Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Xmas

Season's Greetings - the erotic photographer's way!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Beautiful Beast

The beautiful beast desires a sacrificial virgin to ravish. Will you appease him? (Y/N)

> _

Friday, November 19, 2010

Softcore Pornography

What is softcore pornography? How does it differ from "erotica", and where do we draw the line between it and hardcore? Wikipedia defines one possible type of softcore pornography as depicting "nude and semi-nude performers engaging in casual social nudity". But this is very problematic, from a nudist standpoint. On one hand, people can interpret innocent, non-sexual nudity in a sexual light (and I wouldn't strip them of their right to that interpretation), but I think it's extremely inappropriate to define nudist images or videos as any kind of pornography!

Wikipedia also offers this definition for softcore pornography: "non-graphic representations of sexual intercourse or masturbation". Now we're in the right ballpark, since we're actually talking about sex. Here, we differentiate from eroticized nudity, and enter the realm of actual sexuality. But what constitutes a "graphic" representation of sex? Is it how much you can see? Or is it the way the action is framed? To allow full genital nudity but not erections (what is this, a nudist resort?), renders an artistic portrait of a nude man, alone, with an erection - not even touching it - hardcore pornography. That doesn't sound right to me.

Hardcore? Hardly...

Where pornography is involved, there are few answers. I bring up this question because I'm genuinely curious about how to classify some of my work. And while I'll probably end up trusting my gut and calling it like I see it, I am concerned about how certain terms are interpreted on a wider scale. I think very little of what I've shot so far could be considered hardcore (whether hardcore art or hardcore porn) - can it be hardcore if there's only one person and no penetration? - yet a pretentious artist or a prude might be offended by some of my work being classified as anything but. Though I guess my language in that last sentence reveals my own stance.

Surely there's at least a difference between softcore photography (which might indicate softcore erotica) and softcore pornography. And where does non-nude erotica fit in? If we call that some kind of softcore, then there ought to be something in between that and hardcore. Semicore?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Note on Prudism

I guess I've talked about this before, but it's a trend that keeps coming up again and again. Specifically, it's the tendency for some (thankfully not all) nudists to act as if it's their duty to police every instance of nudity that comes up - in movies, magazines, news stories, and especially publicity stunts - and to make a judgment, based on whether the nudity is pure or sexualized, whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for nudism. I find this troubling because, though there are legitimate reasons for separating sexualized instances of nudity from nudism (which is non-sexual - as you hear constantly), the way this is practiced often reinforces sex shame. Can nudism not coexist with sexualized nudity? Does all nudity have to be nudist nudity in order for it to be acceptable nudity? Or does the existence of sexualized nudity somehow stain nudism?

I don't think it does. Nudism is non-sexual nudity. The existence of nudism does not depend on the lack of sexualized nudity. I am a nudist, and I am a sensualist. I love nudist nudity. It's liberating, it's free, it represents body acceptance, it feels great, it's natural, etc. But I also love sexualized nudity. Sexualized nudity is hot, plain and simple. I won't give up one or another, and I don't believe I have to. I understand the difference between the two, and I'm not willing to make such a significant sacrifice (both types of nudity are very important to me, spiritually) for the sake of those who are too stupid (or, in their defense, merely inexperienced or uneducated) to know that difference.

And yes, there is a fuzzy area between the two edges of nudity. It's not always clear if a given instance of nudity is pure or sexualized - or rather, there are a number of cases where it could be both, and that may depend on a particular observer's reaction. I don't see this as a problem either. Why do people assume "sex" when all they're given is "sexy"? Sure, sexy is a stop on the route to sex, but the route is not the same as the destination, and very few times does one reach that destination - very few instances of "sexy" lead directly to "sex". Think about it, what percentage of the times you see an attractive person (on the street, on TV, in a magazine, wherever) lead immediately to sex? If a nudist happens to be sexy, whether in a picture or in person, why is this bad for nudism? It's not even about sex, it's about a fundamental aspect of the human experience - the sex drive, which doesn't automatically shut off when you enter nudist grounds. And yet, that's not an embrace of sex within nudism - again, sexy is not sex. It's simply saying that sexy is okay, and that the mere existence of sexualized nudity is not a bad mark on nudism, and that nudists don't have to denounce it in order to get "nudist points".

Nudism is not about sex. Nudity is not equivalent to sex. Nudity alone does not necessarily imply sex. Alright. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's go further. Nudity can sometimes (certainly not always) be sexy, and there's not a thing wrong with that. Got it?

(And I'm sorry. By continuing to argue this issue, I'm just mashing the concepts of sex and nudism further together. But I'm only trying to mend the damage that has already been done in trying to "purify" nudism of sexuality. And I don't entirely blame those responsible for this, since it, in turn, is an act of trying to mend the damage already done by society with regards to its twisted notions about sex and nudity. But the fact that sex and nudity are not equivalent is elementary. Prudists seem to be hung up on that point, reiterating it ad nauseum, blaming all of nudism's troubles on its confusion with sexuality in mainstream thought. But the problem is not that people think nudism is about sex - that is an erroneous belief that is easily corrected. The reason it remains problematic is because of our stubborn and unhealthy attitudes toward sex (where sex is involved, accusations are about as bad as convictions, thanks to our active - and naughty - and guilt-ridden - imaginations). The solution is not to wash our hands of sex, but to approach it and try to fix the problem - not by foisting it on someone else (like the perverts, for example), but by facing it head-on and refusing to propagate the dysfunction.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Heavy Equipment

Here are a couple outtakes from my latest upload on flickr. I was out enjoying the warm fall weather when I stumbled upon this piece of heavy equipment - The Beast. I knew instinctively, right then and there, I had to pose nude in front of it. I see lots of modeling shots of naked girls in front of giant mechanical behemoths - and I like the contrast of smooth skin against cold metal. Also, the clean girl/dirty machine dichotomy adds to the kinkiness of those shots. And of course, there's probably some kind of symbolism with the masculinity of giant construction equipment. Anyhow, that's what I was trying to imitate in these shots - pretty naked girl climbing on big dirty machine.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Greta's Vision For A Sexual World

I just came across a great argument - an argument I've been trying to make for a long time - about the legitimacy of sexuality and sexual concentration (as opposed to obsession or addiction), and I want all of you to read it, because it's the best thing I've read in awhile; you can take my word for it.

My Vision For A Sexual World

I found it by way of Wayne's Nude Musicians, who found it on Sex Is Not The Enemy (which is a great song by the way). The latter blog is quite a find, you should check it out. The pictures may be fun, but the quotes are where it's at. Go ahead and scroll through the pages for a bit. It's really inspiring. I promise.

P.S. Here are a few more posts from Greta Christina's Blog. All of these are highly recommended reading.

Porn, Social Criticism, and the Marginalization of Kink

Why Porn Matters

Sex Writers, Drooling Horndogs, and the Suspectability of Male Sexuality

Sex and the Off-Label Use of Our Bodies

Is All Porn the Same?

Sex -- The Great Exception


Sex, and the Difference between Jaded and Relaxed

Sexual Perspective, Or, How Can You Eat That?

Are You A Sex Addict?

True Love Waits... And The Rest Of Us Get On With Our Sex Lives

Right Wing Hypocrisy, or Why Sex Guilt Fucks Things Up For Everyone

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kitty Porn: Art, and Pornography

The difference between art and pornography is a discussion that is likely to continue indefinitely, at least so long as it is meaningful to distinguish between them (and this will continue so long as porn is discriminated against). I think there are two main reasons for this. First, "art" and "pornography" are both labels with very vague definitions. People have argued what qualifies as "art" and what qualifies as "pornography" separately for a long time. What does it mean to be art? At what point does something become pornographic? The other reason for the continued discussion is that there is an overlap between art and pornography, yet they are not equivalent - think of it as a Venn diagram. There is some art that can be considered pornographic, and there is some pornography that can be considered artistic, but there will always be examples of art that is clearly not pornography, and pornography that is clearly not art. And to complicate things further, the placement of the circles in the Venn diagram depends on one's definitions of art and pornography, which, vague as they are, is something we as a collective haven't been able to agree on.

Nevertheless, as an erotic artist who sees what I do as being qualitatively different from pornography, I often consider ways that I might explain how my work is separate from porn, even if it may sometimes be considered pornographic. When we talk about the issue directly, there are all sorts of assumptions involved, as well as the value judgments we make about sexuality and anything dealing with it. So let's, for a moment, transfer the issue to something benign - rather than pictures of nudity, let us consider pictures of cats.

There are two very different approaches to taking pictures of cats (or anything else). And which one you use has a lot to do with your intent as the photographer. Are you taking pictures of cats because you think cats are beautiful and you want to share that beauty with the world? Or are you taking pictures of cats simply because you like cats, you like looking at cats, you know that other people like looking at cats, and you want to take lots of pictures for other people to look at? I'm not saying the difference in these approaches isn't subtle, as there are a lot of similarities, but the result - the pictures that are taken and shared - often reveal a fundamental difference of intent.

To play on the comparison further, I will refer to "cats" as pussies from here on out. You can imagine that there are a lot of people out there who love pussies and get a lot of enjoyment out of looking at other people's pussies. They aren't particularly concerned about the artistic quality of these pictures - obviously, they'll like prettier pictures more, but they like the bad ones too because what they're really in it for isn't the aesthetic quality of the pictures but simply the opportunity to look at pussies. Lots of 'em.

Now imagine an artist who recognizes a quality of beauty inherent to pussies, and wants to emphasize that quality in his photographs, and share it with others. He takes lots of pictures of pussies, but he doesn't share them all, because they're not all particularly good pictures. His intent isn't merely to take pictures of pussies, but to take good pictures of pussies. And so he puts in effort to take better pictures, and he is less enthusiastic about sharing the bad pictures than our previous pussy photographer - because for him, it's not just about looking at pussies and sharing them with people, it's about capturing an aesthetic beauty, elusive and captivating, and sharing that with people. That's the art. It's that ineffable quality one is chasing.

And I'll reiterate that this is just an example to get the concept across. It would be far too simplistic to say that the difference between art and pornography is merely the quality of the images, and it would be pretentious for me to say that an artist perceives something ethereal where the pornographer sees just flesh. Although both of these things may be true on some level. I'm not trying to draw up stereotypes - because I don't think you should use them - and I still maintain that an artist can be a pornographer and that a pornographer can be an artist. But hopefully this example will give you some idea of what it means to create porn versus what it means to create art.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Good Listener

Here is my latest work of art:

The Good Listener

I really like this concept, but I'm not completely satisfied with how it turned out. I don't like how I look in the red dress here (I hate my shoulders), and I probably should have switched the figures, because the composition draws your eye toward the figure on the right, who is slightly more in the foreground (which makes the girl look bigger than the guy, which is not good), whereas the focus of the image should be on what the guy is doing. I'll try it again someday.

Check out this behind-the-scenes footage of my transformation from girl clone to guy clone:

Here's an outtake from the shoot. This is a concept (having sex with my clone) that I want to explore further. This isn't exactly what I'm going for with the concept, but it's a fun little outtake that I thought some of you might appreciate.

And the other piece that I got out of this shoot. A little classic gender-bending:

Mixed Signals

Plus an exclusive outtake for my loyal blog-readers:

And here's a special video that I think you'll like. Flickr wouldn't let me post this in a million years!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pushing (Not Flooding) The Boundaries

How do you create an environment that attracts erotic artists, while fulfilling the following two conditions:

1) There are to be no unreasonable restrictions on the accepted forms of expression.

2) It must not become a haven for porn addicts.

As an erotic artist myself, some of my work, and some of the work I'd like to do, is such that it would not unreasonably be deemed "pornographic" in content (regardless of intent). To outlaw pornographic material would be to put an unreasonable restriction on my expression. The problem here is to avoid hypocrisy in allowing porn yet not allowing the environment to degenerate into a den of pornography.

What's the difference between porn and pornographic art? For an individual piece, I don't think there is any meaningful way to tell that difference. But there is certainly a difference between my body of work and the body of work that a pornographer produces (amateur or otherwise). The majority of my work is not explicitly pornographic - this is a matter of proportion. And my work, whether pornographic or not, possesses intent above and beyond the seeking of sexual gratification (even if that is a primary component of the intent - so long as it is not exclusive).

My body of work is clearly distinguished from a pornographer's - at least as I see it, and this is often a matter of taste and opinion. Let us imagine the case of an artist whose work is predominantly pornographic, and yet still possesses something above and beyond porn that makes it worthy of being called art. How can we tell, and how do we avoid discriminating against this artist, while not encouraging others who lack the added artistic element? And how do we deal with self-proposed artists whose work is apparently indistinguishable from porn? What about the amateur pornographer who insists that his porn is artistic? We can't simply take a person at his or her word, or we'd be opening the floodgates to exactly what we want to keep out.

The only way I see this working is on a by-invitation system, as much as I hate the idea of creating a system where you have to be evaluated/know the right people/have experience in the business to get in. But it seems like the only solution, and shouldn't there at least be that solution, if no better one? So I ask you to point me in the direction of the secret global community of erotic artists so I may present myself to them and ask for their approval, and acceptance into their privileged club.

I guess an alternative solution would be to just create a porn site that doesn't advertise itself as such, like flickr has done with images (though not videos). Have you ever seen one of those? I imagine they'd be hard to find, since they'd look just like other non-porn-friendly sites...

My Interest in Sex (The Value of Pornography)

It seems to me that there is a not insignificant subset of the population that carries the opinion that sex, at best, is something that should remain private, between two individuals, behind closed doors (doors usually leading to the bedroom), and often within the confines of marriage. And this type of people has a tendency to regard pornography and loose sexuality and such as evidence of the moral decline of civilization. I am obviously not part of this privacy and purity cult. (The purity I espouse is much different from this concept of freedom from sin, and I view it as a preference, not a moral obligation). Whereas members of this cult are often quick to utilize the oppressive tool of censorship, I make it my crusade to support and celebrate the individual's freedom to sexual expression.

And there are different kinds of sexual expression. One of my pet peeves is a person who can't tell the difference between any of them, thinking that every instance of nudity in art is pornography. But there is erotic art, and there is pornography, and they are not the same. (I won't go into the differences and similarities between them here, because that's a huge issue of its own). The reason I bring this up is not to disparage pornography - which I am about to defend - but to raise the point that even a person who is against explicit and "obscene" representations of sexuality has no grounds to argue for the elimination (censorship) of sex in art. Sex is a significant part of life, and a powerful inspiration, and it belongs in art, music, literature, and all the creative pursuits of mankind.

I am an artist myself, and I believe that sex should be explored. That beauty should be shared, not horded. You don't have to agree with me, but you do have a civil obligation to permit me my pursuit. And some people are too quick to jump to the conclusion that someone who pursues an interest in sex is necessarily addicted or obsessed. It's true that any addiction is unhealthy, but a concentration needn't be viewed as such. All sorts of people pursue all sorts of interests, so why should sex be less valid than any other topic?

Getting back to my initial point, I wonder how many of those privacy and purity cult members are happily married to the love of their life. The expected social track, as far as I have gleaned through observation, is that you work on your education as you grow up, date a little bit in high school and college, find a partner at some point, get a job once you graduate, get married, and raise a family (at which point the cycle repeats). Well, not everyone follows that track. I met the love of my life, and she didn't love me back. She didn't even like me. So should I be denied the enjoyment of sex with girls I am attracted to because I choose (or perhaps fate chose for me) not to marry?

What about people who are socially awkward? People who can't get a date? Do they deserve not to ever see a girl naked just because they haven't had the opportunity to make a life commitment to one? Even socially capable people don't always have the luck. Not everyone finds their perfect mate, and not everyone is able to win over the type of girl they are most attracted to. I think there can be a separation between the emotional and physical aspects of mating, as well, but that's another issue that deserves its own discussion.

I am an aesthete, an admirer of beauty. This includes erotic beauty, which happens to be my focus. I believe that beauty exists to be admired, and I think it's selfish for a person to horde their beauty (or their girlfriend/wife's beauty) for themselves and themselves only. I wouldn't force anyone to show off who is not comfortable doing so, but I do encourage beautiful people to share the wealth. It is only my opinion, and I'm willing to respect others, but I feel that beautiful people have some measure of obligation to share their beauty with others.

Maybe not every guy can reasonably be expected to be given the opportunity to have sex with the type of girl they are most attracted to, but I don't think it's too much of a stretch to believe that, with enough willing participants, every guy can at least have access to some kind of material that would facilitate fantasies towards that end. Having your picture taken, or being filmed while having sex, is really not a big deal. Okay, the social stigma against sex makes it a big deal, but we can eliminate that stigma if we want to. The point is, you can record yourself, and then you can give that gift to countless others, and it doesn't mean you have to have sex with anyone you don't want to. Why wouldn't anyone want to share that wealth? It's a harmless act of altruism that benefits the entire human race - and the most needy are the ones who reap the greatest benefit!

If you have much, give of your wealth.
If you have little, give of your heart.
If you have smarts, give of your mind.
If you have beauty, give of your body.

Nudity = Sex

How many people actually believe that "nudity equates to sex"? Is this a real phenomenon, or is it a phantom we've inadvertently invented? When somebody sees nudity, and instantly thinks sex, this alone is not evidence that this person equates nudity with sex. If I see an attractive person nude, I might immediately think about sex (then again, I might not), but it doesn't change the fact that I recognize that nudity can be completely nonsexual. The existence of these feelings and reactions are not at fault, and need not be excised.

The problem, I think, is that sometimes people see nonsexual nudity, and they presuppose a sexual motive or atmosphere. And why is that a problem? It's a problem only insofar as sex is a problem. They see sex, so they go into sex-reactive mode and attack us - us perverts having public sex orgies in full view of children. This is counterproductive because it's out of place. It's an incorrect reaction. It's not a sex orgy, it's just a nudist gathering, and thus the sex-reactive mode is completely inappropriate. Yet nudists do get attacked in that way, and more often than not, the powers that be - instead of recognizing the truth that nudism is nonsexual - punish it as if it were sexual.

So we push away sexuality. But this isn't healthy. We can't just cut sex out of our lives. If we have problems with sex, we ought to deal with them. When exactly is the sex-reactive mode appropriate? What if it were actually a public sex orgy, and not a nudist gathering? What's the problem with that anyway? We shouldn't respond with repressive hysteria, we should be reasonable and view it like anything else. Is anybody being forced to do something they don't want to do? Is this orgy in any way disturbing its neighbors unreasonably?

If we have a problem with people having sex, or a problem with other people seeing people having sex, we need to deal with it. People are gonna have sex, and they're gonna be seen having sex, and we ought to come to terms with that, and learn to accept it. And for those of us involved, shouldn't we learn to enjoy it? If we could overcome this problem, it would no longer matter whether the nudity was sexual or not, it wouldn't be a problem either way. And that would be a better world for both nudists and perverts. And I'm all about equality and the fair distribution of rights and freedoms. I refuse to attack sex in my defense of nudism.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nice Guys Get Hard Too

I was recently having a friendly discussion with a nudist about the merits of admiring the beauty of an attractive individual versus the dangers of encouraging gawking and similar rude behaviors. I (of course) insist that there is such a thing as polite voyeurism, despite the fact that sex-negative stereotypes portray it as something harmful and contrary to the interests of those being viewed.

Nudists, you should be well aware, are concerned about gawkers, because, due to society's treatment of nudity (a repeated cycle of repression and titillation), they have not uncommonly had a problem with those individuals who are not really interested in nudism, but show up only to take advantage of the nudity, presumably for some sexual thrill (whether it is primarily exhibitionist in nature, or voyeuristic, or a combination of the two). Naturally, they wish to discourage gawking, and this has the unfortunate side effect of having a negative impact on persons such as myself, who are polite and non-confrontational, yet have an interest in admiring the beauty of others in a somewhat voyeuristic fashion.

Now, in my defense, whatever pleasure I might gain from seeing an attractive person, I have no intention of behaving in a rude manner, and the last thing I'd want to do is anything that would make another person feel uncomfortable or in any way threatened by my behavior. Let's assume that it is possible to admire a person in a way that does not involve gawking or other rudeness. The course of the discussion led to the question of what kind of reaction would be appropriate if a guy was admiring somebody, while sporting an erection.

Now here, the automatic image is to assume that we're talking about a guy jerking himself while staring at a beautiful stranger, and clearly, this kind of behavior is not polite, and a nasty reaction is not unwarranted. But is this the necessary picture? What about somebody who happens to get an erection while admiring a beautiful stranger, but yet remains concerned about his demeanor, and whether he is bothering anyone? As it stands, the erection alone would usually been seen as an affront to the civility of the environment, but I'd argue that erections are a natural occurrence, and that even evidence of sexual arousal does not presuppose any kind of intent on the part of the aroused, and even if it did, the intent would not have to be aggressive or inappropriate in nature, by necessity.

We imagine those who are sexually open and free and liberated as being fiends and perverts. We assume that if they would go so far as to openly embrace the realm of sexual delights, that they must be lacking in morality and civility and self-control. The man who gets an erection among polite nude company then is necessarily seen to be a dangerous predator, or at best, a pathetic nuisance. Either way, he is to be captured and disposed of. But this is not the only picture that exists.

In truth, nice guys get hard too. Guys who don't want to cause problems. Guys who are friendly and funny and like to make people feel comfortable, and have no desire to impose their will on others. Guys who promote social harmony. They get hard too. They have sexual desires, and sometimes those desires show. It doesn't mean their demeanor will change. A nice guy who responds physiologically to an attractive girl isn't going to start acting all perverted and aggressive and controlling towards that girl. And when we see a guy get hard, why should we assume he's a bad seed?

Granted, social norms and customs, especially nudist ones, don't allow for public erections, and thus chances are you aren't going to see the nice guys in this predicament, because they know well enough to keep themselves in check. But if we speak hypothetically (because this issue can be ported to other situations), we shouldn't automatically assume that anyone who gets hard is some kind of perverted sexual predator. Maybe it's a safety precaution, to protect us against those who are like that, but how many are? And in the meantime, how many nice guys do we end up sacrificing? And what about our approach towards sexuality? I don't think it's healthy to assume that sexual desires are dangerous and aggressive, until proven otherwise. What does that say about our attitude towards sex? And how much does it promote the adoption of those kinds of attitudes, as a self-fulfilling prophecy?

The result of this kind of approach is that, when a perfectly nice guy like myself, without a hint of a predatory instinct, decides that he wants to compliment an attractive girl politely, in the hopes of boosting her confidence and spreading good cheer and positive sexual energy, he instead gets attacked in self-defense, being thought of as disgusting scum, or worse - dangerous disgusting scum. The fact that I am polite means nothing. Because we've lost the ability to make that distinction. All sex is dirty. All sexual speech is insulting. All sexual expression is obscene.

All I want is to live in a world with a healthy and positive approach towards sexuality, where sex can be a positive force that enhances a person's experience of life - sex feels good, and it's only natural for us to feel good about it in turn. But all society seems to want to do is reinforce its views on sex being dirty, and icky, and immoral, and, essentially, evil. And also aggressive and animalistic. Which it sometimes can be, but whatever happened to nice and gentle sexuality? Just because a person takes their sexuality out of the bedroom with them, doesn't mean that it necessarily has to be the aggressive kind. Enough with these sexual stereotypes. Don't judge a person based on their sexual desires, or the simple fact that they have them, and that they show them. Evaluate instead the nature of those desires, and the behaviors that accompany them. Give birth to the concept of the polite pervert!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

Privacy in a Digital World

One of the concerns that I see coming up often in discussions of the ways that the digital revolution is changing the world, is how our privacy as individuals is being affected. With digital convenience comes increased interconnectivity. Through a digital signal people are closer than they've ever been before, regardless of the physical distance between them. And though digital storage can be fragile, it is becoming cheaper and smaller, and much more convenient to store all kinds of information for extended periods, as well as to share and transfer that information across the globe. And while there is such a thing as digital security, not everybody knows as much about it as they should, and like with all things, there are back doors.

In a different age, before computers, before telephones, before recording technology existed, one could imagine that people could have a great deal of privacy, if they wanted it. They could engage in activities in secret, and the only record would be the imperfect memories of those directly involved.

But what is the value of privacy? There is an intrinsic value, which is related to the desire to be alone, to remain unjudged, and to simply be, free from the observation of others. Some people are more comfortable doing some things on their own. I think this should be respected. It's when people feel a need for privacy, when they might like to share but refrain in the interest of self-protection, that I am concerned. Ideally, nobody should feel compelled to shut up if they'd rather speak out (isn't this the principle behind free speech protection?).

A question arises regarding the judgment of others. Firstly, do we deserve to be judged by others? Do others have the right to judge us, and to adopt patterns of behavior towards us based on that judgment? Of the things that a person might want to keep secret from others, there are criminal acts, and there are unpopular acts. You might argue that criminal acts don't deserve privacy, but what if a homosexual wants to keep his sexual orientation a secret in order to avoid social and moral condemnation in a society that does not criminalize, but still discriminates against homosexuality? I think that's a valid justification for privacy. But what if it were possible for us all to mature, and stop judging people based on these kinds of factors?

I think that what the digital erosion of privacy is doing is bringing to light many private behaviors that have been going on for a good long while, but were simply less known, or less talked about, in days of broader privacy. And I think that this could be a good thing. If we could replace the attitude of "whatever you wanna do behind closed doors, as long as I don't have to hear about it, I don't care" with "I see, people do these things, and there's nothing wrong with it", then I think a lot more people could be a lot more honest with themselves, and with others, and that would promote good self-esteem and better, more honest relations between people.

Naturally, before we progress from one attitude to the other, there will be an exposure phase, in which people will overreact to behaviors they are not used to. This is a dangerous phase, where many people stand to be prosecuted for things they really shouldn't be prosecuted for, like the discrimination against homosexuality for example. But if in the long run it means that we, as a group, as a species, can come to terms with a wider range of what it means to be human, I think this will be a good thing. I just think that in the meantime, we should be careful not to attack people for things that offend us, that disagree with our moral codes, or our sense of values and decorum. I realize this is asking a lot, but it's important for our humanity.

And this isn't to say that we should begin to accept anything and everything that someone could do, just that we should redefine our eroded principle of harm, and learn which sort of things truly are worthy of restriction and punishment, and which aren't. As an example, I have heard about an event in San Francisco that sometimes involves explicit displays of sexuality in public streets (even if it's not officially sanctioned), and a reporter, responding to this, made the all-too-easy comparison to the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah. If some people like to fornicate in the streets, I don't see how that's evidence of the corruption of society. Now, if people were being raped in the streets, that's clearly a different matter. But otherwise, this is a "moral" offense, and should not be a criminal one.

And ultimately, you might not want to see that happening in your streets (that's probably something your community should decide), but the fact that it happens somewhere (the revelation of which is being facilitated by digital transparency) isn't a good reason for you to get on your high horse and start judging others. Live, and let live.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Freedom of Diversity

It occurs to me, that in the spirit of freedom that these United States of America were built on, and the celebrated diversity that makes up our constitution (lowercase "c") as a nation, there should be at least one city in this country that permits reasonable nudity in public. And by reasonable I don't mean everybody goes naked all the time. I don't mean that all the business establishments have to serve naked people (or employ naked people). I mean that if somebody decides to walk down the middle of main street, in the center of downtown, completely bare-ass naked, that this particular city would defend that. People might look, even stare, some might like it, and others might not - but the bottom line is that the local police would defend that person's right to be naked on communal public property, and the majority of the people living there would be of an understanding that that's the way that city was, and would tolerate it if not enthusiastically support it. The people who really didn't like it would move elsewhere. You would think, as free and as diverse as this country is, there'd be at least one medium to large sized city located somewhere between the shining seas, where this kind of thing was accepted.

This kind of thing.

I say this because, jealous of the naked people that turn up in pictures and videos of various events (particularly the Bay To Breakers race) in San Francisco, I've tried to find out what kind of rules there are about public nudity in downtown SF - which, of all places, you would think would be the one major city where this might fly - and results are inconclusive, but not entirely encouraging. I've heard anything from, "there's no law against public nudity", to, "it's just like anyplace else", and I'm not quite sure what's correct.* But in most places, there doesn't have to be a specific law against public nudity; it's a sort of unspoken community standard - that people don't go naked in public - which is covered under other vague laws like "indecent exposure" or "public lewdness". SF may be more lenient/forgiving/accepting of public nudity than other places (maybe - and I doubt the city council would want to promote that image), but as long as it's not strictly protected, there's always that risk. That knowledge that you can try to get away with it, but if you're caught, you have noone to blame but yourself.

Lewd? Indecent? Or decent and proper?

And some people like the risk - let them have it. But my point is that there should be at least one place where that risk is absent. At least one place where the community standards include public nudity. Of all the people in this country, of all the settlements we've settled, there should be at least one for people who like to go naked in public. I've heard of a naked city in France, but even worldwide, places like that are rare. Most of the best places do not explicitly defend nudity, but merely tacitly tolerate it. There are, of course, isolated resorts and beaches all over the world where this kind of thing is celebrated - but a resort is a resort. A beach is a beach. (And with all due respect to the nudist community, they are far too uptight about photography in this nation). You'd think there'd be at least one city - and again, I'm not saying everybody would be nude all the time, they would just not consider the people who are naked to be out of the ordinary. At least one place. Just one. Is that asking too much? Am I dreaming?

A place where this would not raise alarms.

Of course, you could argue, that a city like that would attract all sorts of freaks and weirdos. But unless they're hurting people, so what? The existence of a city like this would not be a demonstration that the world has gone down the moral shithole. People walking around naked in public is not comparable to a city of sin where sadomasochistic strangers rape each other all day long, everywhere you go. Would you argue that mankind does not have the ability to endure the sight of naked flesh without transforming into unthinking predators with an insatiable physical hunger?

If this sight gives you an uncontrollable
urge to rape, you need serious help.
(Being turned on, on the other hand,
is not a public health crisis)

Even though naked people do tend to gather a lot of attention (either of the negative kind, or - if they're attractive - of the positive kind), this would lessen if it became more of a normal occurrence. Wouldn't you be less distracted by naked people if you could see them at anytime - if it wasn't a rare opportunity to make the most of? And the people who would complain about being desensitized to nudity - they would either find their predictions proven wrong, or otherwise, they could live somewhere else where nudity is not tolerated in public. The bottom line is diversity - freedom of choice. Maybe there are people out there who couldn't handle living in a public nudity-tolerant city without losing their civility, but why should that fact prevent the ones who are from indulging in it? We can't let the bad seeds ruin it for the rest of us.

All photos by I would have loved to have illustrated this post with my own photography, but I am not much of a risk-taker. You can blame society's intolerance of public nudity.

* If anyone reading this happens to live or has spent some time in San Francisco, I would appreciate your insider's insight on how public nudity is dealt with in the city.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Naked Pictures on the Internet

There is a stigma surrounding having naked pictures of oneself on the internet. If you are a street rat or a porn star, it doesn't much matter, but if you have a reputation to uphold, being "exposed" online could be the kiss of death. If the people you know offline find out, your reputation could be ruined, your family and friends may have to reevaluate their opinions of you, and you could even lose your job - especially if you work with kids, because people who work with kids aren't allowed to have a private sex life.

But wait, the internet's not private. The internet is global, it reaches everyone everywhere, and the information on it not only flows freely, but never disappears. If it were as simple as not putting the pictures on the internet, it might be less of a problem, but we are living in an increasingly interconnected digital world. Cell phones connect to the internet. Video game systems connect to the internet. Television sets connect to the internet. It's only a matter of time before anything and everything you own that is digital, will have a link to the net. Thus, any digital image runs the risk of being leaked (maybe deliberately, either by yourself or a thief, or maybe accidentally) into the ocean of the web.

Our very concept of privacy is being transformed in this digital world. I'm not here to argue whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, or if there's any way to stop it. I wish merely to explore ways of learning how to deal with it. If you take naked pictures of yourself - for whatever reason - and want to share them with others of a like mind, then should you be held responsible if your boss or your wife or your mother happens to stumble across them? Since when is this behavior a crime, or evidence of a bad personality?

They say that posting photos of this nature on the net is an exercise in "bad judgment". Well, insofar as society has a habit of ostracizing people who do it, it does represent bad judgment. However, that's not the end of the story. Because I don't think the act itself is a bad thing. There are many good reasons to put naked pictures on the internet and share them with others. But of course, our puritan society regards anyone with an open view of sexuality as a public threat. This is ridiculous. The way to eliminate the "problem" of naked pictures on the internet is not to eliminate the pictures, but to eliminate the problem - that is, we should all stop making such a big deal about it.

But since the internet is "forever", people say you should be careful not to reveal things you'd later regret having revealed. You may enjoy posting a naked picture of yourself now, and think it's nothing but a good idea, but how will you feel years down the road? Will you regret it? Better play it safe! This is an argument that is often used when the persons with bad judgment are minors (see: sexting). These people are too young yet to understand the ramifications of their actions, and we ought to protect them from making that mistake, right? Except that I don't see any reason why an 18-year-old would have any better an idea than a 16-year-old how they'll feel about those pictures when they're 40. The only significant difference is that the 18-year-old is not legally owned by his or her parents, and thus is entitled to make his or her own bad decisions.

Yet I still maintain that this is not a bad decision. There are bad consequences that can arise, externally - and you may regret it later - but there are good reasons for it, too. One of the best decisions I made in life was to start taking pictures of myself naked when I was eighteen. I only wish I had started sooner. It makes me happy to look back at those pictures, and nobody else's opinion is going to spoil that. And so far, having shared those pictures with others has not brought me any serious negative consequences. Granted, I accept - to a point which others may not be willing to go - that I may be shunned by society for this, to the extent that it finds out. And I feel that, for me, it's something that's worth fighting for, even if that means making some sacrifices.

But my goal is to encourage a world where people can celebrate the beauty of nudity and eroticism and share it with others without having their lives ruined by puritan busibodies. And in the meantime, the more people who come out of the woodwork and admit that there are naked pictures of themselves on the internet, and that they are not ashamed of it, the less of a foothold the rest of society will have in saying that this is an uncommon and abhorrent practice that "good" citizens (the ones worth hiring and loving and hanging out with) never engage in.

So go ahead, take pictures of yourself naked and put them on the internet for the whole world to see! But don't forget to stand up for yourself when others question your judgment. Do you want to conform, or live free?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Search Terms

Flickr provides a function for pro users that allows you to view the referrers to your photos/photostream over the past two days (at any given time). I think it's interesting to get an idea of what people are looking for when they stumble upon my photos, and where they're coming from, so I'll browse the referrers every now and then. I particularly like to look at the search terms people are using to find my photos. I sometimes find them to be rather amusing.

As a sexually liberated erotic artist, none of the search terms concern me. I know that other people might have a problem with people coming across their photos looking for porn, but since most of my work is erotica, that doesn't bother me (on the contrary, I enjoy indulging people's sexual desires through my photography). But even were that not the case, I think it's important to have a level approach towards one's work, as an artist. I've written about this before, but you can't control your audience's reaction to a piece of art. To use an example that probably occurs constantly: if you take a picture of a pretty girl, and are offended by sexuality, you might be bothered that someone found that picture looking for images of pretty girls to pleasure himself to.

Okay, you may think that's sick, but if you're not being harassed or getting comments you don't like, then it's really not a problem. And furthermore, there's really nothing you can do about it, because it's going to happen whether you know about it or not - and the only way to prevent it is not to take/share the picture in the first place. And I have actually heard arguments against photography (or internet sharing) for just that reason, but my stance is that no real harm is being done in most cases and nevertheless, not taking or sharing any pictures at all is not a satisfactory sacrifice just to keep some people from "perving" over them.

At the bottom of the stats page flickr offers a link for those who are concerned about the search terms that are popping up - but the solution is, essentially, that there's nothing you can do about it. Except relax and not take things so seriously. People often get to your photos by the means you expect them to - for example, most of my photos are nudes and are tagged with the term "nude" so that people who search for "nude" photos will find them; and they do. But, it is inevitable that people will find your photos in ways that you didn't intend and could never have anticipated.

For example, I recently discovered that somebody had come across my photo Passing The Time as a result of searching for "beast sex". The photo has absolutely nothing to do with "beast sex" or bestiality of any kind. But I was discussing sex in the description to the photo, and I happened to make a reference to the phrase "beauty and the beast". Hence, it turns up in a search for "beast sex". Now, upon discovering this, was I alarmed about creepy predators using my photos to fuel their disgusting desires for sexually violating animals? Nope. On the contrary, I almost doubled over in laughter when I saw that search term come up in my referrals.

Any other reaction would just be taking these things too seriously. First of all, you can't predict a person's motivations with such vague evidence. You don't know that the person who typed this search query is a dangerous psychopath, or if it was somebody researching sexual deviance, or just some bored guy trying to play a joke on a friend. There's nothing criminal about curiosity. And the day we start prosecuting people for search queries is the day that freedom of information is dead.

Furthermore, even if the person in question is a sexual pervert, turned on by animals in a way that polite society would deem unquestionably disgusting, and possibly criminal - even if we could know this for sure (and we can't), we still can't extrapolate a person's sexual desires to their behavior. Sure, one could argue that sexual desires are a good motivator for sexual behaviors, but it's not the only factor. Do we have nothing to say about fantasy? I'm turned on by Japanese tentacle rape hentai, but it doesn't mean 1) that I'd force women to be raped by octopi in real life, nor 2) that I would even want to, or if I did, that I would actually enjoy it. Even what sexual desires I may have that are socially deviant do not, however, make me out to be some kind of dangerous criminal. Far from it.

Really, what this seems to come down to is people getting grossed out by sexuality, and making a whole lot of assumptions about people based on their sexual appetites. I'd tell you to just let it go, but you might complain, "what about the bad guys, I can't just let them go." All I can say to that is, you can't catch 'em all, and it's not fair to "shoot first, ask questions later". I'm not implying that criminals should get any leniency, just that freedom is more important to me than safety. People deserve to have the benefit of the doubt. And if you disagree, and think that life would be better under lock-down, with everybody suspicious of everybody else, and cops patrolling the streets (and your homes) 24/7, then you and I are at odds.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sex & Nudism

A popular topic among nudists is the line between sex and nudism. The following line of reasoning reveals why this is the case:

1) Mainstream society likes to equate nudity with sex. It frequently [mis]categorizes nudism as a sexual activity.

2) Nudists understand that nudity is not always about sex, and that specifically, nudism is not about sex.

3) Mainstream society likes to discriminate against sex. [Although, this is dishonest, because mainstream society also secretly loves sex.]

4) Nudists don't want to be discriminated against, so they like to emphasize the non-sexual aspect of their lifestyle.

5) Nevertheless, nudists do still have sex. So where do you draw the line?

Well, you can go all the way and completely extricate sex from nudism, so as to maintain a squeaky clean image and gain brownie points with mainstream society (a losing game). Or, you could be honest and allow sex to occur naturally - just the same way it does in non-nudist society - even if you risk isolated occurrences of misunderstanding. Which is the better option?

Think of it this way. Mainstream society is dishonest about sex - calling it a sin while indulging in it behind everyone else's backs. While nudism is not about sex per se, it's often associated with an open and naturalistic approach to life. So why not one-up mainstream society and be honest about sex for a change? Instead of saying "sex never happens", or that "sex is always a prurient activity or topic for discussion", we could just say, "yeah, sex happens, and it's not so bad. It's not what nudism is really about, but we're not going to shy away from it like the rest of society does." After all, if mainstream society were to somehow pick up on this and adopt a healthier attitude towards sex, then nudists would no longer have to suppress their own sexuality for fear of being misunderstood.

This is a great example of the problem I've described, and a demonstration of the attitude we should all strive towards displaying, with regard to the line between sex and nudism. Quoting from the article:

"I see the difference. I get it. But the celebration of being naked sometimes merges with the act of sex. And the freeing nature of being nude is often only done by those who are comfortable with their sexuality. So while not linked directly, there is a connection. A connection for me anyway. And it's not like I was saying, 'Get your freak on at these nudist colonies.' Now that I think about it, I should be mad at the nudist colony guy for thinking I was a pervert."

Basically, the point is finding a way to say that nudism is not about sex, while not simultaneously casting aspersions on sex. Instead of saying, "nudism is clean and wholesome, unlike sex", we could say, "nudism is not about sex, but - dealt with responsibly - sex is okay too."

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Once upon a time, during my college days, I was out on a day trip with some of my classmates, including two girls with whom I was acquainted, both of which were notably attractive. This was before I had acquired any lofty notions of being an "artiste". I was simply taking pictures (with a disposable camera) to document our day.

Alright, so "documenting our day" wasn't so much my motivation for taking pictures as it was my excuse to document these beauties I was so graciously being accompanied by. Is that so wrong? It wasn't formal, and they weren't strangers, and I didn't make a big deal of it. I had no intentions beyond the age old photographer's instinct to capture beauty when and where he sees it. No expectations whatsoever.

And there wasn't a problem. But there was an incident that proves a point I've made in the past (and will make again in the future). At one point, the two girls were sitting on a bench, and I snapped a shot of their legs, as they dragged their feet through the gravel. In all fairness, both girls had very photogenic legs. But noticing the focus of the picture I had just taken, one of them remarked at how it seemed "creepy". This may have been said in jest, but even so, the seed of doubt is planted.

And this, I tell you, is what someone like me has to deal with. Someone who sees beauty, and feels compelled to examine it, to capture it if possible, and in the best case scenario, to share it with the world, but whose intentions are commonly misunderstood. Are we so uptight about sex (clearly the fear underlying "creepiness" is that of unwanted sexual attention - or worse yet (and less likely), sexual aggression) that we have to put a chain on beauty?

This is not prevention, this is terrorism. This is fear of an unlikely scenario preventing not that unwanted scenario, but other scenarios besides, that are not a danger. The reaction to this fear is perceived by the artists and creative talents in our population (often the sensitive individuals), and, to protect their own hides, speech is chilled. Meanwhile, by granting our fears legitimacy, we all slide backward into a less liberated existence. Yesterday's reaction to rape - a real horror - is today's reaction to the mere suggestion of unprompted sexual attention (which may be a bother, but its total harm is equivalent to the psychological weight one assigns to it - something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, you'll notice).

Furthermore, what of the question of objectification? I happen to think there are parts of the female anatomy (or anatomy in general) that are particularly attractive. By focusing on these parts, or emphasizing them, am I neglecting the whole person they belong to? Maybe it's a possibility, but it's not a necessity. Are we never allowed to focus on one part of a whole? Can we not switch focus from one thing to another, from part to whole, so as not to give our attention exclusively to one? Can we not even keep in the back of our mind, the concept of the whole, while we focus on this or that part? I believe all of this is possible. Behold:

This is a photo of my legs. I think they are attractive. You can't see any more of me. You can't tell anything, really, about the whole person that these legs belong to. Do I care? Do I care that people who view this image will think (hopefully), "nice legs", and not pay me - the whole me - any mind? No! This is just a photo - it's just one photo, and it's a very small part of the whole that I am. And I want people to appreciate it - not ignore it - because it's a part of me! And I'm proud of it!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Principles in Practice

I recently stumbled upon this video, which I have actually seen before. In the video, a young female student decides to "experiment" with nudism after reading a positive article about it in a magazine. At the beginning of the video, she makes the necessary disclaimer that it is not meant to be a "sexy" video, but a serious one (although there is obviously some humor in the video, so I'm not sure how serious it's meant to be taken). And the video is recorded strictly from the shoulders up, so it's not the least bit prurient.

Still, at least to my eyes, this is clearly a very attractive young woman - and she's naked! I can't help being excited by that thought, and I don't feel ashamed to admit it. The video would still have merit if it were recorded by an old naked guy, in terms of being a nudist experiment, but it would lose the charm of being recorded by an attractive young woman. That "charm" is not connected to the nudism. Does it interfere with the nudism? I think there are many who would make that argument, but I disagree.

It's true that people confuse sex and nudism quite a lot, and that has a tendency to harm nudism (and by extension, nudists) in the public eye. But it's also true that people have very low opinions of sex and sexuality and sexual feelings and sexual desire. The fact that I am attracted to the young woman in the video does not blind me to the [non-sexual] merits of nudism. My spirits are brightened by her attractiveness, my mood is lightened, and I have a better time watching the video than I would were it recorded by an ugly old man. I am not reduced to an unthinking animal, either, just by being presented an attractive face - or, in a hypothetical different case, an attractive body. I can admire attractiveness, while retaining my humanity and reasoning faculties.

For this reason, I don't think beautiful people are antithetical to nudism. Nor are sexual feelings in complete opposition to nudism. Nudism is not about sex, and not all nudists are magazine models, so these things should certainly not define nudism, but I feel no reason to exclude them from nudism, either. So although this is not meant to be a "sexy" video, I think part of its appeal is related to "sexiness", but in a very different manner than a pornographic video would be. I think this is a distinction we should acknowledge, because only then can we accept my vision of sensuality without falling into the trap of no-holds-barred animal sexuality. It doesn't have to be either porn or "dry", it is allowed to exist somewhere in between. Life is sensual, and sexual feelings are everywhere - that doesn't mean they should always be accompanied by sex in its strict definition. We can be turned on without being turned loose, and that's something we should allow ourselves to admit.

[Digression: It's true that there are some people who behave inappropriately - if they see an attractive woman, they'll make a rude comment, or worse. And this will in turn encourage the woman to view any form of sexualized attention as a bane. The result being that they will be less likely to show off for others (a loss for everyone), and that if anyone does acknowledge their feelings, even in a polite manner, she'll be more inclined to view it as a negative thing. This is how sex negativity digs its roots in. Negative sexual behaviors are generalized to sexuality - blaming the attraction and not the rudeness - and thus positive sexual behaviors are marginalized. The side effect of this attitude is that it encourages more negative sexual behavior and discourages positive sexual behavior simply as a result of expectation - if "all sex is bad", then any sex that occurs is labeled bad. And even good sex will begin to take on a reputation as being bad. And without that distinction between good behavior and bad behavior, less people will see the importance of staying on the right side of the line. I think part of the solution to this problem is to educate people about sexuality. Teach guys to be open but polite about their sexuality, and teach girls to accept the compliments while they reject the harassment.]

While I'm talking about this video, I might as well analyze the young woman's conclusion. She doesn't have the best things to say about her experience, even though she appears to enjoy it. She says she couldn't relax while being naked, and that it was too cold to do any hard work (she was trying to study while naked because she read that it helps concentration or something similar). This is disappointing because, as a nudist, when a non-nudist decides to "experiment" with nudism, I want their experience to be positive! But anyone, even a nudist, can have a "bad" experience being naked - and one experiment is not always enough to discover the positive effects of being nude.

For one thing, the young woman in the video says that it was too cold. Even as a nudist, there have been times - sitting in my own room, at my computer - when it was just too cold to be naked. I do believe that your tolerance increases the more time you spend nude, but sure, the point of getting naked is not to endure uncomfortable temperatures. This could be fixed with a bump in the thermostat or, as the woman in the video herself speculates, trying it again during the summer.

I noticed that towards the end of the video, judging from the text on the screen, the girl's parents come home, and this prompts her to quickly scrounge for her clothes and get dressed, in order to avoid being "found out". Of course, if you're afraid of getting caught, you're not going to be very relaxed. Some people do get naked for that specific thrill, but nudists generally do not. Nudism is not meant to be a secret sport, and it can be practiced best when there's no threat of being caught, and you can just relax and do your thing.

On the other hand, especially for those who are new to the naked life, just being naked can itself give you a thrill. It's a very sensual experience, considerably for those who are not used to that kind of direct stimulation from the environment, sans clothes. Plus there are certain ideological connotations to taking one's clothes off - the idea of rebelling against society, a symbol of freeing oneself from constraints, and potentially, a feeling of naughtiness for those who still associate disrobing with making love - that contribute to the feeling of excitement that nudity brings. All of this together could make it quite hard to concentrate on doing work, for the newbie. But they can also be examples of the intrinsic joy of being nude. Despite the young woman not recommending her experiment at the end, the final text in the video indicates that she did have fun. So maybe she's not completely unaffected by the merits of nudity. And after all, if it's fun, it ought to be worth trying (and again)!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Limitations on my Photography

I recently received a comment that while my modeling may be evolving, my photography is static. I think my photography has been constantly improving through experience, and as a model photographer, the line between modeling and photographing is somewhat blended for me (even more so as a self-portrait photographer). However, this comment got me thinking. It's true that there is a lot of repetition in my photography, partly a result of my narrow focus, but also the result of certain limitations that exist for me. I'd like to discuss some of those limitations here in the hopes that I may discover some ways to work around them.

First of all, there are some pretty unique limits on self-portrait photography itself - especially from a photographing perspective - that may be hard to understand if you don't do a lot of it. When you're acting as both the photographer and the model, there are advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that the photographer and the model are of one mind. A pretty big disadvantage is that you can't physically be behind the camera and in front of it at the same time (except in even more limited circumstances - such as in front of a mirror). So you can set up the shot - but you have to guess how the model will look. And once you get into place, you're shooting blindly.

For this reason I do feel as though I am modeling more than photographing. An easy solution to this is to do other kinds of photography than self-portraiture. I could take pictures of other things, and I have done some of this in the past, but my interest - my passion - is in shooting nude models above all else. So the other option is shooting other models, instead of myself. This would free me up to focus more on being behind the camera than in front of it. This is indeed something I am anxious to try. But there are some personal limitations I have that are making this difficult.

I am not an outgoing person. I am not extraverted, and I am not very social. I have a hard time just meeting new people, let alone asking them to do something (model) for me. On top of all that is the fact that the type of photography I prefer to do (nude portraiture) is very controversial, and thus much less likely to be met with a positive reaction. As if that weren't enough, the type of people I'd want most to photograph are the ones that I think are beautiful, and it just so happens that those people tend to be the ones I am most uncomfortable talking to.

Another limitation somewhat unique to my situation is the fact that I want to photograph the female form, but the only form readily available to me is a male form (my own). I may be exaggerating the difference, but I feel like if I was shooting a model I wanted to shoot, it would be much easier to take pictures I like. Whereas, with a male model, there are certain poses and positions that I think look good, but many others which are just unappealing to me. I could take a photograph of an attractive female sitting on a chair and it could look fantastic on account of the model. But put myself in that chair and it looks terrible. I have experienced this countless times already, trying to mimic shots I like taken by others. The result of this is that I feel constrained to those certain poses and angles that look good, and unable to realize some of my own ideas on account of having an inadequate model. An unintended (but not unwelcome) consequence of this is that I've been feminizing myself more and more over time, to meet my needs.

There are also some limitations that crop up due to the nature of my work, whether I'm photographing myself or other models. When I'm shooting, especially out on location, I'm constantly aware of the risk of getting caught taking nude (and sometimes erotic) pictures. This distracts my attention away from the job at hand. Also, instead of shooting wherever I think would make the best shot, I feel pushed into whatever corners are available where people don't go, in order to avoid exposure - regardless of whether those spots are very photogenic.

One answer to all of this is simply to shoot different kinds of photography. Or let the models (myself or others) keep their clothes on. But again, this is about my passion, and what I want to shoot. There are a billion people out there shooting clothed models and flowers and buildings and street festivals and anything else you can think of - including nude models. But the point of that is, I have to shoot what I feel passionate about, what I feel driven to shoot, or else there's not much point in it for me. So that's why I'll continue to shoot what I love to shoot. In the meantime, it won't be easy, but I'll try to look for alternative solutions to some of these limitations that plague me. A large part of it could just be having the confidence to take the risks necessary to pursue my vision.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Minority Interests: Abnormality?

Society encourages conformity. As a social species, it is in our programming to relate to one another. But diversity is also important, and we should not be quick to judge those who are different as being necessarily "damaged" in some way. I've been "unique" all my life, and had a hard time fitting in, and I'll be the first to say that being "different" is difficult. But there are also advantages, because I think people with different perspectives on the world are an invaluable asset to society.

When I think about my interest in nudism (just to pick one example), I have to question whether it's "normal". Statistically, having an active interest in nudism is rare. However, that interest, to me, feels quite "natural". Is it healthy? I think so, absolutely. And yet, I can't deny the fact that I have an overwhelming interest in being nude, one that sets me apart from the average person. Even among some nudists, I think - the less enthusiastic ones, who were maybe brought into the lifestyle by someone else's fervor, and accepted it as being not unpleasant, or even mildly desirable - still may not be quite as excited about it as I am.

There's a lot to be said for social conditioning, and modern customs. These days, nudity seems to draw a lot of attention, not all of which is positive. Though people may admit that nudity itself can be "natural" (most people don't shower with their clothes on, for example), there's some silly idea going around that you're not supposed to see other people naked, or let other people see you naked, except for specific exceptions. But imagine a world where we didn't have that hangup.

Think about it, most people wouldn't wear pajamas to school (on the other hand, some do, on occasion - and get away with it), and you don't get to see most people you encounter in life in pajamas. And yet, when the situation arises - say, a sleepover with friends, or visiting somebody's house in the morning, or on a trip with someone - and you get to see a person in pajamas, it may be, at most, a little bit awkward for one or both parties, but it's really not a big deal.

And few people in their right minds would wear a swimsuit to a business meeting, because it's just not appropriate according to the rules of business meetings, but do you see anyone (again: in their right mind) complaining about all the exposed flesh at the beach or local swimming pool? So how come, of all outfits, the birthday suit gets so much flak? There may be some facilities with communal showering where people (of the same sex only, you'll note) are more or less comfortable showering naked in front of others, but even that seems to be rare these days.

Imagine a world where we all grew up swimming nude and sleeping nude, and learned that nudity is just another form of casual dress. It doesn't necessarily mean you'd have naked people serving you lunch, or that you'd find yourself crammed into an elevator with several large, naked men (or any other naked nightmares you might conjure up). But if somebody was out on a warm day enjoying the weather naked, nobody would bat an eyelash; and if you rang someone's door and they answered it naked, it wouldn't be a big deal. Much of it is dependent on social programming.

And yet, my interest in nudity goes beyond the practical advantages of it. It tickles a part of my soul. It touches me on a profound level. It has meaning for me. So I might push harder and farther than most people would, even in a more nudity-tolerant society. And that makes me different. That makes me stand out. But it doesn't mean there's anything "wrong" with me. I wish more people, when they come across something they're not familiar with, would take the time to say, "hey, that's interesting", instead of so quickly writing it off as weird and dangerous and "ew, make it stop."

Nudism and Photography

Do nudist families have photo albums? Imagine what they're missing!

In my experience, nudist assemblies frequently have a strict no-photography policy, except where officially sanctioned by whoever is in charge (and with the consent of the group). This is due largely to two reasons - privacy, and perversion - which are actually not completely unrelated. Customs may be different in other parts of the world - and indeed, I hope that they are, for though I see the reasoning behind this policy, I lament that it is deemed necessary. After all, I am a photographer and a nudist, and a photographer of nudism, and I hate to see that wedge stuck in there between them.

Nudity is a sensitive issue. While it's true that nudists generally have a healthy attitude towards nudity, they can't be expected to control the rest of the world's reaction to nudity (although it'd be great if they could - imagine the loss of hangups!). So their collective fear of photography is based less on not wanting to be photographed nude (although this ultimately depends on the person) and more on the fear of how others (i.e., non-nudists) would react to seeing a photo of them nude.

The first issue I mentioned is privacy. Not every nudist is "out" about their nudism to their friends, families, and coworkers. Because nudism is frequently misunderstood, and some people jump too quickly to conclusions and take too much effort to be reassured, it may in some cases be easier just to keep one's nudism a secret. Otherwise, you could lose friends, fall out with family members, or even find your job security at risk. Otherwise, nudism can be an embarrassing subject to broach, and admitting one's involvement in the lifestyle could be a setup for mockery. Now, this could be true of any number of hobbies, but precisely because nudity (and thus, nudism) is frequently confused with sexuality - the Prime Evil of Modern Society - extra care is taken with privacy.

This feeds into the second issue: perversion. The line between sex and nudity is a tricky one to navigate; they are not inherently inseparable, though they overlap in many cases. It's impossible to put them in entirely separate containers, and yet identifying the distinction between them is important, if not simply because it exists, then because "purifying" nudity is an imperative in the quest to garner mainstream acceptance from a society that rues sexuality. Nevertheless, there are people who will continue to make the mistake of sexualizing nudism, and many nudists are afraid that "innocent" nude pictures may somehow fall into the hands of perverts who will use them for perverted purposes (what else?).

This doesn't bother me, personally, because I don't believe any harm is done when a pervert "pervs" on a picture. Even if one were to concede that their sex act was "unholy" in some way (which I would disagree with), it's superstitious to think that an act of perversion "stains" not only the picture that is being perved on, but also the subject in that picture by extension (via "spooky action at a distance", I presume). I say, what you don't know can't hurt you (in this instance), and let pervs be pervs, as long as they're doing it in private and not actually hassling you. But of course, my perspective is in the minority, and most people don't want naked pictures of themselves floating about the internet, outside of their control (am I right?).

If you ask me, the solution to this is more exposure. More pictures floating about the internet. If everybody had a naked picture of themselves on the internet being perved on by pervs, nobody would care anymore. We'd learn to just ignore it, because we'd realize it doesn't really matter. And the more people who are open about nudism, the more accepted it will be, because it will be harder to silence and to marginalize. Of course, asking one person to embrace this strategy is dangerous because the risks still exist as long as he's the only one. But if we all followed this philosophy, we could stand strong, together, and we wouldn't have to tolerate the way we're treated anymore.

But then, I don't believe in coercion - forcing people to do one thing or another, whether by force or forceful persuasion - regardless of the merits. So I ain't gonna make you do it, I'm only telling you why I think it's a good idea. In the meantime, I'm gonna keep on telling the truth, hoping that my voice (and my body, and my soul) doesn't get crushed along the way. I'll respect the rules, but I'll be on the lookout for opportunities to make my statement where I can.

And in the end, I am a photographer: when I see beauty, I feel compelled to capture it for posterity. I lament when other people's hangups cause some of that beauty to be relegated to obscurity.