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.