"In this century I’ve photographed well over a thousand people naked ... The posing is very simple: you just stand there in front of a plain background, and I take a picture. Still, I continue to be surprised at the diversity of appearance, expression and personality that results from this one position."


Confession: I’m not new to this nude-photo business. In this century I’ve photographed well over a thousand people naked, and dressed, including myself, as well as one of the founders of Fully Disclothed. These photos are incorporated into both still, and evolving-in-time images of individual people, which I often assemble into groups where each member of the crowd can be in various ways partially transparent— a viewer can see through their clothes and through layers of partially overlapped bodies. Some of them are the generations of families, or couples, neighbours and strangers. I have photographed each of these people one at a time; and the individual sessions have sometimes been as short as a minute or two. In most cases there is no discussion of why a person is volunteering to appear nude before the public in one of my Stillnessences, or in one of my related performance situations. My assumption has been that these are mostly people who are willing to, and in some cases desire to be part of my images. The posing is very simple: you just stand there in front of a plain background, and I take a picture. Still, I continue to be surprised at the diversity of appearance, expression and personality that results from this one position.


It has been interesting to read the accounts of the Fully Disclothed photo sessions. But I found myself even more curious about the intentions and impressions of the photographers. And so I volunteered to be on the other side of the camera in order to observe and discuss the process of being a disclothed subject.


I chose to have the shoot at my public studio in the Artscape Youngplace building, where I have an open-door policy. This naturally-lit space is populated with stills, digital screens and floating transparencies of people, nude, and dressed, or partially veiled in layers of clothing. Some of these are life-sized, so in a sense I had some nude company. Because I’ve been naked before a camera before, I thought the open-door policy would up the ante, and perhaps challenge my comfort level, if any passerby might walk through the doorway at any moment. At one point the son of a neighbour dropped in with a message, but he seemed oblivious to our naked man / clothed woman tableau.


I’m not a natural nudist — I prefer wearing clothes in most situations (I sleep best in a nightshirt; an exception is swimming — I dislike wet swimwear).  So I admit that I was much more comfortable speaking with Liza the photographer in the end when my clothes were back on; but the hours we spent, nude or not, discussing myriad aspects of appearances and depiction, were fascinating. Although I am only her fourth nude subject, I learned a lot from her, and appreciated how she let this unusual situation direct itself. A minute after I had put my pants and shirt back on a tour of public school kids, led by the building manager, wandered by my open doorway. The studio was still full of images of people, nude and in various degrees of transparent attire, but the life-figure had re-clothed.


An important aspect of my work is to include nudity in a way that allows it to be part of a spectrum of human appearances. Usually pictures of people feature either an absolute absence of total nudity, or, when it is present, it becomes the focus. I try to present nakedness as merely part of the the aforementioned spectrum of how people can and do appear. It’s an important element — our skin layer is something common to all of us. My images go so far as to sometimes include, by the request or with the consent of the subject, the photoshop removal of tattoos and scars, in a way returning to earlier appearances and stripping another layer of adornment. 

"I’m quite aware that Fully Disclothed is created and facilitated by women, and inevitably this imparts the site philosophy and content with a sense that is refreshingly different than mine."

I've included myself in several of the images I’ve created; also not as the focus, but with me as an equal participant. This may or may not ameliorate somewhat the sense of a ‘male gaze’. In every non-selfie photo I’m curious about seeing the person who took it, and by including myself in my crowds I hope to, in a small way, break down another wall between the image and the viewer.

 
Ideally there should also be a balanced sense of gender neutrality, even as nudity emphasizes our gender distinctions.* I’m quite aware that Fully Disclothed is created and facilitated by women, and inevitably this imparts the site philosophy and content with a sense that is refreshingly different than mine. My sense of inclusiveness attempts to emphasize our sameness by showing a variety of people in groups; Fully Disclothed’s format, featuring usually a solo subject, puts a decorum-piercing spotlight on our individual uniqueness.

"In retrospect this self-awareness and self-directing has led to the thing that makes me most uncomfortable about participating in this project— and that is the fact of not being in the position of editor and final arbiter of the chosen photographs — this makes me very nervous.."


For most people, having a stranger pointing a camera at you is an unusual situation. Being nude at the same time definitely amplifies the experience. I’m aware that a still photographer is framing and freezing a few brief moments of what I look like. And I am also aware in such circumstances that I am often posing: lounging, gesturing, twisting, hiding, gazing, listening. In retrospect this self-awareness and self-directing has led to the thing that makes me most uncomfortable about participating in this project— and that is the fact of not being in the position of editor and final arbiter of the chosen photographs — this makes me very nervous, but is, at the same time a tabula rasa, in which a stranger is looking at you, photographing you, with fresh eyes. This is the way it should be done. 


*In the same way I try to be all-ages inclusive in my choice of subjects. There are particular age groups who are by far more comfortable with revealing themselves (hello 22-year olds) but including a full-range of ages, hopefully reduces the stigma of the work catering or appealing to a particular demographic— more importantly old and young and in-between all in juxtaposition is vastly more interesting to me.














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