Thursday, October 19, 2017

Why Nudism? (Part 10)

Was ever a more pointless garment invented? I've heard arguments both for and against wearing swimsuits for hygienic purposes, and honestly, I can't imagine how it would make much of a difference. Showering before you get in the pool? Sure. But whether or not you're wearing a swimsuit? I don't think so. So what's the point? They don't keep you dry. They don't protect you from the sun (people still use sunscreen and go tanning in swimsuits, precisely because they expose so much of the body). The baggy ones that men too often wear can bunch up and dangerously obstruct one's movement while swimming. And after you get out of the water, you're stuck walking around in a soggy suit - you're more likely to take it off (awkwardly and uncomfortably peeling it off your body) before it ever dries. The only purpose I could envision swimsuits having is to protect your modesty, and they don't even do that particularly well - a common belief among nudists is that, in the same way that censor bars can make fine art look scandalous by the power of suggestion, by emphasizing certain parts of the body, swimsuits are actually more sexual than plain nudity. Besides, skinny dipping is a beloved pastime, and one of the few, rare opportunities textiles have to experience the sheer joy of casual nudity. Let's not lose that.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Fig Leaves

So I went tromping through the woods, on the lookout for the perfect leaf to use in a "fig leaf"-type Garden of Eden shot, for the latest image in my Why Nudism? series. I wanted the biggest leaf I could find (not because my ego is inflated, but because it makes for a more striking visual element), but it was very hard to find ones with good coloration (not mottled with brown spots or overly decayed), an appealing shape, and that weren't eaten through by worms or insects or whatever. But I found a few potential candidates (the best of which you can see in the images below), and brought them home.

The irony, however, is that while I was shooting, I found a nice spot by the corner of the fence, partially obscured on one side by a bush in the foreground. And from a particular angle, I discovered, the bush did all the work in covering me up, rendering the fig leaf unnecessary! And I actually liked the way the foreground branch obscured the view of my genitals better than awkwardly holding the leaf up against my body. It's a bit more suggestive, as it doesn't completely cover me, the way the leaf does, but it also solves my dilemma of the contradiction inherent in shooting a figure modestly covered to demonstrate a lack of shame. The branch covers me from view, to evoke the symbolism of the fig leaf, but it's merely a coincidence of perspective - the figure itself is still completely, unabashedly naked. I think it worked out perfectly - even better than I could have hoped (despite making my work searching for that leaf unnecessary), although I think the other pictures I took with the leaf are still interesting to look at. See for yourself:

There's something strangely compelling about behind-the-scenes set up shots. Here, I was still just testing lighting, framing, and composition, before committing to taking my shoes off, removing my glasses (and putting in contacts, so I could still see), and brushing my hair out (which was still slightly damp - I had just washed it because I wanted it to be in prime condition for the shoot). Being in the shade also gives it a bit of a different look.

What do you think? Leaf, or branch?

This is an alternate version of the final image, with a little more symbolism tying it to "the Fall of Man". I think it's a great image on its own, but I decided against it because it contradicts the central theme of being unashamed.

This last one's just for fun. :-p

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Reflection on Modeling and Body Acceptance

Preface: I was rereading the description to the latest image in my Why Nudism? series - particularly the part about nudism being a cure for society's tendency to bombard us with unrealistic images of bodily perfection - and it occurred to me that, through my work as an aesthetic artist, I could be considered to be contributing to that problem. So I figured it deserved a little explanation. Granted, this is something I've been struggling with since March (and earlier), but in lieu of a solution, I've decided not to let it stunt my creative drive. (tl;dr - body acceptance includes beautiful bodies, too; celebrating beauty doesn't make it an imperative for happiness; and if the illusion of perfection makes some feel inadequate, I'm not going to let that stop me from honoring it in my art).

As a model, my body may not represent the average (I talk about this more here), but I don't like to participate in making anyone feel inadequate, and the only product I'm hawking is a fitness-oriented, health-conscious lifestyle. There are no magic pills that will make you look like somebody else - only a commitment to exercise and watching your diet (and there's no one strategy that will work for everyone) to make you the best version of yourself. Plus, though I don't personally modify the shape of my body in Photoshop, I make no bones about the fact that photography is often a deliberate process designed to present the subject in the most flattering manner possible. You're only capturing a single instant in time, and not seeing all the "less photogenic" moments in between.

I acknowledge that this is not the best way to advertise nudism's commitment to body acceptance (again, I've brought this up once before), but this is only one aspect of a wider series, the purpose of which is to use my experience as a model and photographer to illustrate the many reasons that someone (myself included) might choose to practice nudism. And, contrary to the common textile lament that "it's always the people you don't want to see naked", the fact that nudism features bodies of all shapes and sizes means that there will occasionally be those that are so-called "model beautiful". One of the things I personally like about nudism is that nudity can be beautiful. It doesn't have to be, but it can be, and when it is, it's sublime. It's one of the many things that keeps me coming back to the lifestyle, and it's what I want to capture in my art.

I wouldn't object to doing a companion series using average people with normal bodies, for a more realistic (rather than idealistic) take on nudism, but the truth is, I don't have people like that to work with (and people like that are typically less enthusiastic about being models), and it's not really the kind of photography I do. I'm an aesthetic artist much more than a documentarian. I don't know that I have the skill to depict something compelling - like a subject's humanity - without making it look superficially appealing. I'd certainly be willing to try, if the opportunity presented itself, and I'd welcome anyone else's attempt to take my idea and do it their own way, for better or worse. In the meantime, this is what I do best, and I like doing it, so I'm not going to worry too much - I'm just going to get on with it.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Why Nudism? (Part 9)

Not to get all religious (rest assured, nudism includes members of diverse religious faiths and doctrines - there are even Christian nudist groups), but according to the Bible, Adam and Eve perused the Garden of Eden naked - the way God made them ("and they were both naked...and were not ashamed" Genesis 2:25). It was only later, after stealing the forbidden fruit, that they became ashamed, and began the unfortunate practice of covering their nakedness (though not by God's edict). Previously, they had been blissfully unaware that their bodies were anything to be ashamed of ("'who told you that you were naked?' God asked" Genesis 3:11). Nudism is simply a call to return to that state of innocence, where a naked body is seen as natural and unthreatening, and not a symptom of a sexually-obsessed culture.

Moreover, in this day and age, the media bombards us with messages that are designed to make us draw comparisons to unrealistic models of perfection, and become unsatisfied with the way we look (so that we'll fork over our hard-earned money to buy products that claim to make us look and feel better)*. Even aside from the issue of nakedness, we are taught to feel ashamed of our bodies, and criticized as being prideful, even narcissistic, if we don't. To a significant extent, nudism positions itself as a cure to this social malaise - by exposing people to real bodies, in all their vast diversity, in the hope that people will adopt more realistic expectations, and learn to love their body just the way it is. I practice nudism because I do not feel ashamed of my body, and I do not care who sees me naked.

*More on this here.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Horror Princess

Taking in a costume contest at the mall, in my Carrie cosplay. It was just for kids, so I couldn't enter, but I was there for moral support - dressing up around Halloween is a blast! And here's proof that we really are all naked underneath our clothes:

Friday, October 13, 2017

Dark Ritual

It's always fun when there's a Friday the 13th in October. I even pulled out my pagan priest collar (a.k.a. druid's cloak). It was a perfectly mild Autumn night to perform dark rituals by firelight - skyclad or bust!

As I sacrificed a Holy Bible to the infernal flame, I was thinking about what a huge lie Satanism is. Not Satanists - they're great - but the original concept of Satanism. As imaginative as the idea of a dark, fallen God lurking in the shadows and preying on mankind's weaker natures is (I love horror, so I get the appeal), it's a complete fiction. From a historical perspective, horned gods, rituals by firelight, even blood sacrifice - these are all attributes of old, animistic, tribal religions. These people that existed before Christ didn't worship the devil. But then Christ's followers swooped in, and they couldn't abide any gods beside their own. So they literally demonized other people's beliefs, labeling them as pagans, heathens, and devil-worshipers.

I'm not saying the old ways were perfect (yeah, I'm not too keen on the whole blood sacrifice thing), but the new ways aren't without flaw, either. And given how the Christian establishment has co-opted so many pagan holidays (because it's easier to re-brand a holiday than make entire cultures celebrate new ones) - the birth of the sun (not son) on the winter solstice, symbols of fertility (rabbits and eggs) accompanying the resurrection in the spring, and evil spirits roaming the land in the fall - you'd think they'd be a little more grateful. I declare, Christianity's treatment of paganism is no less appalling than the treatment of Native Americans at the hands of the forebears of the United States.

Thursday, October 12, 2017