Week 8: Critical Research: Nudity and Sexuality
Updated: Jun 3, 2020
In the first part of this post I would like to talk about two nude photographers and introduce their body of work. In the second part I am going to discuss sexualization in photography.
The first artist is a Danish photographer Thomas Holm. He is fascinated by women, their strength and spirituality. He also loves the behaviour of light when it falls onto the human body.
He focuses on photographing women in empowering, sculptural and feminine portrayals.
The second one is a Czech photographer Miloš Burkhardt. He admires the female body and in his work he expresses his deep respect and admiration for the beauty of the female form, and for women as themselves.
Their work is different but they share the same idea of exploring the female body and focusing on its beauty rather than bringing out provocativeness.
In the following photographs you can see a comparison between the above mentioned photographers and amateur snapshots in similar poses (mostly selfies).
In this comparison I would like to focus on the different atmosphere between the photographs where the body is completely naked, and those where the subject is dressed up.
Thomas Holm Miloš Burkhardt
Amateur photograph In Holm’s photograph the presence of shadows cast on the subject is essential in enhancing the shapes and curves of the body. The model’s head is hidden and all the attention is drawn to the body. The muscles on the back are creating a leading line that continues down to the bottom and thighs.
Burkhardt captured the subject from a low angle to distort the shape of the body (the bottom appears a lot bigger than the rest of the body). He also chose an unusual pose, it almost resembles a pear. Such a compositions and choice of soft lighting almost makes the model look like a still life object.
The amateur photo draws viewer’s attention from the back directly to the bottom of the subject. The suggestion here is apparent from the model’s pose – raising her bottom and lifting up her legs playfully.
Thomas Holm Miloš Burkhardt
Amateur photograph Holm captured his subject in a direct sun light that lit up the whole body consistently. He positioned the model next to a wall to cast there a sharp shadow of her body that emphasizes her profile. The subject is leaning on the wall with an expression in her face as if tired and all she needs is to rest in the sun.
Burkhardt chose an unusual angle to portray the shape of the models breasts from a different perspective. The breasts are out of focus so all the attention is drawn to the only sharp element in the photograph – the model’s lips. The soft lighting is very elegant and enhances the curves of the subject.
As this photograph is taken from above all the attention falls onto the subject‘s breasts. Her choice of tight and very open clothing makes the viewer wonder what else is there to see underneath. The facial expression when she looks directly in the camera (at you) and shapes her lips as if kissing suggests her willingness.
Thomas Holm Miloš Burkhardt
Amateur photograph Holm’s subject is captured in a very dominant pose with her arms akimbo, her head proudly up and away from the camera. She is portrayed as a proud woman who knows her strengths. Also the choice of wearing the boots emphasizes the empowering pose. The subject’s shadow is perfectly framed on the wall behind her, thanks to her position in the sun light. Burkhardt portrayed his subject in almost a ballerina pose and optically extended the length of her legs by shooting from a low angle. The curving and positioning of body also works well as a leading line. It makes the viewer's eye slide from the bottom left corner to the (for us) right arm and connects with the shadow behind the subject. The shadow is created by studio light and its softness and shape add another layer of elegance to the photograph. In the last photograph the subject exposes her figure to the viewer by a deliberate choice of wearing small swimming suit. Her pose (the arm behind her head) is very feminine. The body language together with her facial expression tells that she is aware of her look, and she wants the viewer to see and admire. My intention The reason is to point out the difference between nudity and sexuality. Nudity is innate to any person in the world and the naked body itself is just a natural form of a human being. Sexuality is natural too, but does not necessarily go hand in hand with nudity (and vice versa). The subject can be sexualised regardless of having any clothes on or not. What makes the photographed person sexually objectified is rather the body language and suggestive facial expressions.
Sometimes the nude photographs are disapproved by the audience because the naked body is on show even though not in a provocative way. It is always the author who determines what the photograph represents. But the viewer’s perception can clash with the meaning of the photograph, depending on the viewer’s background, nationality, place in society, etc.
In my opinion, it is important to learn the difference between representing beauty and suggesting sex. As I have already mentioned, they can co-exist together but they are not the same thing. The photographers' view Holm: I see beauty everywhere. And often when I see something truly stunning I feel a desire to capture the moment. I also adore beautiful women of course and have always gravitated towards photographing nudes. Nudity is natural to children but we as a society impose on out young that it is not right once they grow up. Many people in todays society are alienated from nudity and impose a sexual meaning to it, perhaps because they are only exposed to nudity in pornographic images. But nudity is not inherently sexual, it’s how we were born, and we sexualize nudity by making it a taboo. Burkhardt: When I create I try to find an unusual perspective of the female body, which I consider to be a gift that nature has enriched us with. For me, portraying nudity is a natural need of mine and I try to express my admiration and respect for women as such. References: