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  • nudity, art, and photography

    What is it about photographs? We have heard all about the photo processing horror stories where someone takes an innocent picture of their child au naturel and gets in trouble for it. Why is it that taking a picture of something that is legal can suddenly be illegal? You are bathing your children, take their picture because they look so precious, and suddenly, that is illegal. Why?

    Sally Mann, Jock Sturges, David Hamilton, etc. have all been labelled as controversial because of their use of naked children/teens in their pictures. But if you were walking past them as they were shooting their subjects, you would see nothing wrong. The prints, however, are something to wonder about.

    The visual art medium that is most accepted is the drawing/painting. Balthus was a controversial artist when he painted naked adolescent girls, but the outrage wasn't on the level as if her were a photographer.

    Bob S.

  • #2
    What is it about photographs? We have heard all about the photo processing horror stories where someone takes an innocent picture of their child au naturel and gets in trouble for it. Why is it that taking a picture of something that is legal can suddenly be illegal? You are bathing your children, take their picture because they look so precious, and suddenly, that is illegal. Why?

    Sally Mann, Jock Sturges, David Hamilton, etc. have all been labelled as controversial because of their use of naked children/teens in their pictures. But if you were walking past them as they were shooting their subjects, you would see nothing wrong. The prints, however, are something to wonder about.

    The visual art medium that is most accepted is the drawing/painting. Balthus was a controversial artist when he painted naked adolescent girls, but the outrage wasn't on the level as if her were a photographer.

    Bob S.

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    • #3
      Bob,
      Good question. I've thought about this myself at times. In the area where I live there is a local art exhibit that has some bronze statues that includes nudes of both adults and children. Had those been photos very likely they would be labeled as kiddie porn and maybe illegal.

      IMHO, I think it's has to do with how much a problem body shame is in our society. If one holds that all nudity equals sex then a healthy non-sexual photo of a nude child is then always viewed as kiddie porn. We see something similar recently when a mother got in trouble for allowing her toddler girl to go top free at a water park.

      Finally, there is the current paranoia over kiddie porn and child molesting. While of course both are repulsive and must be prosecuted there seems to be an unrealistic panic that I believe is blowing this out of proportion compared to reality. Just as studies show that the public perception of child abductions is that they're up but crime reports show that in reality they're actually down I believe this same misperception, when combined with the before mentioned body shame, results in the bizarre accounts you mentioned.
      Larry

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      • #4
        As far as the "naked baby" photos that get people in trouble, they make such news because they are so exceptional. There are probably millions of them taken every year yet the rate of prosecutions on them is no more than you can count on one hand.

        What happens is that in a "democracy" small but fanatical and well organized voting blocs can end up being critical to political power. This happens on both the left and the right on all kinds of issues. Don't ever think that one wing of political thought is more dangerous than another. The most dangerous wing is always the one in power at the moment.

        In any election (except for president), 50%+1 of the popular vote gives you a victory. However in a partisan race you must first get the nomination. Very often several candidates will vie for the same slot. If, say, 20% of the GOP in a given area are fanatical and well organized cultural conservatives, not only will they vote for you but they'll walk precincts, make calls and hold mailing parties. They'll donate money and labor to make themselves powerful out of proportion to their numbers. They'll launch annonymous smear campaigns against yur opponents. That can be enough to get you the nomination. If the voting goes down along party lines and the Republicans have a majority of the registrations, you win the election.

        How do you prove yourself to these cultural conservatives? If you are a prosecutor, you MIGHT pick an issue and make a high profile case out of it. Because of the intensely emotional reactions some people (on both the right and the left) have regarding child molestation and child pornography, it seems to some to be a good choice for a prosecution. (Losing the case doesn't seem to be a drawback to these folks if an effort was made.)

        Case in point: the McMartin Preschool tial. We had two consecutive district attorneys who jumped into the McMartin prosecution as a way to get political support from a hand full of hysterical parents and public and private entities who depend on having lots of victims about for their livelihoods.

        Fortunately the injustice of the persecution of innocent people ultimately caused both to fail in getting reelected. (Unfortunately by the time innocent verdicts were given all around, the defendent's lives were destroyed anyhow.) However in an area that was both more conservative and less sophisticated than LA, or if the trial hadn'r gotten such heavy press coverage, the tactic would probably have worked.

        Sometimes something will tweak a prosecutor's nose for no apparent reason but his/her own idiosynchratic nature. If you are obsessed with something you tend to see it everywhere. If that happens to be molestation or pornography, then that's what you'll see around you.

        However, I really do believe the majority of "naked baby" picture prosecutions are politically motivated and not done out of a belief the perpetrator was really doing anything wrong. We must be thankful that it is rare enough to generate publicity and protests when it happens.

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        • #5
          This might be a good place to post books and artists dealing with the nude that we like the best.

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          • #6
            As a photographer who does about 50% nudes, I find some work of Sally Mann, Jock Sturges, David Hamilton quite disturbing, especially when you see the photos not of just nude youth, but more of photos of pre-teen girls in makeup and jewelry and such.

            We better watch out who we defend. This is why nudism has problems, that is accepting the far reaching radicals of people who happen to be naked, but by accounts of most of the public, perverts.

            Comment


            • #7
              blackrebel...Interesting point...I wonder if any of the photographers you mention are naturists and what their thoughts are on the naturist movement..It seemed that Spencer Tunick was very uncomfortable with being nude himself in his doumentary....".Naked States"...It seems that someone who photographs nudes should be comfortable being nude also.. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_confused.gif[/img] Odb

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              • #8
                It should be asked: What was the relationship of the aforementioned artists to their subjects?

                David Hamilton, by his own account, provided a lavish residence somewhere in France for his girls, none of whom seemed to be related to him; that's questionable at best. In one of his books he mentioned "traditional prudishness" in disparaging terms, suggesting that he wouldn't be averse to sex with his subjects. Sally Mann's subjects, on the other hand, were her relatives, and I've never heard any suggestion that she's ever behaved improperly toward them. And I seem to recall that Jock Sturges is comfortable with being naked while he photographs his nude or near-nude friends and children of friends in nudist settings.

                As I've said in many contexts, it's mostly in the intent.

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                • #9
                  I have been studying the drawings of Rubens. his art (some of it of nudes) is very interesting to me. I feel that he portrays the real figure, rather than today's idea of the "perfect" figure.

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                  • #10
                    Please see the wonderful paintings of the master painter Joaquin Sorolla (y Bastida).
                    The St. Louis Art Museum had two special exhibits of his paintings, which were borrowed for the occasion from other museums. The first exhibit was in 1911 (before I was born - ha, ha) but the later exhibit I had the good fortune to view the massive great paintings and will never forget each painting.

                    You can view 46 of these great painting enlarged to full screen size at the following web site;

                    http://artrenewal.org/asp/database/a...id=1393&page=1

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                    • #11
                      David ...Thanks for the great website..very impressive...Odb [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]

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                      • #12
                        David,
                        That indeed was a great link. Thanks!

                        I followed it further and found this.
                        http://artrenewal.org/articles/2003/...d/hockney1.asp
                        The article at this link didn't interest me much but the art was great.
                        NuTex

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I am a very big fan of Sally Mann and her pictures of the living human subjects, mainly her family. Not so much so of her landscapes and definitely not of her latest body of work which is pictures of death.

                          As for whether they are comfortable in their skin, Sally Mann, in the introduction of her book, "Immediate Family" talks of her unusual childhood and her running around the five acres of her family's home naked. She seemed to have kept that kind of innocence in her pictures as well.

                          Jock Sturges takes his pictures on nude beaches. His subjects are familiar to him and if you look in his books, you will see some girls who literally grow up between hte pages.

                          I don't know much about David Hamilton and am not a really big fan.

                          "This is why nudism has problems, that is accepting the far reaching radicals of people who happen to be naked, but by accounts of most of the public, perverts."

                          There is another topic all together rebel. Separating the art from the artist. That is being done today with a marching band deciding not to perform "Thriller" during a parade march. Another photographer that has undergone a lot of posthumous debate is Lewis Carroll and his photos of girls. Was he or wasn't he a pedophile?

                          But when it comes to accepting people, nudists for the most part acknowledge behaviour more than anything else. And the problem is not that nudists accept them, it is that everyone else sees them naked and assumes that they must be nudists.

                          Bob S.

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                          • #14
                            David Hamilton definitely plays with the line between sexual and nonsexual in most of his photos. I'm not saying that he isn't a good photographer. I'm saying that his photos are more designed for interpretation as opposed to being a portrayal of life, especially where the depiction of nudity is concerned.

                            Spencer Tunick is of another style altogher. While his photograph's are unquestionably of harmless nudity of normal people in nonsexual situations, I would not qualify them as nudist or naturist photographs. My basic reason for this is that they definitely don't qualify as showing people who are normally nude as they are in their normal life.

                            Sally Mann's pictures of her family are a marvelous depictions of how innocent childhood nudity most certainly is. I'm a big Jock Sturge's fan, owning all his books, and watching some of his subjects grow up before his camera was definitely a treat to see. In both cases, those who would see a change in level of sexuality in the photos were subjects normally clothed has the "nudity = sex" cliche firmly lodged in their psyche. These photos are of the style that would have the most effect in getting people to think about nudity being harmless and possibly healthy within a nonsexual context.

                            Also, there have been some great points made on the potential effects of nude photos in the spheres of electoral politics and mass media economics. The only way I see to remove the shock value is to put more photo books of the Mann and Sturge's styles and other similar media before the public. There might even be the small possibility that a young person may see them and be influenced into giving nude living a try. Why? Because they will be seeing someone like themselves in these pictures. Now wouldn't that help on a demographic shortcoming seen often in the nudist world.

                            Doug H.

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                            • #15
                              Bastida was a great artist, indeed. I'd not seen his work before. Thank you for introducing me.

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