Throughout all cultures, the unclothed body exerts a magical attraction. Its fascination is reflected in uncountable works of art, ranging from cave paintings to detailed crafted sculptures to modern nude photography.Each of these forms of expression depicts how the ideal of pure beauty changed over the centuries and what details were important to each of those individual epochs it belonged. Hardly any other subject offers the artist as well as the viewer this array of possibilities for display and interpretation like professional nude photography.
The term itself is worth a closer look: shots, which depict a completely or partially naked body are for good reason, not just called “naked photography” but deliberately known as nude photography. The term, „nude“ stands not as a euphemism from earlier times. Both have far less to do with the joy to expose or eroticism. Sound and context already point in this direction.
The German language refers to nude photos as “Aktphotos” and nude photography as „Aktfotografie”. The word “Akt” derives from the Latin word „Agere“, which means in motion. This originates from the life drawing models in art schools, referred to as nude model (Aktmodell). Subsequently, these always appeared naked for the purpose to show proportions and muscular curves, called the „act“, describing the meaning of a naked body, frozen in motion.
At its beginning, act photos served only the above-mentioned purpose. Long before the nude photography took off as a genre by itself, the exposure of naked people served only as a study of movement in studios and drawing classes. Starting in Paris, inexpensive to produce nude photos, known as “academics“, rapidly spread throughout Europe.
However, there still was no talk about nude photography. Even when Félix-Jacques Moulin, in 1853, finished his training as a photographer, with a collection of nude photos, they got no other specification other than scientific evidence. This idea of nude images was to prevail for another two decades. During this time, art-, medicine- and folklore students used those available academic nude photos as a lucrative commodity.
Around 1870 the first photographers used their craft to target nude photography. Under the guise of scientific demand, they produced the tolerated „academics“ however; this time around, they added visually appealing backgrounds and thus created the first actual nudes photos. Yet, none of their depicted models was indeed completely naked. Most models induced the impression as if they had been surprised when removing their cloth or getting dressed; leaving the assumption that the photo was taken more by chance.
Those early photographers, of course, did not know how close they came to today’s modern nude photography in terms of aesthetics. Quite the contrary: With progressive self-determination and rising independence of women, the images became more and more unvarnished and increasingly pornographic. There were also legally, ethically and morally inappropriate nude photos such as images of minors, provocative postures or the depiction of violence. The entire genre of nude photography was bound to slip into the dingy corner.
However, there were exceptions and not every nude photographer followed this trend. Many available images showed the models of their proverbial best and restored much of the nude’s original charm. Photographers like Helmut Newton or Günter Rössler enjoy to this very day great popularity, because of their descent compositions and are considered exceptional examples of successful nude photography. It is because of their work, that nude photography has not entirely lost its artistic standards and sensual aspects.
Those two photographers are still supporting the pillars of good nude photography. Their motives are independent of the current or just personal view of beauty. As with the „academics“ from the early days of nude photography, it is not the nakedness dominating the image, but its mobility and grace. The best nude photography is the one, which leaves more to the viewer’s imagination than what it actually reveals. Great nude photography limits itself to a detailed view of the model or engages the audience by bringing partial body parts, through the technique of deliberate lighting, into focus.
Through this technique of taking photos, classic nude photography distinguishes itself in a very impressive way from erotic or even pornographic photography.Although, the transitions are fluid and sometimes barely perceptible, nude photography promotes the aesthetic representation of the human body. This does not exclude the sensual component, only addresses once more the original concerns of nude photography – the artistic aspect.
Nude photography demonstrates more than any other kind of photography who well the photographer knows his profession.Nothing shows the presence or absence of empathy, communication skills and technical skills so much like a pieceof nude photography. Well done, which means artistically sophisticated and aesthetically composed, showcase the model in its inherent beauty. They allow the viewer to anticipate emotions, feel sensuality – without ever denuding the depicted person – despite all nudity – but never bare the model.
This is exactly the kind of nude photography I pursue, Christian Walter
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