Thursday, January 23, 2014

Baby, It's Cold Outside (and Thoughts on Sexual Innocence)

I should really stop trying to do "standing beside the window" double exposures - they're a pain in the ass to manipulate in photoshop. But it's just so iconic of my lifestyle - looking out at the world from the safety of my secluded home...

As a non sequitur, here are some thoughts I recently had swimming through my head on the topic of "sexual innocence", a subject I've given some consideration to in the past:

In my conception, "sexual innocence" is not synonymous with ignorance or lack of experience. To be sexually innocent is to be capable of performing sex acts unashamedly, liberated from the context of sin, and to be able to find beauty rather than perversity in the erotic aspects of life. It does not indicate oblivion on the subject of sex (on the contrary, sometimes knowledge is the clearest path toward it), but rather a turning away (whether by experienced intention, or incidental ignorance) from the societal construction of human sexuality as a veritable minefield of physical, psychological, and spiritual pitfalls.

This is entirely in line with a true sex-positive mindset, and may be supported by any belief system that holds eros to be divine, rather than simply material or, worse yet, infernal. And this view of mine is inspired, ironically, by one interpretation of the Christian myth of the Garden of Eden, wherein Adam and Eve wandered naked, and were free to explore each other's bodies without knowing shame. Would that we could get "back to the garden", and become innocent once more. Many naturists pursue this path with respect to the human body and its display; I merely extend the agenda to include human sexuality among that bundle of important natural elements of living that mainstream society desperately needs an attitude adjustment toward.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Fake Magazine Cover

I'm sure you've seen these before. I saw an ad for an app that lets you create your own fake magazine cover, and it just completely sparked my inspiration. I tried a few of those create-a-magazine-cover programs you can find all over the web, but then ultimately realized that I would have more control if I just did mine in Photoshop. But I did borrow the UPC design from Big Huge Lab's magazine cover creator, so they deserve a mention. Anyway, I just threw this together for fun, and used a bunch of headlines that immediately came to mind - they're really just teasers for articles I might have written, and stuff I think would belong in my magazine if I had one. Wouldn't that be something? Tons of work, I bet. Fun to use your imagination, though.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bathroom Light

I took these pictures just today - they're the first of the new year! It was very spontaneous, and started - like so many of my shoots - when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

Some people may think it's narcissistic, but when you're a self-portrait photographer, you are your own muse, and nothing inspires the creative imagination like actually being able to see your muse. I can imagine that if I hung around another model frequently, I'd be constantly checking her out, and snapping pictures of her, and getting inspired.

But that's another one of the challenges of self-portraiture. I often feel as though I'd benefit from having a talented photographer hanging around me a lot, but since I'm so introverted, the chances of finding someone like that that I'm also comfortable with having around me that much are slim.

But in the meantime, I find it helps my creative process enormously to have lots of mirrors lying around the house, so I have ample opportunities to check myself out and become inspired.

Here's another shot that's just for fun:

Monday, January 6, 2014

Why "Paradise"?

I just thought of a follow-up question to my previous discussion on naturist resorts being described as "paradise". And that is, if a nudist resort is just another place on Earth, why do people describe it as paradise? On the one hand, I think it has a lot to do with the way people - even non-nudists - describe their favorite vacation spots as paradise, be it a textile beach, or a mountain ski lodge, or what have you. It's the place they go to relax, to get away from the stresses of everyday life, and often times it involves beautiful scenery. Hence the comparisons to Eden - the natural garden of earthly delights, where Adam and Eve roamed free of the concerns of modern living - and its correlates in other cultures and belief systems.

Then, of course, there's the question of why a specifically nudist resort would be considered paradise, above your typical beach resort or whatever. And, for a nudist, it's kind of obvious - it's the place you can go to practice nudism with like-minded people, and without fear of persecution. But the question remains of what it is, exactly, about nudism, that makes it so paradisiacal. The superficial answer is that Adam and Eve went naked in their own garden of paradise. But a more complicated answer would have to explore exactly what it is people like about nudism, and how it makes them feel - because the truth is that it does have a profound and sometimes spiritual effect on people.

Nudists like to say that engaging in a nudist activity is just like engaging in the corresponding textile activity, but without clothes, in order to emphasize the normality of the situation. And that approach definitely has merit. When nudists do things naked, they're not doing it in a weird way or anything, they're doing it normally, like everyone else - just naked. But at the same time, there has to be some kind of appeal to doing it nude, or else nudists wouldn't bother. I mean, if nudism didn't have any benefits, then noone would go out of their way to drive to a remote resort when they can get the same amenities cheaper and closer to home, provided they keep their clothes on!

But again, to explore why people are drawn to nudism, you'd have to explore what it is about nudism that appeals to them, and I don't want to get into all of that right now. Suffice to say, there are many benefits to shedding one's clothing, but I think the one that best explains the frequent comparisons to paradise is the spiritual aspect. I, personally, consider nature to have something of a spiritual appeal. And, for whatever reason, I don't feel like I can enjoy it fully with my clothes on. It's probably similar to the way that certain pagans feel who insist on performing their rituals skyclad (if such pagans actually exist and are not just a rumor). Being naked in nature - at least for me - makes me feel more in tune with the planet and the universe all around me. I know that sounds pretty hokey, but I guess it's just something you either experience or you don't.

So, naturally, a place where I can commune with the natural world in my birthday suit, free from the uptight rules of mainstream society, does have a tendency to feel an awful lot like paradise - or at least a lot closer than anywhere in the textile world. Now, for me, as an enthusiastic appreciator of the aesthetic value of the human body, there's also another appeal, one that I may not share with the majority of nudists (although I'm not too sure about that...), and that is seeing beautiful people's bodies unclad. Granted, not everybody is a perfect 10, and nudist demographics in particular tend to run toward the old and saggy, but it's totally worth the occasional opportunity to see somebody attractive without their clothes on. Make what you will of that, but having the chance to see beautiful people naked is one of the primary requirements for paradise in my mind - and I can't think of any other place where I can do that in person.

The Naturist Resort as "Paradise"

As a nudist, I'd like to see more depictions of nudism in the movies or TV, and preferably with more respect and substance than the stereotypical crazy nude Uncle Ralph sort of character. Truth be told, there is a subset of cinema known as "the nudist film", which is of limited interest, even if it's been used in the past as an innocent cover for otherwise softcore nudie flicks (not that that bothers me, personally). If it were up to me, I would insinuate the subject of nudism into non-traditionally nudist contexts, such as sci-fi settings where social nudity is an accepted, everyday part of life, or otherwise alternate realities where social nudity has become part of mainstream culture.

But, I suppose there is room, and a purpose, for the existence of films that deal with the nudist lifestyle as it exists in the world as we know it, as an alternative minority lifestyle. As such, the basic formula for a nudist film is to introduce a non-nudist character to the world (and advantages) of nudist living, usually in the context of a daring visit to a local nudist resort. This allegedly gives the film a wider audience, so that non-nudists have someone they can relate to in the story, while also providing the filmmaker an opportunity to introduce the nudist lifestyle to that non-nudist subset of the audience.

Incidentally, although the market for it would be much smaller, I think it would be fascinating - potentially even for curious non-nudists - to tell a story from an insider's perspective of what goes on in a nudist resort and/or the struggles it takes to maintain it and the reputation (whether positive or negative) such a resort has among its neighboring community. But since most nudist films can sort of double as extended brochures for the nudist way of life, it is not uncommon for them to portray nudist resorts - and the nudist lifestyle - as a sort of paradise on Earth.

This is understandable and, certainly, that's a huge part of the "brand" and image of nudism (or naturism - some may quibble, but the difference is largely semantic) on the whole. It's no coincidence that many popular nudist resorts have names that use words like Paradise, Eden, Avalon, Nirvana, etc. And those that don't directly conjure an image of Heaven on Earth often play up their connection to nature, the sun, water, and relaxation. There's a reason the term nudist resort is more common than nudist camp or colony or commune. A nudist resort is a place you go to rest and recharge and enjoy a vacation from your hectic urban life.

And I have no intention of spoiling that image. People talk about nudist resorts that way for good reason, and it's not just to make non-nudists jealous. I have been guilty myself of referring to an otherwise podunk campground as "paradise" just because the people go nude there - but when I say it, I truly mean it. But, that's not to say that a place like that really is like Heaven on Earth - that nothing ever goes wrong there and everybody is always incredibly happy. It's a man-made paradise, and even if it's more beautiful and relaxing and friendly than your local city square, when people go there, they're still human and sometimes they still have to deal with human issues - like depression, illness, aging, death, heartbreak, etc.

And that's why the 1938 nudist film The Unashamed was so refreshing. When I sat down to watch it the other night, I figured it would be a typical nudist film - where some character finds himself trying out the nudist lifestyle to get away from the stresses of his busy life, creating an opportunity for the shameless display of lots of nude flesh and a black and white morality tale about how life is much better when you're a nudist. And that's definitely how it starts out. But rather than a simple love story, it actually turns out to be more of a tragedy. I don't want to spoil the ending, but suffice to say, the movie demonstrates that sometimes bad things happen to people - even at nudist resorts - and that just being there isn't always enough to make a person happy.

Now, I'm glad to say that the movie doesn't disparage the nudist lifestyle at all - specifically, that no element of the nudist lifestyle is responsible for the tragedy that befalls. In that respect, it's really as if setting the movie at a nudist resort is almost incidental - except that it does feature as a significant plot point in the beginning. But that's interesting. The day that a movie can include a nudist setting just because, without making it into a big deal (or the butt of a lame joke), is the day that nudism ceases to become an issue and is simply accepted as a way of life (even if still an alternative one). Ironically, this movie is from all the way back in 1938, and seems to be an outlier more than an indicator of any kind of trend. And here we are in 2013, and though the nudist lifestyle may be making slow headway in the public consciousness, on-screen depictions of nudity are still vigorously policed.

And, on that note, the nudity in The Unashamed is also very disappointingly restrained. I have to admit, as an experienced nudist, it feels really contrived when a filmmaker deigns to depict the nudist lifestyle (and The Unashamed was filmed on a real nudist resort) but goes out of his way to avoid the incidental display of any genitalia. I know there are rules involved, and there are arguments about adapting depictions of nudism so as to make them more acceptable to mainstream audiences, but it seems to me that if you're behind the nudist lifestyle (and if you're taking advantage of it for a film, I would hope you're not just exploiting it), then you would realize how phony that is, to play up the wholesomeness and health benefits of nudism and then shy away from showing any real nudity. If anything, it just hurts the cause, and casts nudists' enthusiastic endorsements in an untrustworthy light.

But, to be fair, the forces of society that stand against a free and open display of our natural human bodies is immensely strong indeed - to a staggeringly inexplicable extent. I just don't get what the whole big deal is, but then, I have the bias of being initiated and exposed to a whole different way of life. It's a real pain having to get by, being a nudist in a textile world, but I've seen the light and I can't go back. Even if I'm doomed to take all my worries and insecurities with me wherever I go, I'm happy to know there are little pockets of heaven - too precious few - where truth and beauty (to a relative extent) are not shielded and censored for fear of what effect they may have on our fragile bodies and allegedly sin-stained minds.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

2013 and Beyond

At the beginning of every year, I like to go back through the photography I produced during the previous year, and pick out a handful of the best of my nude and erotic shots, to showcase in the gallery on my personal website. But it occurs to me that this year is the first in which some of those shots have not been posted anywhere else before now. So, if you've been curious what I've been up to in the past several months, you can find out at my gallery. You know you want to take a look.

2013 was a significant year for me, because it marked my departure from the photo sharing website flickr. As I explained this past May, flickr played an integral role in my development as an erotic photographer, and it has been a large part of my life ever since 2008, when its community inspired me to participate in the 365 project, which sparked my passion for erotic photography. But recent changes have made the website pretty much unusable for me, so I took advantage of that opportunity to shake things up in my photo sharing routine.

Since then, I've been spending a lot of time on two very different websites. The first is deviantART, where I'm taking the time to post a bunch of my old photos from flickr, in the hopes of expanding my fanbase and garnering new attention to my photography. Their rules prohibit any kind of explicitly sexual imagery, which puts a significant clamp on the photos I can upload there, but they do allow non-sexual nudity, and it features (at least ostensibly) a community that respects art.

The other website I've been frequenting is XTube. As I mentioned here, I followed up my Daily Nudes photography project with a similar video project (that I actually completed!) but I've held off on posting any of those videos, because they're basically porn. But XTube is the perfect site for that, and what's even better, it gives me an opportunity to monetize my work, which is something I've sorely needed to do for a while. So do go and check that out if you want to see my hot, naked body in motion.

In the meantime, I've continued shooting photography - how could I stop? Some of it I've posted right here on this blog, and as I told you above, a bunch of it just went on my website. So if you're a fan of my work on flickr (or anywhere else), and you miss my posts on that website and are curious what I'm up to these days, definitely bookmark this blog, and check my website every so often for updates. And in the meantime, I invite you to keep an eye on my XTube profile - new material is being added daily!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Kinsey (2004)

I recently got around to watching Kinsey, the biopic starring Liam Neeson as the infamous sex researcher Alfred Kinsey. I'm not an expert on the details of Alfred Kinsey's life or studies, despite the fact that his work is right up my alley. But I never had any formal education into the history of human sexuality studies, and most of what I know comes from my own experiences and the application of my own skeptical, analytical mind.

But I was looking forward to seeing this movie, and have for a long time been of the mind that I could stand to have a bit more familiarity with Kinsey's work. As of now, however, all I have to go on is the dramatized depiction of the individual in this movie adaptation of his life and work, which may, admittedly, be biased to some degree. But that is something I cannot comment on, not having more information, and as far as the movie tells it, I am nothing but impressed.

The movie itself, I would have to say, is very well done. There is very little I could criticize about it, and, in keeping with the aims of Kinsey's research, it does a successful job of emphasizing not only much of his findings, but the importance of those findings in both a biological and social context, as well as the overbearing conservative pressure that exists in society with the aim to silence his discoveries and discredit his methods (an issue that comes up in any mixed group where Kinsey is discussed, even to this day, disappointingly).

Arrived at via extensive scientific and statistical research, Kinsey cataloged the sexual behaviors of myriad people, asking them just the sorts of questions to uncover the activities the majority of the population engages in, but (and especially at the time - early-mid 20th century) are so reluctant to talk about. Among his contributions to our collective cultural understanding of human sexuality is the discovery that many people are far more sexual than they let on in polite company. To indicate otherwise is nothing short of disingenuous.

He also pioneered the "Kinsey scale" of sexual orientation, which suggests (backed up by evidence) that rather than a binary, most people fall somewhere along a sliding scale between gay and straight. According to this film, Kinsey also experimented with open relationships, and embraced the idea that sex can be a physical act divested of its traditional exclusionary romantic complications (although the reality of this view may be fraught with the complications of the human mind).

Perhaps of greatest sensitivity, the film also emphasizes the importance of Kinsey's research to the individual lives of the public. While many - who are beholden to their traditional moral codes that prohibit a free and open approach towards matters of a sexual nature - resist Kinsey's discoveries, the fact is that repression and shame destroys people's lives, where an honest approach can, as exemplified by the account of one individual interviewee in the film, save lives.

This is no more apparent than in cases of sexual minorities that are widely discriminated against. And while I am very happy to see homosexuality become more and more accepted in my lifetime, it is but one of a vast diversity of human sexual orientations, many of which continue to be ridiculed and stigmatized. Not afraid, even, to address the implications of his research to the inhumane treatment of sex offenders, Kinsey was, truly, a visionary and a revolutionary and, at least as depicted in this film, a true sex-positive, which is so incredibly rare to find.

The most amazing and most depressing point in any discussion of Alfred Kinsey is the fact that despite all the breakthroughs he made in the field of human sexuality, there is still so much work to be done, and - this would be inexplicable if human nature weren't so predictable - there is still so much resistance to his findings and the implications they have for us as a species and as a civilized society. Nothing would please me more in this life than to be able to contribute to the great social project that Kinsey started.