Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Reflection on Modeling and Body Acceptance

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

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

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

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

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