Being naked, sex and objectification

The title is not meant as clickbait. This piece of writing is somewhere between a rant and stream of consciousness. I don’t have time to rework it, but the next time someone confuses these two things, I can point them in this direction.

River of pearls

Recently I was talking to well educated friend when the subject of photography came up. She asked me how my photography was going, I said that I had some very interesting projects I was working on and showed her some images of a body positive project I’m doing (all the images here are from that project). I explained that this involves me being alone with the subject (naked) in her flat for around four hours at a time. She then said “Your wife must be happy about that!“ in a tone indicating that she believed my wife would definitely not be okay with the situation. (Just to clarify, I always give my wife access to all the images so she knows how I’m working.) It still surprises me when people react in this way. I mentioned that she was educated because normally, the more we read, the broader our minds. I have had this same reaction from other British people living in Spain and I am starting to wonder if it’s something cultural. The something that I’m referring to is the idea that nudity means sex. Which suggests that they hold the idea that the human body, if it is unclothed, is now a sexual object.

A light dusting before winter

This leads me on to one of my pet hates. The fact that many social media platforms do not allow you to post a female nipple, but if you want to post a male nipple that’s absolutely fine. Generally speaking, the female nipple serves a purpose. It is the point where babies can feed from their mothers so that they get all the nutrients (plus antibodies and more things) that they need to survive. In all the many years that I have inhabited my body, mine have not done that once. So we can show a nipple that is little more than an ornament but not one that actually plays a vital role. I believe this comes down to the sexualisation of women’s bodies. If you see a woman’s breast and nipple as something that only serves for sexual purposes, then obviously you will see it as something indecent that you do not want on your social media platform. I do not see my subjects, male or female, as sexual objects (this is different from a sexual being). This may well sound horrible, but I see them as lines, curves, textures, colours and reflected light. I strongly believe that paradoxes are normal, it can be both a wave and a particle at the same time. When I photograph my subjects I want to show them with all their aspects, especially being able to reflect what I know about them that does not feature in the image. I often capture photos that are suggestive, I want people to see, to think, in a new way.

Hello Sweetie!

This leads to my final thought. Just because someone publishes an image of themselves on the social media it does not give anyone the right to demean them, harass them, or send them photos of ‘the last chicken in the butchers’ in a private message. We need to respect the freedom of others to enjoy their lives.

Rivers and lakes

To sum up, I do not photograph people naked because I think it will be an opportunity for me to have sex with them. I photograph them naked to show how beautiful they are, both to themselves and anyone else that they share the image with. Nowadays there is far too much body shaming going on, often by people whose bodies (and minds) are far from perfect. The first question on my photo workshops is “Who are you?“. It’s not there to discover the attendees name or profession, it’s there so that we think about who we are, where we’ve come from, our life experiences, et cetera. We will all see something different in the same image, but we should not automatically assume that nakedness equals sex. And finally, if we are scrolling through social media and there is something that does not appeal to us, there is no need to tell the poster how bad their social media page is. The easiest thing is just to move on. When you walk down the street, do you go into all the shops that are not selling something you want to tell them that they should change their stock?

Light and shade
Leave a Reply