Wednesday, July 14, 2010

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.

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