outside the New York Public Library can clearly trace their heritage to Ancient Greece via Renaissance Italy (but no further than Ancient Greece).

    By contrast, the many representations of partial or complete nudity and sexuality created in other times and places throughout history have generally been culture-specific. Once the specific culture has disappeared the artistic form has died too.

    My understanding is that it’s slightly different with Oriental (e.g. Chinese and Japanese) art, in that the nude as a subject didn’t appear until relatively recently – perhaps as a Western influence. In traditional Oriental art, naked people were depicted as part of scenes of everyday life but not as subjects in their own right. If I’m wrong then I’d be more than happy for someone to educate me about this.

    (Vaughn: as an aside, if the “horndog to robot” continuum had been my original idea I would probably have used different words too. But it wasn’t so I didn’t.)
     
  6. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    The Horndog to Robot continuum was so named in another discussion here, with the intent of giving a humorous spin to what had become a rather contentious discussion about the degree of engagement of ones' sexuality while photographing the nude. To make a nude that is a successful work of art, neither prurient nor clinical, a balance between the analytical and the erotic impulses needs to be found. Too much of the erotic impulse, and you end up with bad art and good porn. Too little, you end up with a medical textbook illustration.
     
  7. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

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    Thanks for Trolling, but please try somewhere else next time.
     
  8. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    My point was specifically in relation to the original conversation here on APUG, vis-a-vis the "Horndog to Robot Continuum", and specifically as it relates to the human nude. If looking at half-dome gets you aroused, you've got other issues. While arousal does not need to be a component of viewing the human form, denying that it happens, or photographing it in such a way as to prevent it from happening, is anti-art, as is photographing it in such a way as to guarantee that arousal is the primary, if not only reaction to the image.
     
  9. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Goya's The Maya Nude and The Maya Clothed?

    Which are you saying: that the former is not a great fine art nude, or that it's devoid of sexuality?

    Sorry, you're not even trying.

    Or, of course, using 'trying' in the other sense, you're very trying indeed.
     
  10. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

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    That’s true, neither are photographs. But you were the one who said that, “No great fine art nude has any engagement of sexuality.” This pair of paintings simply shows how specious your statement was.

    Of course a nude doesn’t have to engage sexuality: take Frank Sutcliffe’s Water Rats for example. Or it may do so in a confusing manner – is Jock Sturges’ “Marine” sexual or not? (Dare I mention Nan Goldin’s “Klara and Edda belly-dancing”?) But engaging sexuality is always an option when working with nudes.

    OK, you like neither: I like both. We’re both right.

    All successful art interacts with the viewer in that it triggers an emotional response of some sort. To proclaim a rule that nudes should not interact with the viewer is as equally specious as claiming that, “No great fine art nude has any engagement of sexuality.” You may prefer work that follows this rule: that’s fine, but it’s just an opinion not a rule.

    I’m not sure what you mean by, “sexual purpose”. The paintings exude sexuality. In fact they were both confiscated by the Spanish Inquisition who considered them to be obscene. So if Goya’s purpose was to celebrate the sexuality of this woman (or women in general) then he certainly succeeded. Indeed, your conclusion that he had a sexual relationship with the model just reinforces this point.

    Nonsense.
     
  11. uwe

    uwe Member

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    One of the best about this.

    Tks Uwe
     
  12. Ted Harris

    Ted Harris Subscriber

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    I'm confused, how did the Spanish Inquisition confiscate paintings that didn't exist until some 300-400 years later?
     
  13. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

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    The Spanish Inquisition was around a lot longer than many people believe. From Wikipedia: The Spanish Inquisition was established in 1478 by Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms and was under the direct control of the Spanish monarchy. It was not definitively abolished until 1834, during the reign of Isabel II.
     
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  15. weststarflyers

    weststarflyers Member

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    Hello Ian, read your thoughts and thank you for the post. With respect to naked and nude, for me naked looks and sounds more obliged, nude looks and sounds more like a gift.
     
  16. weststarflyers

    weststarflyers Member

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    I just glanced at your internet site... beautiful nudes
     
  17. ~ Ben

    ~ Ben Member

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    If we restrict this to photography of the nude human, then I think it better. Always seems that people compare apples to oranges, photography to painting, etc.

    Cheers.
     
  18. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

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    Thanks :smile:

    “All the past up to a moment ago is your legacy. You have a right to it.” Robert Henri
    “All art is infested by other art.” Leo Steinberg
    A painting is not a photograph nor is a photograph a painting. Neither should pretend to be the other because that would be a falsehood; but it would be equally false for either to deny that the other exists.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 20, 2007
  19. Videbaek

    Videbaek Member

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    What on earth?

    Not APUG's finest hour.
     
  20. BobNewYork

    BobNewYork Member

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    Ian - I'm new to APUG, (like as of today!) but very interesting article. Like all good treatises(?) it possibly asks more questions than it answers - and that's good! I think that the questions you pose pertain to all art forms and subjects and that your article is as valid to the landscape photographer as it is to the nude photographer.

    All art should generate an emotional response in the viewer and ideally that response should in some ways mirror that of the artist and so the subject matter is immaterial. We're just sharing our own emotions. Whenever I'm asked to write an "Artist's Statement" I inevitably suggest that we photograph not subjects or objects, but emotions. Our task as artist is to convey some of that emotion to our viewers.

    We all hit periods where we question why we do what we do, and when we open ourselves to comment on such very personal issues as this we run the risk, (as you've seen) of hearing from those who KNOW, not just believe like the rest of us. Listen only to those you respect and discard the rest. Here's a hint though, when someone uses "University Professor" as a pejorative you may just want to switch off!

    Clearly you respond to the nude figure - as we all do if we're honest - and seek to convey that tenderness and intimacy in your work. Good for you! Keep at it - but don't expect to fully understand it. Art is for expressing what the limitations of language cannot.
     
  21. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

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    Thanks Bob, and welcome to APUG.
     
  22. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

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    Curtis, I’m flattered that you mention my name in the same sentence as Kim Weston (a photographer who is far, far more significant than I am). And I appreciate that your figurenude concept is important to you. But if you want to promote your figurenude concept and your website then please start a thread in the appropriate forum rather than continually spamming this article. Thank you.
     
  23. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Let me add my voice to Ians.
    The "thoughts" here are certainly valid and worthy of consideration, but some will disagree.

    I, for one, will take exception to the idea that there "should be no interaction between the viewer ..."
    What specific "interaction" could be in question, I do not know ... but, IMHO, the idea of establishing some *relation* between "figure" and "viewer" through the photographer is of paramount importance.

    "Eroticism"? - I remember one painter - Renoir? - who was asked if his work was "erotic". He answered, "If it is not, I have failed miserably".
     
  24. BobNewYork

    BobNewYork Member

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    I have to concur with Ed. It seems to me that there is little point in creating art that generates no interaction between viewer and subject. This would apply equally to landscapes and nudes. In fact without interaction there is no art.

    Nude studies are clearly erotic - otherwise they'd be called portraits. We are a society that clothes itself at all times and hence, disrobing is inherently erotic. If we deny that we deny human nature. If we were a society comprised only of nudists, (God forbid!) then in that context a nude would be merely a portrait, and a clothed person would be .......well hot! There is a clear difference between nude studies and pornography - although better, (much better) minds than mine, such as the US Supreme Court cannot articulate the dividing line here. Personally, I don't much care about the dividing lines my art appreciation is limited to that which elicits an emotional response on my part.

    Interesting thread.

    Bob
     
  25. wfe

    wfe Member

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    I have to admit that I've not read every word of this thread but I'll add a few thoughts of my own. I shoot a lot of nudes along with general portrait portrait work and find that in both scenarios the results are much better if I'm engaged with the subject. This engagement is not on a sexual or erotic level when shooting nudes it is usually simply general conversation along with direction for the shot that I'm after. So I agree with Ed on this one.

    I once had a nude model compliment me saying that she was impressed because I kept her engaged. One of best pictures came out of that session.

    Is there a certain level of eroticism in nude work? I believe that there is and this is something that I try to be very aware of and control. We as the artists are in control of this. I control it not because I don't want it to appear but because I believe that the level is very much a part of the message that the picture communicates.

    Generally it seems that eroticism is viewed as a bad thing. Why is this and why should we view as a bad thing? If treated carefully and given proper respect it can be a beautiful thing.

    Cheers,
    Bill
     
  26. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

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    Ed - you're back! I'm so glad to "hear your voice" again. :D