What makes the nude into a work of art?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by landrum_kelly, Jul 26, 2011.

  1. I just realized that I have yet to post a question about nude photography this year. Perhaps I am slipping. Perhaps I am just getting old. Perhaps I have wanted most of all to avoid the sometimes contentious marathon postings that attended my questions about nude photography on this forum in 2009 and 2010. In any case, for the third summer in a row, here goes:
    I recently saw this photo while browsing Owen O'Meara's portfolio again after many months:
    It is hardly a dramatic or spectacular photo. Indeed, some may find it a bit boring, but I found it compelling in a way that I cannot fully describe, much less explain. I would like to be able to explain its appeal for me on this particular July afternoon, but I cannot quite do so.
    After analyzing the photo and then writing a few comments on the photo discussion forum, I found myself returning to an ancient question which I then decided to bring to this forum: what is the essential difference between the nude as a piece of trash and the nude as a work of art? I know that one brings one's own interpretation to a photo, and in some cases one brings above all a sense of imagination that sometimes impels one to want to construct a narrative--that which some may even wish to call a fantasy, although I prefer not to think of the artistic imagination as being precisely that.
    I chose this unlikely photo not for its brilliance nor for its spectacle, but for its quiet, unpretentious beauty. It has something special, I think, compared to many nudes--even though in some way it seems so perfectly ordinary. Yes, there are many better, even in Owen's own portfolio, but it has for me that certain something, that je ne sais quoi that is so elusive and often very powerful. Perhaps I am simply in the mood for something visually restful and soothing after a long day of writing on politics and ethics. It is hot outside, whereas the setting of the photo is cool. I am harried by deadlines. The "person" represented in the photo seems unharried, at rest. There is much else that I might say about myself in contradistinction to the photo. In other words, I brought and still bring many facts about myself to the viewing and appreciation of this photo. The specifics of the appeal (or lack thereof) of this particular nude for different persons is not the point, however. Regardless of which nude(s) one may trot out to make one's point, the enduring question of a general nature remains: what makes the nude into a work of art? What, that is, makes this or that nude worth viewing among the many thousands of nudes that really are not worth viewing at all?
  2. The most obvious thing about the photo to me is that, unlike conventional nudes, which seems to be saying "look at this nude", this one tells a story, or at least opens up a mystery. The viewer asks, "What is she doing? Why is she here? What is she looking at? Where are her clothes?"

    All interesting questions. Four more questions than the typical nude photo asks.
  3. "Where are her clothes?"
    Marc, I had my own little narrative for this one. I imagined her relaxing after a stressful day, or else simply being in full retreat from the world. (The nudity seems almost irrelevant for that narrative, except that the lack of clothing perhaps symbolizes the laying aside of the burdens of so-called "civil society" and all of its hectic rat races.)
    I have to confess that the whereabouts of her clothes did not worry me too much. If I were to write my confessions or her biography, however, perhaps the title would have to be Don't Panic: Your Panties Are in My Pocket!
  4. Here is one by this week's winner of Photo of the Week:
    The subject's nakedness seems almost secondary in this case. I am not sure if that is always the case with the artistic nude, but it seems to be the case here.
  5. We like nudes because we respond sexually, duh. The question "what is art" is basically what you are asking. Yah, there are a zillion responses to that one. I find the photo you are referring to is a very boring picture of a lovely young lady.
  6. Trust.
    I don't believe that, but it's the answer this thread is looking for.
    Where you're dealing with a viewer who is uneasy about nudity (and sex) and a photographer who is uneasy about nudity (and sex) and a model who is uneasy about nudity (and sex), the mere fact that a pretty picture gets made is a miracle of the beginnings of trust. All parties are so astonished that such trust has happened that they declare the result to be, it must be ... "Art!"
  7. "We like nudes because we respond sexually, duh."
    The problem with this simplistic formulation, Steve, is that we do not always have an overtly sexual response to the nude image. Nor do we typically evaluate a given nude aesthetically by asking, "Is this shot a real turn-on?" (This is not to deny that we may be affected subliminally in our aesthetic judgment by the potential erotic content of a given photographic work, but that is a psychological question that goes beyond my immediate interest in our aesthetic evaluations of the nude. I have no doubt, however, but that this issue may have to resurface if we thrash through these and related questions in sufficient depth. It is not my immediate concern.)
    In any case, you have not attempted to answer the question which I have asked. I have not asked, "Why do we like nudes?" I have asked this question: what makes the artistic nude essentially different from the trashy nude?
    I have not even, for that matter, asked what makes the artistic nude different from the "non-artistic" nude, which presupposes yet a third category: "failed art" in the sense of "bad art" (badly done work, that is) that just happens to have a nude subject. If I were asking this last question, we would be back, I think, to matters of photographic technique as the primary explanation of what can elevate the nude from the gutter, but that is not at all what I am talking about here.
    Trashy nudes can be done with excellent technique and may even meet the common criteria of being well-composed, well-lit, correctly exposed, etc. Trash is still trash. "Failed art" is a separate category of work, whether the subject be nude or not. Cataloging the varieties of trash does not interest me here, either. Those who want to study porn qua porn will have to look elsewhere besides this thread.
  8. "Trust. I don't believe that, but it's the answer this thread is looking for."
    Julie, behind this paradox (of offering an opinion that you immediately deny as being your own) may lie a very profound observation. I won't try to resolve the paradox now, however. Let me go on to your substantive claim:
    All parties are so astonished that such trust has happened that they declare the result to be, it must be ... 'Art!'​
    I presume that you are getting into the realm of motives here, for every model who is being photographed nude surely must have in the back of her mind at some point, "Well, he says that it is about art, but, heh, heh, who is he kidding?" Whether models who sat for hours for Michelangelo felt the same way I do not know, but I would not be surprised--in spite of the obvious effort being exercised by the artist in carrying out the artistic project.
    It is certain that questions of persons' motives always come to the fore when nude art is concerned. If it were not obviously the case that some truly great paintings are nudes, trying to establish the legitimacy of nude photography as other than rationalized pornography would be even more difficult. Every time that I have raised a question about nude photography (and this makes the third time in my ten long years on Photo.net), some persons (not you) have managed to impugn my motives for even asking the questions. They cannot believe that anything having to do with philosophy, whether about ethics or about (a)esthetics, could possibly delve into the realm of sexuality without being overtly sexually motivated.
    When Thomas Nagel of the Princeton University Philosophy Department first addressed philosophical issues about sexuality some decades back, there were those who were quite astonished that philosophical discussion should "stoop so low"--even though such philosophical questions go at least as far back as Socrates. Even the philosophical greats have their motives questioned. Why should such an obscure scholar as myself escape suspicion?
    I say "suspicion" because "trust" and "suspicion" seem to go together--as related concepts. They do appear to be opposing concepts, although whether or not they are pure antonyms is a question that I shall sidestep. (The obvious antonym of trust that comes to mind is "distrust.") Thus it has been that my own motives, no less than those of the aspiring photographer of nudes, have perennially been challenged on this forum. Trust is always in short supply whenever anything related to sexuality is at stake. All that I can say from the eminence of sixty-six years on this planet is that there must be easier ways to get a buzz than either shooting nudes or talking about them.
    I guess that all of that is my rather back-handed (and long-winded) way of saying that I am not at all sure that issues of trust are at the core, as you seem to be saying. Yet, yet it is quite astonishing, as you suggest, that persons overcome their suspicions and insecurities and manage to go through with a shoot and come out with something that can be so astonishing in its beauty. The analogy of the photographer of nudes with a gynecologist who is simply doing his job comes to mind, given that a certain degree of professional detachment is apparently necessary to do either job. The two types of activity are not really comparable, of course, in spite of the common need for detachment. The artist (whether photographer or painter) cannot totally divorce himself or herself from the erotic potential of the situation, if only because aesthetics and sexuality are surely closely related. Thus the photographer must walk the more perilous tightrope, I think, and the peril that I am speaking of is not potential sexual involvement with the model, but the peril of having the work spoiled somehow by the intrusion of overt sexual motivation into the creative process. (The perils for models who traipse into the wilds for the sake of shots of "the nude in nature" are even more frightening to contemplate--but the same perils are, I presume, always there for undraped women in whatever setting.)
    Perhaps those who actually either shoot or model for nude photography can better address your remarks, Julie. I have no experience in either capacity, but I am in awe of the degree of trust that does seem to lie behind all such work. It seems that you have once again cut through the issues as stated to what the real issues just might be after all.
    Now let me go back to your paradoxical opening: "I don't believe that, but it's the answer this thread is looking for." Whether it is the answer or not, perhaps it is at the very least the question behind the question.
  9. There are some people (and the preveiling view in some cultures) that any nudity in art is pornographic and evil. This is an extremist view (that I do not share) but it illustrates that the concept of "artisitic nude" is purely subjective (on a personal and cultural level.)
  10. Frank, my own father believed that pornography began with nude sculpture and paintings. I have had acquaintances who believe that all viewing of the body outside of a loving, married relationship or a medical emergency is a sacrilege. What all of these persons have had in common is belief that the body is too sacred to be viewed naked in an artistic context.
    In our culture, the persons whom I have known who held to this view have been believers in the literal truth of the Bible. They go back to the book of Genesis and cite the shame of Adam and Eve as recounted in Genesis 3, or the account of Noah being seen naked by his son in Genesis 9:20-29. I respected my father very much, but I could not accept the literal truth of such accounts. I have had no success in any attempt at a rational discussion with biblical inerrantists on certain matters, and the issue of nudity in art is one of those matters.
    I was once teaching an introductory course on philosophy when the issue of the Bible's conflict with evolutionary theory came up. One young woman whom I had previously thought of as one of the more progressive students said, "So, you don't believe in the Genesis account of creation?" I rather off-handedly said that I was not sure if a single word from the book of Genesis was historically accurate. The next thing I knew I was summoned to the upper reaches of the academic bureaucracy to explain myself. (This could only happen in the South, I told myself.) No harm came to me as a result of this incident, but it was a reminder that there are those who are so resistant to any other way of seeing things besides appealing to some external source of authority that all attempts to reason with them seem doomed to failure. One can only hope that one can perhaps plant some seed of a dissenting view that might encourage them to reconsider their world views at some point in the future.
    When ethical judgments are so visceral and absolute, they seem to trump all attempts to analyze the esthetics of nude photography (or painting or sculpture), whether in the making or in the viewing. The display of the body is thus taboo in nearly all circumstances for such persons, and against the taboo there is apparently no rational argument.
    Needless to say, this thread is directed to those who do not share such absolutist judgments. I yet have some grudging respect for those who view the body as too sacred to be viewed in an artistic context, but only because I cannot refute them. I still think that they are wrong, even though in many cases their personal lives have been exemplary and thus worthy of emulation. Therefore I can only say in response to their views, "Well, you just might be right." In fact, of course, the entire issue is extremely complicated. I am equally frightened by those who have libertine views and who seem to be either incapable or unwilling to consider that they, too, might be wrong. What I typically fear, that is, is not the particular opinion being expressed, but the degree of closed-mindedness that goes with it, be it liberal or conservative.
  11. Forgive me for being blunt. The picture is just plain silly and begs for a cute title. I've got a few but I'll try and stay serious. Anyone who wants to remove sexuality from nudity has to understand that the viewer will most likely put it back. The human form as a topic for study is no different than studying geometry. It is just easier to keep the students and instructor interested. The notion of doing a "study" of the classical photographic nude is strongly compelling no doubt. What young artist hasn't talked their sweetheart into posing for a study?
    Artists must learn anatomy somehow. Photographers have less of a reason to examine the un-draped figure because virtually anything else (peppers?) offers itself to the light and close inspection with a camera. The naked people photo genre is no better than any other popular art that lacks depth. It may be worse in that the subjects are most often idealized in some absurd way not typical of most humans. There are other reasons besides.
    I don't particularly look forward to viewing more thoughtful pictures of most of us in the buff. Irving Penn's Earthly Bodies is the best example of that I have seen. His prints were very satisfying to me in unexpected ways and I was fortunate to see them.
  12. IMO: Art appreciation, of any type, is subjective. What is good to one person, can be poor to another. On a personal experiential level, there is no right or wrong, no absolute good or bad art, no artistic or trashy. Only from academic, anthropological, and historical perspectives can valid (but still debateable) value judgements be made about works of art, including nudes.
    Interesting debate though. One learns more about the debators themselves than the issue debated.
  13. The same thing that makes a portrait, landscape, street view, architectural, etc. into art. The nude is not exclusive in this sense. Most nudes aspiring to the condition of art are incredibly lame/weak/generic/disconnected/etc.
  14. Most nudes aspiring to the condition of art are incredibly lame/weak/generic/disconnected/etc.​
    Luis is right, and the reason is that they ARE (merely) aspiring to art, which is usually painfully obvious, instead of aspiring to some kind of honesty, which can include that sexual component which most faux artists doing nudes would prefer to deny (as would many viewers viewing them) and which helps make their renderings so false.
  15. Landrum Kelly
    what is the essential difference between the nude as a piece of trash and the nude as a work of art?
    In principle the same difference between any other type of photo, which can be a piece of trash or, much more seldom, a work of art.
    Your example of Owen O'Meara's work is extremely biased, because Owen is - in my opinion - one of the few original nude artists here.
    All the others produce boring photos or just repeat themselves most of the time.
    Landrum Kelly
    Steve, is that we do not always have an overtly sexual response to the nude image
    Can we define the boundary between the cases where the response is mainly sexual and where not?
    Landrum Kelly
    what makes the artistic nude essentially different from the trashy nude?​
    The question needs to be qualified better. What is art and what is trash, where is the border? Once we have this qualification we will know, when we look at a nude, if it is art or trash.
    Another option could be asking whether the author is considered an artist (or states to be an artist). If this is true, and if the author produces nude photographs, these photographs can be considered art.
  16. This is what I was getting at earlier: "can you really detach the nude from the sexual response?" and the separate issue of: "what is art anyway, nude or not?" I have seen "trashy" nudes that I thought were quite artful, which complicates the issue further! I personally cannot look at a nude woman in any form of art or trash and not have some level of sexual response. It doesn't take much research even here on photo.net to see that virtually any photo that has some part of a naked woman will have a huge number of views, whether it is any good or not as a photograph, especially compared to even a very well done landscape by the same photographer.
    So, I do believe there are photographs with nudes that are"art" and, yes, they do generate some sexual reaction nevertheless.
    Are you suggesting that an artfully done nude photograph by definition NOT have any sexual implications? That I think is impossible. So like I said before and what you are asking now is "what is art" which I think is a really gray area to define.
  17. we do not always have an overtly sexual response to the nude image --Landrum Kelly

    Can we define the boundary between the cases where the response is mainly sexual and where not? --Luca A.R.​
    Luca, I included the word "overtly" deliberately. I suppose that we can define it any way that we please, but I was assuming in saying "overtly sexual response" either some degree of physical arousal or at least intense sexual interest. I was responding to this response to my original question as to what distinguished the artistic nude from other nudes:
    We like nudes because we respond sexually, duh. --Steve Murray.​
    As simple as that, eh? I responded that "we do not always have an overtly sexual response to the nude image." In other words, not everyone looks at nudes in order to be sexually stimulated by them. Take the case of a heterosexual woman enjoying looking at a nude photograph of another woman. Take the case of a heterosexual male viewing a female nude for purposes other than overt sexual titillation. The sexual component might always be there. It does not have to dominate the process of aesthetic appreciation, in my opinion. If it does, then either the photo is pornographic or one is using it as de facto pornography.
    I will grant that one never knows for sure whether perception of the nude form is operating sexually on the psyche--but (if one is a heterosexual male) the same can be true when viewing photos of women who are clothed as well. Though we certainly do not always know our own motives, I was trying to counter the view that men always look at female nudes simply for the sake of sexual stimulation, which seemed to be Steve's view. To me such statements are annoying reductions that fail to acknowledge that the appreciation of the nude is probably part of a very complex psychological process that I do not fully understand.
    There are many who dispute my position, who say that viewing the nude is always about sex pure and simple. I do not doubt that the aesthetic appreciation of the nude form is likely affected by some degree of sexual attraction, but I resist the notion that that must be the primary, much less the dominant, reason that one may enjoy the viewing of the nude. I first broached these issues in May 2009 on a thread titled "The Power and the Glory" on this same forum. In that thread, Gary Woodward (then seventy years old) wrote the following:
    I do not address nudes often. The last nude photography I was involved with, I was the nude. Nevertheless I would love to shoot nudes, both male and female because I feel that the human body is so totally beautiful in not only appearance but also in form and function. I don't for a few very simple reasons. I do not know that I have anything new or unique to say, I would only ape what has gone before or fall prey to the pull of sexuality. The world doesn’t need any more of that; it's well supplied.
    One poster mentioned the Weston nudes. Weston had the ability to step away from the adolescent in us all (and believe me Weston was adolescent when it came to women) and capture the image as pure beauty of form often relating the nude to other beautiful forms. After better than a half century of looking at photographs of nudes I believe that there are very, very few men, or women, that can do that.​
    What intrigues me about Gary's position is that he was trying to take what I consider to be a reasonable middle ground: yes, sexuality is somehow involved in the aesthetic appreciation of the nude, but we do not have to give in to the "adolescent" impulse to simply enjoy a nude for the sake of the prurient interest and nothing more. His allusion to Weston strikes a resonant chord in me. Yes, of course Weston enjoyed the nude form. Of course the perception of beauty (filtered through his sexual nature) affected his choice of subjects. Even so, he did not succumb--in his published work, at least--to the baser tendencies. I think that I can understand that, having experienced at one time or another the full range of human emotions and motives.
    I will end this already lengthy response by quoting Gary one more time: "I would only ape what has gone before or fall prey to the pull of sexuality. The world doesn’t need any more of that, it's well supplied." In other words, it is one thing to photograph nudes or view nudes as Weston did. It is quite another to allow the sexual drive to debase what can be a wholesome aesthetic exercise. I must say in that regard that I stay away from nude photography for the same reason: I don't have anything new to offer, and I am not sure that my artistic vision would not be driven a bit too strongly by the sexual component.
    Perhaps when I am eighty. . . . At sixty-six I might still be too young, too much the adolescent.

  18. Thanks, Steve. Your posting came in right before mine (by two minutes, in fact). I hope that my lengthy post in response to Luca addressed your question. Thank you for refining your original statement as well. I have looked at your work, and it is clear that you are a very serious photographer who has no doubt thought about these issues a great deal.
    Yes, most people view the nudes on this site (and elsewhere) for sexual enjoyment pure and simple, it seems. I do not think that it has to be so simple. The nude is a complex art form, and the motives of the painter or photographer do not always resonate with all possible viewers, who are going to tend to use the photos for the purposes of the moment. Or, as I said before, there is nothing to prevent great art from being used as simple pornography--and so perhaps the distinction lies less in the work itself than in what we bring to the viewing of it.
    In any case, as Fred and others have noted, of course the sexual element is there in the nude--but it can also be there in the clothed form as well. Above all, it is within each of us as viewers. It is possible to view the same work for greatly varying motives. This is complex psychological terrain, and I am no psychologist.
  19. [The thing that makes a nude into art is] the same thing that makes a portrait, landscape, street view, architectural, etc. into art. --Luis G.​
    Is it quite so simple, Luis? Of course, there are many commonalities in all great art. Is there yet perhaps something unique about the nude in this regard? I do not know myself. I only have questions at this point.
  20. The human form as a topic for study is no different than studying geometry.
    --Alan Zinn​
    Are you sure, Alan? I am not, but I confess that I know nothing. Please see my post to Luis just above.
    As for the Owen O'Meara photo, I have to say that I like it. What is so silly about it?
  21. Fred, admittedly most nudes are, as you say, quite lame and fail to achieve the status of true art. So saying raises the question as to what it is that elevates the nude into true art. You mention honesty as a precondition, which requires that we acknowledge that the sexual factor is surely there in our appreciation of the nude. I guess that I am simply not so sure that it has to be the obvious driving force.
    I do think, however, that the mystery of the nude's appeal continues to elude me. While that appeal is related to sexuality, it is surely not reducible to sexuality pure and simple, to the exclusion of all other factors.
    All of this brings me back to Julie's early remark about trust. If I read her correctly, the trust between artist and model might be the intriguing and mysterious component for me. Yet, I do not think that that is the only thing, since in some photos the photographer/artist is not so obviously present as when the subject is, for example, staring into the lens.
    Here is a case in point:
    I submit that this image can be appreciated as art regardless of a person's gender or sexual orientation. I am not taunting you on this one, Fred, but perhaps you could give us your honest reaction to the photo.
  22. Nudes cause a reaction because it lays something bare before us, whether we want to see it or not... just like urban grunge and fake blood. But while we can run away from grunge and blood (or at least not have to encounter it all the time), the body is something everybody (pun?) has to live with. The ensuing conflict between a person's physical representation (or transference of that representation) and it's social taboo necessarily provokes a reaction. Thus the answer to whether nude is art or not is also an answer derived from that conflict. Even though the social taboos can be discussed and are subject to debate, the personal feelings and emotions often are not (or cannot be). This makes reaching a consensus as to "whether nude is art" particularly difficult, unlike say landscapes which can be more freely discussed as they might not have as much of a personal component.
    Probably nowhere more does the camera look both ways than in nudes, and nowhere more does it leave tell tale signs of the conflict of the personal and the social?
  23. Indraneel, those are quite profound remarks. I like your pun, too.
    Yes, our photos reveal as much about us as photographers as they do about our subjects, regardless of how they are dressed (or not). It was just today that I was thinking of how self-revelatory writing is, even philosophical writing. How much more do our photos allow glimpses into our souls!
    Perhaps that is what is behind the human creative instinct: the impulse to reveal something of ourselves, to communicate to others, to say, "Look at this!" In so doing we reveal what we think is worthy of contemplation. In so doing, our simple photographic acts may reveal more about our thoughts than do our many words.
  24. perhaps you could give us your honest reaction to the photo​
    It looks like art, so it's safe. It's consistent with the way the body has long been "artistically" portrayed . . . in a meadow with lutes playing sappy music as an accompaniment. No, it doesn't feel honest to me. It feels well-trodden.
    Is there yet perhaps something unique about the nude . . . ?​
    Yes. [Not talking about the photos you linked to.] Some so-called artists and viewers are uptight about nudity (titillated yet uncomfortable yet also knowing there's something innocent) so they profess it to be "art" (which often just means a superficial beautification) which in their minds makes it acceptable and keeps them from being the pervert they seem to suspect they might be for being drawn to nudity or its sexualization. What's different about nudity? Other subjects don't give so many folks the same kind of pause (which often seems to come from their own moral dilemmas and sexual ambivalence when they see pics of naked human beings). So they subjugate their own sexual charge by reducing the human body to "beautiful" clichés rather than just accepting it for what it is, which is a nude body, with all the sexual, physical, psychological, and spiritual charges that accompany it. No, it's not reducible to sexuality. Of course not. It isn't all 'er nothin'. Neither does the dichotomy "art or trash" do it justice, IMO, because in so many interesting, compelling, and moving photos it hides behind neither.
  25. A person's gender and/or sexual orientation may have to do with their hormonal response as well as their gut-level response, indeed one's gender or sexual identity can have to do with a lot or a little about their response to a particular nude. Importantly, though, reacting sexually or empathizing with whatever degree of sexual charge may be present doesn't mean the viewer has to get "turned on." That I respond sexually to certain depictions of women doesn't mean I'm necessarily turned on in the same way I would be with sexualized images of men. But it does make me that much more aware of universal sexual stimulants, charges, representations, symbols, and forces.
    In a good photo, when there is a sexual charge present, I would expect men and women who are not hung up, gay, straight, bi, and transgender to be able to recognize, accept and (each in their own way) feel it, whether they be stimulated themselves on whatever level, empathetic, turned-off, left with questions, or any other number of responses . . .
  26. The nude on the bench reminds me of a New Yorker "write a caption" cartoon. A lot of nudes seem that way to me because the first thought is "Why, oh why is that person naked?" An attractive young woman sitting in quiet repose in a park doesn't need to be naked to make an interesting picture. OK, maybe if she were wearing a bicycle helmet.
    One undertakes the study of the academic nude or geometry to attain a skill not to make art.
    The romantic, foggy bottom nudes couldn't be a more perfect "empty calorie" picture. Invent a sweet title for that one too.
  27. Perhaps that is what is behind the human creative instinct: the impulse to reveal something of ourselves, to communicate to others, to say, "Look at this!" In so doing we reveal what we think is worthy of contemplation. In so doing, our simple photographic acts may reveal more about our thoughts than do our many words.​
    That is incidental. We create (or are passionate) to reveal ourselves, to ourselves (consciously, or unconsciously). This is the trail of breadcrumbs that leads us to who we truly are, our personal knowledge of ourselves. When we say "look at this", we are refining that boundary of our knowledge about ourselves, against the social context. When we see another's work or words, most often we see the apparent social context, then some of the breadcrumbs and then, some of our own breadcrumbs, all of course from our own viewpoint.
    Indraneel, those are quite profound remarks.​
    Thank you, thank you, but I should not. I've been told not to think too much far too many times already!
  28. As has been said before, "One person's art is another person's trash". Art is purely subjective. In some countries and in some religions, those shots could get the photographer in big trouble. In some places, it would not cause a stir at all. So, the question about what makes some nudes art and some nudes trash depends on who you ask. We each may give a different answer.
    For me, I'd have a simple mental test. If I felt comfortable hanging it on my wall, no matter WHO was going to visit, my friends, my mom, or the pope, I would say it is well in the "art" category.
    Some, I would guess, are going to say that is just projecting my hangups and insecurities on the photograph. I would counter that is not the case. If the subject of the photo could walk into their place of work, undressed as they were in the photo, and not have anyone take any notice, THEN you could build a case that some of us with my view have issues. Of course, everyone sees things through their cultural bias. You might say that a photo of a topless woman, shown in the more rural villages in Africa would not cause any stir, but it just might, if the woman was not covered in red mud first.
  29. http://www.photo.net/photo/1368471

    This is one of my favorite nudes.
  30. I'm purposely evading any kind of definition of art or answer to your question. I think there is a lot about art that is simply a mystery. For me it is something that connects with me for some reason. "I know it when I see it." Period. It is also really easy to make a boring or cliched portrait, landscape or nude as well. But, at the same time, it is very difficult to make a really good portrait, landscape, or nude photograph for that matter, but they do crop up from time to time and we all have our favorites.
  31. I have two answers for you Lannie, but both only bring up more questions.
    1) My answer. A nude can be art if the subject being nude is not central to the reason why the image was taken. By this I do not mean that nudity does not enhance the image; I mean that the nudity is not the image itself. As an example, I'm citing Titian's Venus of Urbino, which is a painting done in 1538. While the subject is nude, the painting would have been successful if she were not nude, as it is artfully posed and executed. Also there is Robert Mappelthorpe's Three Nudes, in which the fact that the figures are nude allows us to see their musculature and the tonalities in their skin which we would not see were they clothed. Also, depending on your perspective, Three Nudes can also be a statement on racial equality, or on the power of women over men, as the black and white male figures seem to be fighting (albeit passively) over a female. But again, it would still be a photograph worth taking if the subjects were clothed.
    By contrast, pornography is entirely about the nudity. If everyone in a porno mag put their pants back on, Hugh Hefner would be out of business. Thus, pornography is not art. Pornography can be artistic, and some photographers straddle (heh heh) that line very well. But if the entire reason you're taking a photo is to say, "Hey, look at her bits," then it's not artistic.
    The question that asks is whre is the line? Some of Mappelthorpe's other work (which I won't link to here) is very much about the sex and the nudity, often showing very graphic sexual acts. Arguments can be made that this too is art, but it gets into an entirely different class of discussion than what I suspect you meant to bring up. Almost thirty years after he first made waves, we still haven't hashed that one out.
    Someone else mentioned 'failed art.' I want to point out that bad nude art is absolutely not the same as pornography. Personally, I don't see any artistic merit in the image that you posted of the nude on the bench. I think that it would be an equally good photo if the girl were not nude (thus not pornography), but I don't think that the nudity adds anything. I feel that she is nude for the sake of being nude. Since her nudity doesn't add anything (to me anyway), I would call this bad nude art. But since the image is not ABOUT her nudity, I wouldn't call it dirty or pornographic.
    I feel the image of the two nude women walking in the field benefits very much from the nudity, as it creates a greater feeling of nature, and these women's connection to the Earth.
    And again, we have the arbitrary line. If she were nude in public would it be art, or pornography? Which brings us the answer number two ...
    2) "I cannot define pornography, but I know it when I see it." I don't remember which Justice said this, but it was part of the United States Supreme Court ruling in one of the Larry Flynt trials. It doesn't advance the conversation any, but it does explain a lot.
    Since human beings are more complicated and irrational than machines, and often operate not on programming but on previous (sometimes negative) experiences, it's not always possible to predict that Image X will yield Response Y. Because of that, ANY rule that states what is and is not art or pornography will have a list of exceptions a mile long. No one - not even a panel of experts - can produce an answer that is argument-proof. I feel that my answer is very good, but I will be the first to admit that where I draw the line is not where you may draw the line.
    Venus of Urbino
    Three Nudes
  32. Here are a couple of "artistic" nudes that have a little more oomph than those Lannie has linked to (IMO). They are more physical, more narrative, they are sensual and there are sexual impulses I get from them as well. Yet they are loosely in the genre of nude study or classically nude figures.
    THIS and THIS by Bill Brandt.
    Here are two. Not as pretty, or as safe, a little more gritty, maybe more "trashy," the second obviously more sexual. Every bit as much art, IMO.
    THIS and THIS by Nan Goldin.
    Sometimes, it's a matter of excellent craft combined with breaking new ground that elevates to the level of art what might otherwise be considered pornography. Consider Mapplethorpe.
    In short, art nudes don't have anything particular in common, just as art doesn't. They are certainly not defined as lacking trashiness or as somehow elevating the human form. Art, IMO, is best not understood as a classification with particular qualities. Its definitions are more like a web of overlapping and disappearing and reappearing ideas, creators or perpetrators, and audiences rather than anything singular. It's not completely subjective and it's not anything you want it to be. Generations have loosely understood what art is and what things are art and that couldn't happen if there weren't a good amount of objectivity to it and often some sort of public recognition of it, if not in its own time then at some later date.
  33. Art and the photographic nude also evolve, so amy supposed definition would have to leave room for the unknown or as yet undiscovered, which means no definition can be complete or certain.
  34. Well, we're talking about nudes and photography, so if we have done some nudes we might as well share them here. I have been taking pictures for over 40 years, and I have purposely avoided doing nudes as a main theme, probably because I didn't think I could add artistically to what has already been done. However, I have done a few nudes from time to time, and I did post a couple of them here on pnet. The first is from the 1970's and for me it is mostly about the curves and geometry of the female form:
    The second is a little more lighthearted, showing my wife sunbathing in the garden, and it is again mostly for me about the curves of her female form, although there is a certain sexual element too (well, she's my wife!).
    Are these artistic? I don't know. For me they are.
  35. If, as many Western American/Europeans do, consciously or unconsciously, part of your sense of the body in art starts here [link], then, if you go directly to Lannie's first example [link], tensions should be apparent in the traversal from one to the other.
    Further tensions:
    face (not the head) vs body
    eyes vs mouths
    force vs choice
    glory [the Greeks, for example] vs shame
    How is your gaze being handled? What is she/he doing to you? What are you doing to her/him?
  36. Julie, great comparison! And, it also seems that in a lot of religions, the object of worship tends to be mostly disrobed...
    Alan, is that picture real? No photoshop?
  37. How is your gaze being handled? What is she/he doing to you? What are you doing to her/him?​
    Julie, I am not sure what you are saying. It appears that you might not have completed the verb form in the first sentence you offered us. I am thus left to try to decipher your meaning.
    What I think that I gather from your post has very little to do with worship, as Indraneel seems to think. Given your previous posts, on this thread and others, I think that I hear you saying that the gaze has something to do with power relationships--or at least that it can.
    I am left wondering if you think that the presentation of the nude is always a political act, even (perhaps) an act of domination--a move in the game of male domination of women (at least on the most common scenario: female subject, male photographer, male viewer).
    Please give us more of your thoughts. I am aware that I might be reading too much into your remarks--or quite possibly not enough.
    Is the male gaze too intrusive in the photo by Owen O'Meara that I posted at the outset? I confess that I certainly did not see it that way. I am interested in hearing more of your interpretation, especially now that you have counterpoised it to a rather curious painting with a religious motif--but filled with certain incongruities. The nun, for example, is being groped by a male figure, although whether willingly or not I cannot tell:
  38. Yet, even the worshipful gaze can be threatening. "I adore you." "Does that mean that you want to own me? Perhaps you just want to devour me."
    The cat comes to mind, this time as captured by Steve Murray:
    Who is watching whom? Why?
    What is the point of the nude, anyway? Why are there so many female nudes? Why are there so many male photographers? Are men naturally watchers? Are women naturally those who are being watched?
    "As if we had any choice!" --Julie Heyward, from a previous thread (approximate quote)
  39. Lannie, I would have the say that the groping of the nun by the Roman soldier represents the violation of the Christian faith by the Romans. It is used to take a religious theme (The Cruxifiction) and turn it into a social one, without breaking the rules of what could and could not be shown at the time. Since there weren't actually any nuns then (and not even the most fanatical Christian could believe that monastaries and nunneries were built and clothing designed and made en masse in the few years Christ was teaching His message), it's pretty clear that the nun is meant to be symbolic.
    Also, do keep in mind that the use of the nude as a worship figure in classical work very rarely has anything to do with the actual nude. In many Western societies, nudity is (in this context) a symbol of purity and innocence. Think back to Exodus; God knew that Adam and Even had eaten from the Tree of Life because they had covered up their bodies, and were no longer nude.
    The Gaels often fought nude or nearly nude for the same reason. It stands to reason that if they are pure, they will be pure in battle. Of course they were destroyed by Romans wearing armour, but you get the point :)
    When you look at Botticelli's Venus, her nudity is not meant to convery sexuality. If it were supposed to be sexual, her hands would not be covering her naughty bits, and there would not be cherubs preparing to drape her with a cloth. In this case, at least, nudity again represents purity and innocence.
    Julie's statement is based on a Postmodern view of nudes in artwork, while mine is based on a Classical one. Until around the 1940's, the viewer had nothing to do with the art.
    How is your gaze being handled? What is she/he doing to you? What are you doing to her/him​
    This is a very new question, at least compared to the length of time that 'fine art' has been around and been discussed. The idea of the viewer as an element to the work suggests that the work is never "completed" until it is shown to an audience, as the audience's reaction is a part of the work. If the nude is supposed to express shame, it does not effectively do so unless the audience feels shame while looking at it. A Postmodern view of the Cruxifiction would be that we, the viewers, become Christ's tormentors by viewing the image.
    My only issue with the Postmodern view (and apologies to Julie - I'm arguing the idea - not you) is that it relies on the audience having similar knowlegde to your own. Or if not, then at least the artist has to 'guess' his audience. I'm going to use a totally unrelated example to illustrate this, as everyone (I hope) can relate to an image of someone being tortured and crucified.
    Andy Warhol, who is one of my favourite artists, produced a series of Cambell's soup cans. Seen individually, it's a neat silkscreen, and they look cool. When many of them are hung on the same gallery wall, the Postmodern take is that it is a statement of the repeatability and endlessness of modern culture and consumerism. By walking through the gallery covered in Campbell's cans, the viewer is transported to a supermarket or other mass retail centre, and becomes a part of the endless sameness and repetition of consumer culture. Many artists have used this as a jumping-off point, and have produced their own versions of the Campbell's cans, often by 'vandalizing' Warhol's own, to make an angrier version of the same statement.
    The only problem here is that for any of this to work, the viewer must (A) know what Campbell's soup is, (B) be aware of current consumer culture, and (C) not be so deeply ingrained in the consumer culture as to be 'a part of the problem.' If A, B, and C are not true, then 48 silkscreens of Campbell's soup cans will have exactly the same effect as a single one will. In the event of the 'redone' versions, the viewer ALSO needs to be aware of (D) the original versions and their intent, and (E) have some opinion of them, good or bad, or else the 'vandalized' versions won't strike any chords.
    This is why I don't like Postmodern theory. While it was good years ago, Postmodernists have become so self-referential and presumptious of knowledge that it becomes a Family Guy episode - you just can't possibly understand all of it.
    This is also why I tend to view nudes from a Classical standpoint, and not a Postmodern one. If you want your nude subject to appear victimized (just to go back to Julie's example), something in the pose, facial expression, scene, or exposure should suggest that. You don't have to beat a viewer over the head with it, but we need some hints. If you merely place a woman with slumped shoulders (nude or otherwise) in the frame, an Asian will say she is shameful, and an Westerner will say she is tired. Shame is pretty close, but if you show that image in the wrong country it won't have the desired effect.
  40. Thank you, Zack, for a very profound response. One knows that, when one posts a serious question on the web, one is likely to get any number of inane responses. One typically gets at best a handful of truly enlightening responses from enlightened respondents who bring even more to the discussion than I could possibly have hoped for or even anticipated--and who always see far more than I do. I had not quite thought of counterpoising the post-modern to the classical, which does indeed give a new perspective on post-modern thought. (I just happened to be reading Lacan when I thought to look to see who might have posted in response.)
    Thanks to Julie as well for opening this kind of discussion with her sometimes cryptic posts--and thanks to Fred and Luis and others who always redeem these threads with their contributions.
  41. And, Zack, your portfolio is absolutely astonishing!
    I never knew when I first happened upon Photo.net after returning to grad school in 1999 at the age of fifty-four (to study Spanish and Spanish-American literature) that PN would be--could be--such an educational place. The internet had not been around that long for most of us at that time, and the most profound thing I had done on the web during the mid-nineties was to engage in an online forum on Augustine's theory of the nature of temptation and the forbidden.
    The theme of the forbidden is with us still. . . .
  42. On a similar note from darkroom work... The eye goes first to the area of highest contrast. Would that have anything to do with nudes as art..?
  43. Thank you, Indraneel! I had been thinking of context all morning as I tried to grapple with Lacan's concept of "the gaze."
  44. The eye goes first to the area of highest contrast. Would that have anything to do with nudes as art?​
    I am not sure that i follow you here, Indraneel.
  45. I am not sure that i follow you here, Indraneel.​
    Exposed nudity (in real or as art) is in contrast to what society commonly sanctions (or is commonly visible)... that is why we notice it first, even before we can make sense of our response towards it.
    And to take that further, it appears our brains are wired to notice contrast as part of a survival mechanism. Can it be not so in distant "life" forms, on faraway planets.....theoretically...?
  46. Thank you, Indraneel. I understand now. Yes, surely it is the unexpected that always brings us up short, that catches our breath. If we witnessed not only nude photographs but nude persons every day in the course of our daily activities, I daresay that we would not even be having this conversation.
  47. Sorry, I made a stupid "Wittgenstein's example" mistake..! It will be.. Can it be, not so, in distant "life" forms (on faraway planets).....theoretically...?
  48. When you look at Botticelli's Venus, her nudity is not meant to convery sexuality. If it were supposed to be sexual, her hands would not be covering her naughty bits, and there would not be cherubs preparing to drape her with a cloth. In this case, at least, nudity again represents purity and innocence.​
    Zack, an alternative view of The Birth of Venus would suggest that her covering her "naughty bits" (not sexual you say! LOL) with hair and hand is very much sexual and a reminder of her own very appealing physical beauty . . . and, as the strong influence of neo-Platonism in the Renaissance would remind us, it is through her physical beauty that we can get to the Ideal of Beauty, the more spiritual side of it. Even the purest responses to the nude can't, I think, turn a blind eye to the sexuality on which that desired purity rests. No, it's not sexual in the way much contemporary nudity is sexual. But I wouldn't discount the sexual element that's been present, even through the Renaissance. Modesty sort of depends on sexuality to gain a foothold, doesn't it? What is it that modesty protects (or hands, or strands of golden hair)? Again, I'm not reducing all nudity to sexuality, but it doesn't undermine innocence to recognize this kind of contrapuntal sexual element even in the most supposedly pure of nudes.
  49. This just in (well, just seen by me):
    There is the intrusive gaze, and then there is the intrusive gaze. The gender of the functionary doing the surveillance work would not affect my perceptions here.
  50. At what point does a nude become profane?
    and what precisely is it that is profaned?
    I am not at all sure that sexual titillation is the point of such humorous photos (at least as conjoined with the titles), but the question remains as to whether these or art or not, given such obvious "in-your-face" sexual content.
    What does one have with such photos if one takes away the titles?
  51. I read these forums 5 days a week during lunch. I have not contributed to the discussions in the past. This one, however, interests me. I have worked as a professional photographer off and on since 1976. I must state I have seen many thousands of nude images within photo.net galleries. I can honestly say I have never felt any sexual response from any of the images I have observed. I will say there have been several, by a select few photographers, that totally turn me away from wishing to see any of their images. I think one mans art is easily another mans pornography. The culture within the US teaches our children to be ashamed of nudity, to hide it. Yet as with most things you try to make taboo, that just increase the desire to see the nudity. I personally believe the European philosophy towards nudity is much healthier for creating stable mature human beings.
  52. If, as some believe, life came out of the primordial ooze and evolved to the point where some specie divided itself into the two sexes and then one had to be attracted to the other in order to survive. So somewhere in that evolutionary process that attraction was genetically implanted. That implantation grew somewhere along the line to sexual attraction among various species including us. I think women are attractive clad or unclad. I like nudes because I get to see more of what is attractive and that is not purely in a sexual way but some people clothed or unclothed are just nice to look particularly through the view finder of my camera and I like the persons in my photographs. I used to fall in love with my brides for a day when I did weddings. I think this is because I have certain genes implanted somewhere in my cerebral cortex that makes me think our species is attractive. My cat has different genes and she likes other cats, I believe. I still think of myself as an animal with visceral urges that are not a product of my conscious mind and that I don't truly understand. They are just there. Looking at a parade of nudes in PN does little for me. They don't seem real. I like real walking, talking people. What I am saying is I don't really know sometimes what drives me to react, whatever it is it just does. I don't really have to explain myself or explain human reactions I just have to live with them and keep them under some civilized modicum of control while at the same time taking solace and sometimes joy in looking at others no matter what their state of dress.
  53. Is "in-your-face"sexuality profane? Is pornography profane?
    My answer to both these questions is "no."
    I find "in-your-face" sexuality challenging, often fun, often a turn-on. I don't think of sexuality in terms of profanity.
    I enjoy pornography when I'm in the mood. It's fun, titillating, can supply a nice release, and can be entertaining. Sure, there's a difference between porn and art (and some overlap . . . as proven by Mapplethorpe and others), but that doesn't make porn profane.
    As to the so-called maybe profane photos Lannie just linked to, I wouldn't give them much thought and don't think much about when the nude becomes profane. If Lannie thinks they are profane or thinks there are profane nudes, it would be interesting to hear more than the label. It would be interesting to hear his thoughts on why profanity comes up for him regarding this subject and what profanity related to nudity is, or what it's at least close to or about even in general terms. To me, violence is profane. Poverty is profane. Homelessness is profane. Theft is profane. Hypocrisy is profane. Nudity, not so much. Nor is sexuality profane (unless it is in some way abusive).
    Sacred/profane, as far as I'm concerned, is an unhelpful dichotomy when talking about nude photographs. I'd suggest a more interesting dichotomy in all this, especially regarding viewer reactions, is adolescent/adult. That might more help to explain some things, including the popularity of the nudes section of PN.
  54. The "person" represented in the photo seems unharried, at rest​
    I think I would disagree with that assessment. To me, the subject appears tense, nervous. The set of her shoulders, the way her arms and legs are tightly drawn together, the position of her hands suggesting she's been nervously wringing them, the way her head is turned as if anticipating someone's arrival... I dunno, what photo suggests to me is (and yes I'm a hopeless romantic) a nervous bride about to meet her husband for the first time. Anyhow...
    As for the larger question of "what makes a nude art"... I think it's largely in how UNimportant any erotic or sexual appeal of the subject being nude is to the overall work. It's much more how the shape and shading of the body interact with the lighting, the background, and maybe to some extend how jarring the juxtaposition of the nude subject is when related to the setting or action going on in the rest of the picture.
  55. To me, violence is profane. Poverty is profane. Homelessness is profane. Theft is profane. Hypocrisy is profane. Nudity, not so much. Nor is sexuality profane (unless it is in some way abusive). --Fred G.​
    Fred, I think that the concept of the profane presupposes the concept of the sacred, as you also suggest near the end of your post above. I am not trying to slip off the hook by linguistic sleight of hand, but I suppose that I was simply asking whether the photos posted (or the viewing of them) were in some way(s) violations of something sacred.
    I can say that I think that persons' feelings are sacred, and I also think that our fragile sensitivities and sensibilities to things of great value are somehow about something so valuable that I would, for lack of a better word, also call the "sacred." Matters relating to sexuality would seem to qualify, at least potentially.
    The question (or at least one question) then becomes whether or not the viewing of such "materials" for enjoyment in some kind of way does damage to that sensitivity or sensibility.
    There is also the additional matter of feelings suggested by Julie Heyward. Julie seems to be offering a view often heard (from women in particular) that being looked at for the sake of sexual enjoyment in many social settings reflects a kind of objectification that is hurtful in part because it both reduces the personhood of the person being gazed upon (possibly to the point of degrading them or making them feel degraded) at the same time that it makes the person so objectified feel powerless under "that kind" of gaze from another.
    I find it interesting that "feelings" come into play in both cases: in the first case which I just mentioned, the suggestion is that viewing "that way" somehow damages the viewer, whereas in the second case it damages, injures, or contributes to a sense of insecurity on the part of the person who is so viewed.
    I do think that these kinds of arguments (often but not always advanced in a feminist context) deserve to be taken seriously. I would also welcome more female participation on this thread so that we might hear from more women, since these kinds of objections usually come from women.
    It is perhaps instructive also that a woman in love often does not want her man to be viewing other women "that way" and thus feels threatened by the male gaze when it is directed not at themselves but at other women. It seems pointless to tell persons that they should not feel threatened or demeaned. If they do, then they do.
    I even felt uneasy about posting those two pictures on this thread, even though one can see more much simply by selecting the "Nudes" category on the critique section at the top of the page (under the "Sharing" tab) and see many, many more photos of a similar nature. I am not sure that I can locate the source of my own unease (which I feel from time to time), but I do not think that it reflects a prudential concern on my part. I, too, at times sense that I should not at times be viewing a woman "that way," whether I am in love with someone else or not, whether I am indeed unconsciously "visually devouring" or debasing her in some way (to use the language that women sometimes use to try to convey the sensation of being so viewed qua objectified in certain contexts).
    These comments are not intended to be ethical arguments per se so much as reports which I can only characterize as "anthropological data." If a woman tells me that she feels threatened or debased, then that report is simply one more anthropological datum, but I do think that it merits being taken seriously. I would not want to dismiss too casually such claims where persons' feelings are concerned. The mere fact that one can always find women who do not have the same sensitivities or moral sensibilities proves nothing. Perhaps the ones who have retained that kind of sensitivity or sensibility are the ones most worthy of getting to know better. (I speak from a heterosexual perspective, but the arguments could be easily amended and offered from other perspectives.)
    I would not myself want to have my own love like too much the glances of other males--or enjoy too much the viewing of them in return--naked or clothed, in either case, in either direction. Again, my own feelings prove nothing but also are just a few more bits of anthropological data to be thrown into the mix for further ethical or other theoretical analysis .
    The "nature v. nurture" distinction which has figured in previous threads on related topics once again raises its head in these kinds of reflections: why do persons report having such feelings, if they do? Is it something which they have learned, or is it something which comes from their genetic nature, even if moderated and shaped by common norms in perhaps all societies worth living in? (I do not, for the record, see all this as a "male v. female" thing in and of itself.)
    The simple fact is that I would not want to hurt someone else's psyche or damage my own with regard to such things. I think that we seem to be getting a long way from discussions of art when we speak of such things, but perhaps not as far as we might think. In fact, it is possible that clarification of the effects of a certain type of viewing (or display) on persons' feelings is very much to the point of this thread.
  56. Grrrr ... I hate posting in the evening because I'm tired and I don't have time, but I have to straighten Lannie out before he goes too far with the "male domination" theme.
    You wish, Lannie ... In civilized or safe settings, I'd say it's more of an evenly matched power struggle. Women know how to arm themselves, to apply suitable war paint, tactics, strategies ... ; they surely know how to "handle your gaze" -- and if Lannie's not aware of that by his age ... [rolling eyes]
    The nude linked in the OP seems to me to have disarmed herself. To have (almost) given herself, without defense, to the viewer. That's unusual (with or without overt sexuality). Usually the woman is "presenting" in posture, in expression, in ... you should know what I mean -- or maybe some guys don't ??
    [Zack, feel free to argue with me any day. I hope you'll stay with this forum. And it was Potter Stewart who knew it when he saw it (not the brightest bulb in the court, but, oh never mind... I digress).]
  57. I have more questions than answers
    Can you provide a more detailed definition of "Trashy Nude",
    1. Can "trashy" be a genre or art, or by definition cannot be called art.
    2. Is it a pictorial representation of a human treated as an object rather than as a human, or in a harmful way
    3. If the subject is portrayed as "trashy" and is apparently treated as an object or in an apparent harmful way, for the purpose to portray how humans can treat others as objects or how they can harm others, would this be art? A shocking torture scene in a play on human rights abuse comes to mind or the Doneky Show at ART at Harvard.
    4. Is it simply the viewers reaction to the creation?
    5. Is it the creators view of the image - I suspect many creaters or images "pornographic" magazine consider themselves artists,
    6. If a group of people and the creator agreed that an image was trashy, not art. If Salvador Dali did semi realistic painting of the image, could it suddenly become art?
  58. Don, since there seems to be no objective standards on such matters, I would have to say that the "trashy nude" is in the eye of the beholder.
    That said, I think that I do indeed know it when I see it.
  59. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panda_pornography . A long shot from art, but our art can only exist, if we exist. Something with close ties to our existence and survival is surely going to wreak havoc about our ideas of art in a related field...
    Spock: (to McCoy) Doctor, I am emotionally compromised and no longer fit for command...
  60. Curiosity.
    In looking at nude photographs, what about the role of simple curiosity for/about fellow creatures of our fellow kind of flesh? In our alienated, ever more compartmentalized, covered, concealed, protected, wary ... distant society, what about simply wanting to explore, share, empathize with the fleshly being-in-ness of other people? Because women (for men) are so especially out of reach, one is especially curious about what they're like as compared to what your own fleshly experience is like.
    I'm just guessing, but when reading several posts above that say things like, "I have never felt any sexual response from any of the images I have observed." [Kevin Snider Jul 28, 2011; 01:34 p.m. -- who was moved to make a very rare post to this forum because he feels this so distinctly to be true -- and I thank him for that] -- I am reminded of the three John Coplans books I have. All nude self-portraits of his lumpen 70+ year old body in every kind of position and contortion. If I've had any sexual response to Coplans, you'd need a nano-detector to find it -- but I love these photos because I get to look and look -- in an empathetic, sympathetic, but also sometimes a "good grief!" ish way at a very fellow being in a very (despite age, weight and gender difference) fellow kind of flesh. We are tribal beasts; clustering, grooming, touch-emoting surely are natural inclinations aside from sex/mating.
    In this context, sex and sexual arousal are precisely the problem. They are what prevent one from looking, touching, exploring those living people all around you but ever at a distance (and covered and defended) about whom you are curious. Thus the non-sexual enjoyment of nudes in photographs or other kinds of art. Maybe?
    My entry in the "what's a trashy nude?" would be that it's one that (you think) is lying to you. He/she (or whoever is in the picture) is conveying powers, intentions, desires, promises that you feel are BS.
  61. ... and/or, continuing on my "what's a trashy nude?" entry, even worse, it's not lying. The nude in the picture calls to, pointedly implies, points to, that in the viewer that he/she won't admit to having. This makes the viewer unhappy.
  62. I'm gathering from the discussion that a nude in a photograph isn't experienced by the viewer as art when it violates the viewer's sensibilities somehow. It may nevertheless be art though, and I'm looking for a definte definition of art, and am beginning to suspect that there isn't one. I say it may nevertheless be art because I've found that a nude photograph that may have originally touched my sensibilites the wrong way, upon self-reflection, no longer did so: and I'm then more comfortable with myself for the inner process. I understand from all the above that there are contexts in the creation and in the viewing. So here: http://www.photo.net/photo/11261712 there is a treatment that has some context as to how nudes have been presented in art in the past, and my context in viewing is that it seems well balanced and has nice light, kind of making me forget that the model is unclad. Seems very natural though obviously it isn't for being conceptualized and posed.
  63. First off, I want to thank you Lannie. Both for the compliment, and for starting this thread. I'm starting an MFA in photography program in Monday believe it or not, and I have been extremely worried about it. The chair basically told me, "We put you in because of your work ethic, and because you're different (more commercial, it seems) than your classmates." Which on one hand, reads, 'you're different, good job.' On the other hand, it also could read, 'you're different, good luck.' I can't tell you how much it means to me to receive an unsolicited comment from another excellent photographer. Thank you.
    Fred, I do think The Birth of Venus is sexual. Ish. Thanks for reminding me that italics exist, btw. However, I think the innocence trumps the sexuality. To me, the fact that she is about to be covered up tells me that she's not overly concerned about it herself. Sure she's covering her bits, but she doesn't look like she's overly bothered about the whole thing. She's not covering herself with clothing or with a fig leaf or any other object than what God (or Zeus? What's the Roman version of Zeus again?) gave her. I think that societally, Venus is covering herself because she needs to. Venus herself doesn't need to of course, but if Botticelli doesn't want to be burned alive he needs her to cover herself. I think you are totally correct in that innocence, like yin, cannot exist without at least the implication of sexuality, its yang. Where we disagree though is that I feel that the yin in this image is walking all over the yang, which is basically there because it has to be.
    But again, that argument depends on arbitrarily drawn line. And thanks, Julie, for pointing our Mr. Stewart as the judge who 'knows it when he sees it.' I'm picturing Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith goes to Washington right now, but no matter :)
    Lannie, objectification has become and extremely hard thing to pin down in the last few years. Really, ever since the idea of Postmodern thinking. In the 1920s, if you bought a picture of a naked lady, she was being objectified. There was really no other way of looking at it. But today, if you buy a girlie mag, the subject knows she is being objectified. More importantly, those who do porn may be doing it because they see it as a way to make a living, and not a last-ditch effort to get into showbiz. I forget the title, but Netflix has a very interesting documentary by Michael Grecco on pornstars. Some of these women do porn because they know they can be paid for, essentially, being extremely good-looking. I would argue that in a Postmodern society, those women are not being objectified. If anything, the dudes that pay them, buy their magazines and DVDs, or whatnot are the ones being objectified.
    Don, 'trashy art' is not a line I am prepared to draw. Personally, I don't feel Ed Hardy or the dirtier parts of Mappelthorpe's catalog is 'fine art.' I wouldn't say it isn't art though. I really like Banksy, and I wouldn't call his work 'fine art' either. To me though, the word 'fine' implies a distinction. To me, 'art' is subective, and can be argued. 'Fine art' is that which is more-or-less universally agreed upon. This distiction is only for myself and my own thought process though.
    Kevin mentioned his own experiences, and I think it's only fair that I should mention mine, since thay have so much to do with my opinions. I very rarely shoot nudes - in fact, I have only shot four women nude whom I was not 'intimate' with. And really, only two of those women were actually supposed to be nude; the other two had a nipple slip or somesuch in there somewhere, and we just sort of went with it.
    Personally, I always get nervous and blushy when I shoot nudes. I didn't realize my upbringing was so waspy until a few years ago, but this explains it. This is probably why I have difficulty shooting women nude that I'm not already 'intimate' with. Looking at my photos, I see that even the women I wasn't intimate with that were relaxed and confident about taking off their clothing do not appear as relaxed in most of the images as the ones that I was intimate with. It's obvious that here, the photographer's perspective influences the final result as much as the posing and lighting do.
    Also, in reviewing my post, I see more waspiness. I went way to far to avoid using the term 'having sex.'
  64. t seems well balanced and has nice light, kind of making me forget that the model is unclad.

    Charles, this observation of yours about a particular photo gets to the crux of what impelled me to start this thread in the first place. I have noticed over the years that the nudes that I admired the most as art drew my attention to other than body parts. I am not saying that an adolescent seeing such a nude for the first time would be indifferent to the display of body parts, nor that I always would in all possible moods, but the display of the naked form certainly can be done in such a way that the fact that the model is naked seems almost irrelevant. This is a great paradox for me, and I shall never fully understand it, but what you have said certainly resonates with me.
    As for defining "art" in general, I have almost given up on that one. Perhaps it is a curious philosophical exercise that we are engaged in, such that we cannot even define the core terms, but I still think that philosophical reflection on such matters can be useful and fruitful, even though there never seem to be firm conclusions that we can draw.
    I do think that philosophy at its core is about conversation, and, though there are typically implicit rules for philosophical conversation ("do not attack persons," "do not try to win a debate," etc.), the most important general rule (in my opinion) is that one should say only that which keeps the conversation alive. After all, philosophers today are still trying to answer Socrates' question "What is justice?" I do not even know that we have come a long way in answering that question, but I feel very strongly that the question needs to be asked and that we must continue to think about it.
    In like manner, in discussions of (a)esthetics, one knows at the beginning that one might not arrive at a hard and fast answer. Even so, the conversation is worth having, and one comes away from a really good philosophical conversation feeling that one is somehow the better for having engaged in it, that one has gained a certain perspective on the topic (or on human nature itself) that helps one cope with the real world. I like to say (although it is not original with me) that "there is nothing more practical than theory."
    In any case, I think that truly civilized persons do not flinch when certain topics are raised, and only through rational, non-titillating conversation and analysis is this possible where topics involving nudity and sexuality are concerned.
    In the instant case, the photo that impelled you to say that you forgot that the model was unclad must have something about it besides the naked form. What that "something" is is of course the elusive "something" that we are no doubt seeking in all art, even if we cannot quite put our finger on what it is. An artistic photo (of any subject) has "a certain something" that resonates with at least one viewer in such a way, I believe, that the viewer is left edified by it. If we could find something that resonated with all persons, we would have discovered something rare indeed, but I am not sure that such an entity even exists. That "fact" (if it be fact) does not keep me from looking for it.
  65. Thank you for the kind words, Zach. I hope that your MFA goes well. Unless you run into some kind of control freak, you will probably be quite happy and productive. Graduate schools are typically full of prima donnas, but they can usually be endured or avoided to some extent. Control freaks who want to make their vision your vision can be a lot more difficult to deal with. (Try to stay civil, as I had a hard time doing upon going back to grad school at the age of fifty-four in a very different field from my earlier graduate studies. I never got my M.A. in Spanish literature as a result, but I refused to kowtow to intellectual imperialism. I am sure that I could have handled it all better, but it is just as well that I finally just took what I learned from the program and went back to what I had been teaching since the 1970s. I was richer as a result of having been in the program, and how many letters does one need after one's name, after all? Sour grapes? Maybe, but I am okay with the outcome now, years later.)
    On another note, in responding to Fred, you said that "I think you are totally correct in that innocence, like yin, cannot exist without at least the implication of sexuality, its yang." Opposing "innocence" to "sexuality" has always troubled me, since it strongly suggests that sexuality is not or cannot be innocent. Perhaps that is the legacy of the Genesis account of the beginnings of human shame: being aware that they were naked made Adam and Eve feel ashamed, so the story goes, and so they had to leave Eden. Even as allegory, the account is not without its difficulties. Its legacy lives on nonetheless. How it got tangled up with sexuality is still beyond me, unless that is what it was about all along.
  66. As for the larger question of "what makes a nude art"... I think it's largely in how UNimportant any erotic or sexual appeal of the subject being nude is to the overall work. It's much more how the shape and shading of the body interact with the lighting, the background, and maybe to some extend how jarring the juxtaposition of the nude subject is when related to the setting or action going on in the rest of the picture.
    I am not saying that an adolescent seeing such a nude for the first time would be indifferent to the display of body parts, nor that I always would in all possible moods, but the display of the naked form certainly can be done in such a way that the fact that the model is naked seems almost irrelevant.​
    There are likely nudes where light and shape are as important or even more important than the nudity and body per se. (Of course, the light would be reflecting off the body and the shape would be there because of the body, but let's just say in some instances the nude is not primarily about nudity or the body.)
    The flip side of that is that I am certain that many artists and photographers are not in denial, not uncomfortable with nudity itself or sexuality, and not into either transcending the nudity and body or obfuscating what they're doing. They are fully aware of and in touch with both the nudity and the sexuality of their nudes and that's exactly what they're portraying . . . nudity and body, and in many cases, sexuality.
    Many artists and viewers are not trying to clothe these things in something else.
  67. I appreciate Julie's addition of curiosity as a motivating factor. I hadn't really thought about that and it seems quite pertinent. I'll add that it's not only about what's out of reach. Men's bodies are within reach to me and I still enjoy and employ that curiosity I think Julie is getting at, though it may be somewhat different than the dynamic between males and females. I've often thought of doing a series exploring whether there would be a difference in how I might handle gay male nudes and how I might handle straight male nudes, which might deal to some extent with a kind of out-of-reachness.
    I also empathize with Julie's not feeling particularly sexually aroused by the photos of Coplans. My reaction to nudes is often not sexual as well, or at least not as overtly or decidedly sexual. At the same time, I have photographed men over 60 where the sexual component was very much at play for the photographing and I think many viewers would feel that as well.
    What's great about photographing is the myriad of possibilities to explore even with the same subjects or subject matter. I am much more into exploring those possibilities than assuming certain limitations to what's "art," be it a nude body or a chair or a landscape.
  68. "[W]hat's a trashy nude?" . . . The nude in the picture calls to, pointedly implies, points to, that in the viewer that he/she won't admit to having. This makes the viewer unhappy.​
    And once again, Julie gets to the crux of much of this thread.
  69. Fred, I think that you are right in much of what you say, and I am not even sure that we should (except in jest) refer to certain body parts as "naughty bits." Are they inherently naughty? If so, why?
    I still find it to be the case, however, that the most powerful nudes for me have typically not been the most explicit ones, for whatever reason. The most erotic views of women are also (for me) those in which the woman is still clothed. (This implies to me that covering them up to varying degrees does nothing quite so much as whet our appetites all the more--nor is that necessarily a bad thing.) Curiosity does indeed drive us, but we also can be intrigued (perhaps energized) by a sense of mystery, even modesty. I do not want to overstate the case, nor do I want to deny the erotic content of many powerful (and artistic) nudes. I simply want to clarify my own position somewhat.
    As for the element of forgetfulness (as to either what one is seeing or what one is showing), I have always been intrigued by the naturists and their own curious attempts to (one presumes) capture "lost innocence." (There is that 'i' word again. What does it mean in this context?) There is what one might even call the genre of "naturist art," which is usually composed of a group of snapshots and would therefore be dreadful art at best; but the viewing of such snaps nonetheless might give some limited insight on these matters.
    http://www.terra.es/personal/arealo/ (See the "Albums.")
    What is striking to me in such photos is the capacity of adults to quickly forget that they are unclothed and thereby displaying their "naughty bits" without any self-consciousness whatsoever. All of this suggests to me that, whatever evils may derive from lustful and sexual behaviors (and I shall not try to catalog them here), those evils probably do not derive from nudity per se. Nor are those evil propensities banished by draping ourselves very modestly from head to toe. One might even infer (correctly or incorrectly) that there is nothing inherently evil in the public display of the body, whether formally in art or informally in play on the beach. Perhaps I am mistaken on this point, but one gets the sense that "nurture" has completely won out over "nature" on this one--and that we just might be the worse for it. I have noticed that the indigenous tribes of the Amazon rainforest have stable relationships and family structures in spite of their lack of clothing--and they are not promiscuous, either. Is there a lesson there for those of us who are presumably more "civilized"?
    Perhaps a line from a song from the Woodstock generation conveys the aspiration to be free of sexual guilt (as manifested in its symptoms through the making of more and more rules governing nudity and sexuality): "We have got to get ourselves back to the Garden."
    That being impossible, on the other hand (since I am quite sure that the Garden never existed except perhaps in the allegorical sense of the "innocence" of pre-sexual childhood, if then), what do we do to regain our sense of perspective on such matters? I have no idea except to say that there is perhaps a reason that raising these issues or linking to nude pictures disturbs some persons: society as we know it does indeed seem to be threatened by the open airing of these issues. I am not sure why. I am not sure that the given order is so sacred or perfect that I am deeply troubled by the prospect of such an eventuality as its final (but gradual and peaceful) demise.
    If, on the other hand, a degree of romanticism is to be our redemption, in both our personal relationships and in derivative social institutions, then perhaps clothes perform a subtle psychological function that I do not fully understand. I am still not sure that I want my beloved to go traipsing around naked on the beach, much less on city streets, but is that a reflection of the moral impulse, or mere possessiveness and insecurity? I really am not sure, although I was sure (and very insecure) when I was twenty years old--and I did love her, and the thought of others seeing her was horrifying. Have I lost something? Have I gained something?
    I have heard it said that the fact that a person thinks about something a great deal indicates that he or she is disturbed by it. So maybe I am just disturbed! If so, let it be noted that I am still unashamed, and I am not yet to the point of Mark Vonnegut that I am running around the block naked to free myself from the shackles of our Puritan capitalist order, as Mark reports having done during his bouts of total insanity near the end of his magnificent autobiography, The Eden Express.
    In any case, I do not apologize that this issue disturbs me--as an intellectual issue, of course. Ninety-five plus percent of my writings is about politics and ethics--and especially about violence and its alternatives. Now, there (violence!) is an issue that really disturbs me--not only intellectually but emotionally. My response to that disturbance has been to write my own (inadequate) tract on pacifism. I am not quite prepared to offer my own naturist manifesto, if only because I think that the naturists see only part of the truth. Clothes do, I think, perform a social function apart from hygiene and protection from the elements. Besides, one thing that continues to enthrall me more than seeing my beloved undraped is process of undraping her myself--from which I infer the paradoxical conclusion that clothes might actually heighten our sense of sexuality, as well as our moral sensibilities regarding sexuality. I really am not at all sure, but there is something mysterious at work here in the way that the mind functions in all issues relating to sexuality and nudity.
    In any case, please forgive this extended digression into general social theory. I simply think that the answers are ultimately to be found in relating our responses to the nude (as an art form) to our responses to sexuality and nudity in culture. In spite of the many words above, I must finally join Socrates near the end of his life and admit that I know nothing.
  70. ." Are they inherently naughty? If so, why?"
    Naughty bits can and do stimulate certain hormonule responses.. the breeding areas of our species. This is considerd to be wicked in many cultures and can lead to loose sex without commitement from either partner. The word generally used for such acts is "lust". Once we started wearing clothes and religion became a major influence..well, we know the story. In some cultures the dispay of an ankle can be considered a naughty bit which can lead to lustful desires.
    Nudes like any other type of photography if it's done with talent can reach a place which transends into what we call Art.
    Interestingly, there was a nude bike ride through London which after a few cursory glances most folks just ignored.
  71. Yes, the display of the ankle was considered indecent around the turn of the twentieth century. Upper arms of women are not displayed in some cultures. In other cultures the entire face must be covered except for slits for the eyes. (I guess that means that a nose poking through the wrong hole in the garment would be considered a "naughty bit.")
    None of this would suggest to me that any particular part of the body must be or ought to be considered "naughty" in and of itself. The entire body (or parts thereof) can be an erogenous zone. Some female paraplegics report orgasms, even though they cannot detect stimulation of their genitalia. (One theory "implicates" the vagus nerve as the link to the brain in such cases, but the source and nature of the stimulus are not so easily located, nor always the same.)
    Even "lust" (or, more precisely, what evokes lust) is largely contextual.
    It seems clear enough to me that convention (and concomitant cultural socialization or "nurture") has trumped nature where the issue of what is considered suggestive or lust-inducing is concerned. It seems to be thereby fruitless to try to define which parts of the body are inherently indecent or "naughty."
    It thereby also seems fruitless and arbitrary to say which parts of the body must be covered up. Lust is a matter of the heart and soul, not just the body, and so the only successful approach to its regulation is self-control involving certain norms of behavior which the individual internalizes for himself or herself. Attempts to impose these norms through external devices and extrinsic incentives are largely ineffectual.
  72. Has anyone considered in the discussions so far - to which I have paid only moderate attention (a well worn road..) as it comes up so often and provides the same answers (notwithstanding a few this time that push the envelope a bit further) - that we are so fascinated by the human body (our own, those of others) that we are unable to consider it, or representations of it, in the same manner we consider other things that we mentally or physically contemplate and which are more at arms length to us?
    I think we usually react sexually as well as aesthetically (as well as repugnantly in some cases) to the bodies of others, in proportions that vary quite a bit, whether the person is known or unknown to us, and I see no controversy or mystery in that. On the other hand, a successful nude is difficult to come by, just like a successful portrait is also no easy task. There is always something missing for the viewer, if only because we have highly subjective views of what we want to see in another (and in ourselves), especially when we go beyond the sexual thought to the aesthetic one or one which communicates to us as very specific individuals.
    We seem to agree more about what constitutes a powerful photojournalistic image or landscape or mood image. Why are there so few nude images of men. If the aim of the nude is to communicate sexual and aesthetic qualities, you would think that something like 50% of viewers would appreciate male nudes. But that field is mainly empty for a large part of the population. Nudes are often less suggestive in a sexual sense than the clothed human, as we are able to imagine what is not shown. Nudes can have as much or more potential in an aesthetic presentation, as clothing does not interfere with the form of the body. It is usually easier to show the different faces of a building or inanimate object than a nude body, because we are not faced with as highly charged a reaction of the viewer, or the captivity of the photographer. Maybe if animals could photograph humans we might start to see ourselves in a less subjective or perceptually flawed sense?
    (Maybe not much food for thought, and no doubt uncorrected orthography (in all its nudity), but I have to get out to a r-v with some friends).
  73. I'm going to offer my thoughts on the Tree of Life and innocence/sexuality discussion. I hope this will add to the main discussion. rather than cause another tangent.
    According to various parts of the bible (and my apologies for not knowing passages, or even which Testamentl I've familiar, but not an expert) the reproductive organs are only for reproduction. We are to go forth and be fruitful, but we are not supposed to enjoy it. If sex was a universally unenjoyable event, I don't think that genitalia would be seen as even remotely taboo in any culture. Before eating from the Tree of Life, Adam and Eve obviously knew that had genitals. They may or may not have known that they were for reproduction, but they knew they were there. In eating from the Tree of Life, one of the things learned was the (physiological) role of genitals: pleasure. In learning this, Adam and Even also learned that these parts were 'special.' Arguments can be made that they covered themselves to protect those parts, to help prevent others from having power over them through the objectification of their bodies, or to have power over others by, basically, being a tease. I don't think any one of these is a bad argument, or is better than the others.
    But for a non-religious version, look at children. Young children, even those old enough to know that boys have a penis and girls have a vagina, have no trouble being naked. Little girls like to lift their dresses, and little boys are oddly fast at removing their shoes and pants. I don't know if children do this outside of the West, but it sure as hell happens here. As children get older though, and begin to explore their bodies, that behaviour changes. They may not yet understand the concept of sex or masturbation, but they stop getting naked in public around the same time that they learn that 'that tickles,' and little boys stop taking off their shirts at every opportunity right around then too. Sure there are a LOT of guys that still walk around shirtless in the summer, but they stop trying to take off their shirts (and, more symbolically, their shoes) every time you turn around at about that point.
    We'd need a pretty big international sample to call the nature/nurture debate here, but I think it's safe to say that a lot of the shame that comes with realization is ingrained in our DNA.
    To bring it back around, this is why I say that sexuality is the opposite of innocence. I think that other things can be the opposite of innocence too, but that is how I define sexuality. I think that, at least on a Freudian level, a good deal of other acts are the result of our sexual urges. Violence can be a result of hatred, but it can also be a subconsious acting-out of one person's desire to prove he his better than another, and thus a more suitable mate. Men, ask yourself this: have you ever thought, "Man, I'd love to kick his smug ass right in front of his girlfriend"? This is sexual violence. You may not be sexually interested in the girlfriend at all, but it is sexual in that you would be beating up on this guy to show that he is a weaker man, and thus a worse mate than you are. If you really weren't interested in his girlfriend, you might even hope she got a little rise out of it so that you could snub her.
    I'm not above admitting that I was in that exact situation a few years back. I had a messy breakup, and bumped into the ex and her new fling at a bar. He had a few drinks in him, and was pushing me around and telling me how she was his now. Thankfully I was with my own new fling at the time and she wasn't even remotely cool with fighting, because I'm honestly not sure I could have taken him. He was pretty drunk, but he was also a lot bigger than me :)
    I hope these examples illuminate why - to me at least - innocence and sexuality are like yin and yang.
    I also want to agree with Julie on a point: I also think that some clothing is often more sexually alluring (lustful) than no clothing. From an evolutionary standpoint, human beings, both male and female, are hunters. We are also pack animals, and pack animals seek dominance over others to be alpha. A sexually suggestive clothed figure provides some element of the hunt or the chase; something that must be conquered. A nude figure provides none of that.
    From a non-evolutionary standpoint, a cothed figure also provides more mystique. As anyone who has dated for any length of time can tell you, we've all had at least one instance were we were attracted to someone, we got their clothes off, and ... oh. "Well, that wasn't quite what I expected."
    Clothing allows us to make up the features that we find most attractive, while a full nude just tells it like it is. If he has a beer belly, or if she's too skinny, then that's just the way it is.
  74. Arthur, since we cannot seem to deduce what makes for a truly artistic nude, perhaps we would do well to proceed inductively: find some truly artistic nudes and do some serious analysis into what makes them great--in the same way that nude paintings or sculpture have been analyzed. Something like that is ostensibly what is being done on the photo forums, but, if so, then it is not typically being done very well. (One more likely gets "Well done!" or "Congratulations.," although not always in so many words.)
    Even so, if we did pursue an inductive approach, I believe that we would find that examples offered as ostensibly "great artistic nudes" would likely involve quite a range of styles as well as quite a range of erotic content. In other words, though I have spent a lot of time trying to establish that the nude form is not considered inherently sexual across all cultures (more precisely, not to the same degree in all cultures), the appeal of the nude for most persons is admittedly linked to the erotic content. That is for me a simple (but obvious) admission that most persons do not view nudes for their artistic value, but solely for their erotic content. This realization is a bit disconcerting to me, even if it is obvious, since the last thing that I wanted to do was to start a thread that might come to be an analysis of what makes for "artistic porn " I am sickened by that very thought, although I do not doubt that the best sellers of soft porn on the web have tried to come up with some formula for doing precisely that--make porn more interesting and beautiful and therefore more enticing, under the rubric of being more "wholesome" and less pornographic. It is yet porn, in spite of the superficial makeover. When one considers that the etymology for "porn" is closely related to the ancient Greek biblical concept of porneia, the word for illicit or even evil sexual behavior, one wants to distance oneself from both the material and label increasingly given to it.
    As for your point about male nudes, I think that we are not likely to see much change there due to the fact that eros and aesthetics appear to be strongly related where appreciation of the human form is concerned--even when we are not conscious of it. (This observation would apply to the covered or dressed figure, not only the nude one.) Therefore we can probably expect most males not to be too interested in photographs of males, even though we all acknowledge that a pure appreciation of light and form would surely make it possible to appreciate the beauty of a form for which we feel no sexual attraction.
    I keep thinking that Luis G. will weigh in with some insights, given his considerable knowledge of art history and criticism, but Luis has pretty much dismissed the issue up front with the statement that what makes a nude into art is "the same thing that makes a portrait, landscape, street view, architectural, etc. into art. The nude is not exclusive in this sense."
    I am not satisfied with that conclusion, but one has to concede that Luis might be right and that there is very little more to be said. I actually think that there is much more to be said, but, given my own inadequate background in photographic art history, I am coming up pretty dry at this point.
  75. We'd need a pretty big international sample to call the nature/nurture debate here, but I think it's safe to say that a lot of the shame that comes with realization is ingrained in our DNA.​
    Zack, that is the view that I have been arguing against, but clearly I could be wrong. I shall have to rethink. You have certainly identified the crux of the question.
    I'm pretty much "written out" for tonight!
  76. I'm noticing something. This discussion gets progressively more and more academic and intellectual. Not that there's anything wrong with that if that's the direction desired. The original question was a photographic one, however. What makes the nude photograph "art"? It might be worthwhile to consider actual photographic qualities and mechanisms that we use when working with nude subjects. The rest is certainly of interest, but also feels like a safe escape from a tough photographic subject.
    I'll work the Greeks in here, since male nudity has been mentioned. They were much more open both to homosexuality and to images and statues of nude men. What's up with that? But that question is likely fodder for a Classics or Ancient Philosophy class. To tie it to photography, I've for a long time noticed that many traditional photographs of male nudes (and especially work by gay commercial photographers) adopt that Greek look and pose, pretty much as a cliché and almost as if there's no other acceptable way. It's kind of been the default in many ways. It's one of the reasons I resist going in that direction in my own work, and when I have gone in that direction I do it with an awareness, I hope. It's actually one of the reasons I've moved away from the kind of objective shape/form/light approach to nudity that's being discussed in this thread and am much more interested in exploring narratives, staging, and story-telling with my nudes, including the relationship I feel personally to both sexuality and sexual orientation. I am conscious of working with social commentary relative to male bodies (particularly aging ones) as well.
    So, a very short answer to the original question about what makes a nude photograph art is understanding and absorbing but also going beyond the default or traditional approach. I think that works for other subjects like landscapes and houses and portraits as well.
  77. [Clarification]: The above final paragraph is, indeed, a short answer and just a beginning. There are many more photographic considerations to working with nudes, of course. I just thought I'd start a photographic ball rolling with something from my own experience of working with male nudes.
    Arthur, what you say rings a bell for me (that we are unable to consider the human body in ways similar to other subjects). My mind goes to intimacy. We have such an intimate relationship with our own and others' bodies that its uniqueness and fascination for us makes sense. Which leads me to another photographic question? If we do feel an intimacy with the human body, how do we photograph that or convey or establish that in a photograph? That might help answer Lannie's question as well. What photographic mechanisms can we use to express this intimacy we feel?
  78. I'm noticing something. This discussion gets progressively more and more academic and intellectual.​
    As I said half a page ago... we don't want to be too personal... Do you really expect some to admit they liked the lighting and composition in "Vampire Sorority Babes" or "Attack of the Coed Cannibals"?
  79. Do you really expect some to admit they liked the lighting and composition in "Vampire Sorority Babes" or "Attack of the Coed Cannibals"?​
    Don't know about that. But I would like to hear some of the different ways people approach creating nude photographs and why. Or why they don't create nude photographs and whether that's an active and purposeful decision or just not an interest.
  80. Lannie, we probably shouldn't dismiss the female reaction to nudes (female or male) as they are an equally important part of the viewing audience. If I'm not mistaken, you referred mainly to the male reaction to male nudes. Some of the best photographers of the female nude are women., While I am not impressed with all her work (non nude), Bettina Rheims has done in my mind a few really impressive female nudes (providing an idea of the woman in an intimate way and some organic sensuality and nuanced eroticism), just as a number of male photographers have done very fine male nudes. I find it hard sometimes to separate erotic and aesthetic messages, as often the artistic nude cannot be fully appreciated fully without triggering some small or miore important erotic reaction in the viewer. That is far from being porn in my mind, and just a normal human response.
    The way we view seems to depend upon national cultural and micro-cultural (various groups within a nation) outlooks, as well as trodden historical traditions. It may not be a good example, but women breast feeding in public of babies in many European countries rarely receives any negative reaction, and is considered quite everyday and normal, whereas the chance of a negative public reaction is more pronounced in my own overall culture (Canada) and I would imagine also in the US. That perception of nudity which may have an effect on how some look at our own bodies, and whether that may have an effect or not in seeing the human body in an artistic image.
    Fred, I feel you are right in suggesting that context can be very important (story-telling, symbolism, intimateness, fantasy, etc.) in artistic nudes and that it depends a lot on why the nude is part of the image, central or not, and what relation it has to the rest of the image. His wondering about how we, who are very familiar with our own bodies - perhaps sometimes too familiar to be really creative or non-cliché? We seem to have set up some paradigms of vision that seem to control our approach to that - can effectively approach the photographing of that with which we are so involved, is capable of opening up an interesting avenue of discussion.
    Edward Muggeridge (I realize his name is wrongly spelt here) investigated the human body in locomotion, using multiple photographs, and while his work is informative, often elegant, it is academic and possibly mostly not meant as artistic statements. But he did one thing that we should be able to do, given our intimacy with our own bodies. He looked at the human body in a way that had not been done before.
    How many nudes are photographed directly above and looking down? Could that work in terms of some context of emotion, symbolism, interaction with other subject matter, etc.? Or the opposite angle, below, using a Brandtian deformation of perspective? Why? What for, one may ask? That is just part of the equation to develop, of course, and to confirm in an artistic rather than mechanistic sense. The familiarity with one's body should really allow us some insight into novel ways of repreesenting it, and its surroundings, that might confer on the image some artistic quality. One doesn't need to go to extremes, of course. Some of the younger Weston's (Cole?) photographs of nudes in a swimming pool are aesthetic, as is the simple but beautifully balanced nude portrait of Weston's mistress (Charis) in her ground seated position with intertwined limbs, or the simplicity and force of the reclining nubile nude of Emmanuel Bravo. Common but effectively used positions of the human body, quite remote from a more static Playboy centerfold. Knowing our bodies well should allow us the freedom to attempt novel approaches to exploring their beauty or mystery, interacting in novel ways with other subject matter to heighten the overall visual communication. The high percentage of banal photographs of nudes possibly suggests that we are either imprisoned by our inflexible viewpoints or too close to our subject matter to wish to think creatively about it, rather than applying either classical or more contemporary but too well trodden approaches. A part of what is art is its uniqueness.
  81. Lannie, we probably shouldn't dismiss the female reaction to nudes (female or male) as they are an equally important part of the viewing audience. If I'm not mistaken, you referred mainly to the male reaction to male nudes. Some of the best photographers of the female nude are women.​
    Arthur, I am sorry that I somehow edited out a portion of what I had written which argued along a similar line to yours. My point originally was that more heterosexual women do photos of women nudes than men do of men. I am sorry for the deletion and subsequent confusion.
    In the part that I accidentally edited out, I also argued that the fact that heterosexual women often shoot other women indicates that sexual attraction is not likely to be a factor--there is simply an appreciation for light and form, so to speak. (I think that that last line survived the editing somehow.)
    I also (for the record) have long argued that eros plays a role in aesthetics, even when it is not a matter of conscious intent. There is, of course, a great psychological distance between admiring a woman's form and using the image for the sake of explicit sexual stimulation, in my opinion. Not everything that has an erotic component is porn. My larger point is that we as straight males notice and appreciate women, whether they are nude or not. I am not sure that taking off that last flimsy layer of clothing has quite the significance that our culture places upon it.
  82. Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Jul 30, 2011; 12:15 a.m.
    ... Common but effectively used positions of the human body, quite remote from a more static Playboy centerfold ...​
    Arthur, you may be surprised to know just how much strength and strain is required to hold some of those poses. As you know, what looks natural in two dimensions to the camera may not be natural in real life.
    Of course, taking the time to set up fifteen lights sort of points back towards the 'static' argument :)
  83. heterosexual women often shoot other women indicates that sexual attraction is not likely to be a factor--there is simply an appreciation for light and form, so to speak​
    That heterosexual women may not have a sexual attraction to other women (and I think that's even a false assumption in some cases) doesn't mean that sexuality itself can't play a role. One can photograph and view sexually without having a sexual attraction. I can often feel the sexuality of photographs of women quite strongly even though I am not, per se, sexually attracted to women. Were I to photograph women more, I would certainly be on the lookout for a sexual component. I also find myself often very attracted to a woman's sexuality even though I am not sexually attracted to the woman. A lot of men probably couldn't relate to feeling attracted to another man's sexuality (as opposed to feeling a sexual attraction), mostly because they've learned to be hung up about getting too close to such things. People, however, are very multi-dimensional. "Heterosexual" and "homosexual" aren't nearly as cut and dry as they might seem.
    And, even in cases where there is no sexual component (which is different from a sexual attraction) there can be other things beside an appreciation of light and form. There's energy. There's passion. There's intimacy. There's narrative. There's mystery. There's empathy. There's identification . . .
  84. Arthur, I meant to add also that I do not consider the undraped human form to be inherently indecent in the least--except by reference to existing cultural norms. In any case, the scantily clad figure is often much more titillating than the totally nude form, in my opinion. In other words, our common criteria for adjudging this or that mode of dress as decent or indecent have been remarkably arbitrary--and both historically and culturally relative, in my opinion. Even so, I do believe that we might be into some complicated psychological territory here, and I reserve the right to change my mind. I am also aware that my writings earlier this evening might not have been totally consistent with what I have written before. I am still searching about to find a coherent view that is defensible.
    Tomorrow I hope to relate all of this back to Zack's view about a possible genetic basis for shame. If there is such a genetic basis, it certainly requires at the very least reflexive rationality and concomitant self-consciousness. How far it goes beyond that I do not know, but surely the fact that we do not have very much shame about the body before puberty suggests the possibility of some kind of continuing psycho-social development in the brain and in human behavior, moral sentiments, etc. This is all very tortuous and treacherous philosophical territory, however, in my opinion.
  85. You're right, of course, Fred. I made some hasty and inaccurate generalizations. What you have said is much more nearly defensible, I sincerely believe. As for gay and straight, I am quite certain that nothing is at all cut and dried where sexual orientation is concerned, and especially where women are concerned (from what I am told). I am no expert on such matters, of course, although finding out that my daughter was gay has impelled me to want to inquire into these issues in greater depth--as well as to be more careful about my pronouncements.
  86. A good description of woman's bodily experience is given by Vivian Sobchack in her book, The Address of the Eye: A Phenomenology of Film Experience (1992). The qoute within her text is taken from an essay by Iris M. Young, Throwing Like a Girl: A Phenomenology of Feminine Body Comportment, Motility, and Spatiality (1990):
    "… [Young] says, “An essential part of the situation of being a woman is that of living the ever present possibility that one will be gazed upon as a mere body, as shape and flesh that presents itself as the potential object of another subject’s intentions and manipulations, rather than as a living manifestation of action and intention.” … The feminine body is introceptively lived out less as “myself, my psyche” than as “me, my thing.” Thus, as a “thing,” it can be appropriated and possessed by others or it can be self-possessed. It has a “place” in which it is kept, positioned by others or protected and preserved for itself."​
    Note that she and I am not claiming that this is necessarily bad/good. However, women know this about how their bodies are perceived. Consequences or used of that knowledge work in many directions.
    [Random observation: In medical schools, when students are uncomfortable cutting up a person, I'm told that it is sufficient to cover the face and the hands to turn it from a person into a body.]
    Zack, I'm not the one who said anything about clothes adding to the allure of the otherwise nude body (I think it might have been Fred) but I'll support you with the following, taken from a footnote in Mary Roach's book Bonk:
    "In 1998, a woman in Saline, Michigan, received a patent for a Decorative Penile Wrap intended to 'heighten sexual arousal of a male and female prior to intercourse.' The patent includes three pages of drawings, including a penis wearing a ghost outfit, another in the robes of the Grim Reaper, and one dressed up to look like a snowman. I tried to call the examiner listed on the patent, Michael A. Brown, but he has left the U.S. Patent and Trade Office. And who can blame him."​
    Also, the Tree of Life is, I believe, more correctly called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
  87. Further ...
    Is the porn/art divide (fluid (!) though it be) found in the genitals or the face? Is it in Masters and Johnson's vaginal movie camera or the gynocologists speculum, or is it in the gaping mouth and rolled eyes of the/a face?
    When looking at a photograph of a sculpture of the Arcadian goat-god of lust (Pan) having sex with a goat [Pan and Goat from the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, Roman 1st century C.E.], I first study the very evident penis entering the rear-end of the recumbant goat. Hmmmm... but then I look at the face of Pan to see if this is really sex. Yes, his face does seem to be correspondingly expressive. (The goat has a rather resigned look on its face.)
    When looking at Peter Hujar's Bruce de Saint Croix, 1976, in which the nude Bruce is seated, relaxed, in a hard backed chair holding his absolutely mammoth, erect penis in his right hand, I first admire the penis but I look to Bruce's face before reaching any conclusions about the pornographic sexuality of the picture. Bruce's face looks calm, contemplative if possibly just a wee bit pleased (or perhaps contented with his physical lot?). He does not look lustful. Though, as my eye then moves to his hands, the left hand, which is laid almost sacrementally on his abdomen, suggests a certain tension ...
    If Bruce's face had been in orgasmic contortions, in an equally well-composed photo (this one is lovely), it could/would still be art, but I think it would then have to be "about" the orgasm and would stop being about anything else.
  88. The original question was a photographic one. . . . What makes the nude photograph "art"? It might be worthwhile to consider actual photographic qualities and mechanisms that we use when working with nude subjects. --Fred G.​
    Fred, since we do not all do nude photography, perhaps we might also ask what "actual photographic qualities and mechanisms" have others used in creating works that we find powerful, moving, and truly artistic.
    My guess is that we are going to get into a lot more than discussions of photographic technique. We are inevitably going to have to get, I believe, into the minds of the photographic (and other) artists to try to analyze the idea or vision that he or she was trying to convey through the photo, painting, or sculpture.
    In other words, since many persons can learn the techniques, what is it that great artists bring to the making of wonderfully artistic works in the genre under discussion, or in other related genres? (Classical nude paintings come immediately to mind.) Is that idea or vision different from that found in the making of landscapes, photojournalism, portraits, etc.? I think that we might find that it is.
    In other words, I do believe that the subject affects the artistic vision in many, many ways. If this is so, then artistic nudes might indeed require something not found in other works of art.
  89. To be certain no one mistakes your nude photo for anything else but ART follow simple rules.
    Be sure the photos are in Black and White, model should be a nude woman.
    -In derelict building like a grubby old factory.
    -In forest against large tree root.
    -In old abandoned house.
    -Lying on a big rock on stormy sea coast.
    -Goose pimples.
    -Railroad tracks
    -Standing in water.
    -In front of old furniture.
    -Just show part of model, like the side of a breast or her knee.
  90. We seem to have moved off the subject of art as a more universal input/stimulus to one's mind and are considering sculptures or images that communicate sexual stimulation. The two often go together, although I think that most successful art nudes make lesser play on one's sexual response or sexual attraction, but highlight the aesthetics of the form or of the interaction of the human form with other compatible (smooth rounded rocks, for instance) or tension creating elements (jagged rocks, or surfaces with textures that are opposite to the body), animals, that can also suggest other things (story-telling, symbolism) that add to the art. How to accomplish that, rather than creating a static and clichéd human "object" is not easy and I can appreciate Zack's response to my use of the word static for Playboy centrefolds, etc., but I simply meant to convey the impression of the often viewed (and "object" making) approach to those albeit interesting nudes.
    Was it Lannie who mentioned shame, or Zack, or someone else? I feel it is much less a question of genetics and more a question of cultural attribute. Had I been brought up in a family where at home the parents and children live together nude I might have more an attitude similar to those of some remote and beautiful African tribal villages where that is also the norm within the confines of their "house" (for them, village). But I wasn't. On the other hand, I don't belong to some sects or even quite widely spread cultural groups that feel shamed at seeing the human body nude. That is at least partly liberating, as it means little impediment is there to seeing the real person, or their form, or in creating a vision suggestive of art, contrary to just some shameful sight. A bit like the breast-feeding example I mentioned. More attention can be given to the subject, with little interacting psychological baggage to affect that perception.
    Beauty is in the imagination as well as in an objective visual perception of human form. As a 17 year old, I worked one summer in an office in Toronto where the current female dress fashion was a sort of very loose fitting (but completely covering) type of dress, that only suggested but did not fully describe the body of the wearer. This was as stimulating if not more so than a close fitting apparel for adolescent sexual impulses and also close to being an art perception of form, as the actual form of the wearer was only occasionally and subtly exposed to the office view. I think it could be argued that the appearance of the clothed body could be as effective in an image of intended artistic content, as that of a nude body.
    Sexual perception of nudes or imagined nude forms: As far as women's sexual reaction to the male body, it seems that it can be as strong as the male reaction to nude women, or the reaction of homosexual women to other women or men to other men. It is just not expressed as openly in society as the male reaction to a nubile pretty female. It is often maintained amongst women themselves, probably consequential upon their regional or national culture. Alas, I have not often been put in the role of sex object by the opposite sex, but did experience one occasion in a clothing store when the tailor was measuring me for a new pair of trousers on the usual small platform. I could see the look of a young lady waiting for service, as she noticed my profile (then strong legs and quite muscular hips) and expressed a "I would like to go for a coffee with you" look. It didn't happen (wasted opportunity for a then batchelor) but it was a learning experience in my perception of female public reactions and showed that men can be as much objectified sexually as their female counterparts. Good news perhaps for the survival of the human species.
    I agree with Fred and others who seenm to believe that making nudes art is a question of context, not just the presence of the nude form. Developing that context is the art, and ignoring it is just a formula for another more ordinary image, however well photographed and titillating and useful that might be for photographer and viewer.
    Paul, do I sense a small bit of cynicism, or just a practical list of the current mode of nude photography, that some of us wish to escape from (to make something akin to original art).
  91. Fred, since we do not all do nude photography, perhaps we might also ask what "actual photographic qualities and mechanisms" have others used in creating works that we find powerful, moving, and truly artistic.​
    artistic nudes might indeed require something not found in other works of art.​
    Can you articulate some of the things you're thinking of.
    what is it that great artists bring to the making of wonderfully artistic works​
    I think some secrets can be found in our descriptions ("great artists", "wonderfully artistic works"). Bring these photographers down to earth in order to start understanding them. Don't distance yourself from them too much. The words "figure" and "form" are used in this thread an awful lot as opposed to, say, "body." I wonder if the "great artists" thought of their nudes in terms of form or if there was't also a significant feeling for body at work which weaved with form. Form is, to a great extent, an objectifying notion (not necessarily in the bad sense of objectification). Body may be a little more down to earth, a little more intimately physical, something we can reach out and touch, which may be something worth considering in looking for your answer.
  92. artistic nudes might indeed require something not found in other works of art. --LK
    Can you articulate some of the things you're thinking of. --FG​
    I'm not sure, Fred. I was hoping that you might be able to help here with your creative mind, but I am not talking techniques here. I am talking about the main idea or even the whole point of making the photo. What mood did the artist want to capture? What context or location both framed the shot and helped to convey the main idea, etc.?
  93. Curiously, I was just browsing through the current Harper's Index and ran into this: 27% of all men have been photographed nude, as opposed to 23% of all women (According to a Playboy poll). My bet is that a lot of that 23% of the women have been photographed nude more than twice.
  94. but I am not talking techniques here. I am talking about the main idea or even the whole point of making the photo​
    Lannie, the "whole point of making a photo" is MAKING A PHOTO. That involves technique. I'm the first to agree that ideas are important but I can't extricate them from what I'm doing, which is making a photo. For me, the technique and the idea are so intertwined that I can't separate them. I'd suggest to you that reorienting your way of thinking about idea and technique might be a way into this secret about nude photographs becoming art that you've been wondering about for the last few years.
    As an example, for me, post-processing a photo of a nude is like caressing a lover, and that very much involves technique. And, as I explore different techniques, different visions and ideas come into play. Likewise as I have different ideas, different techniques come into play. But the ideas and photographic techniques are symbiotic. A photographic idea is one that WILL MANIFEST ITSELF via the photo, so part of the idea is its photographic manifestation, which will require my craft and technique.
    The "mood" captured, for a photographer, may very well be captured in the photographer's own sensual (not sexual) relationship to dodging and burning (for example), an activity which is like a caress. He can't just put it into "mood" language. He may have to put it into photographic language. Photographic ideas and techniques are an integrated dialogue, dependent on each other, not distinct or independent grammars.
    [We can talk about the ideas behind Impressionism for days. But until we integrate that talk with some sense of Monet's color palette, brushstrokes, and content (through which those ideas manifested), we don't come close to understanding the paintings and why they're art.
    I don't know that you'll ever answer these questions about nude photographs for yourself (no, I'm not going to do it for you) without risking making these kinds of photographs. But I think you can give these questions a shot yourself.
  95. Luis, and I wonder if a lot of the men have been photographed by themselves.
    Julie brought up the interesting notion of women knowing their bodies are being gazed upon merely as bodies. (I think that "merely" does suggest some judgment about it to me, but I may be wrong. I'd have to read more than just the isolated quote).
    I've always been amused by the discussions about gays in the military that often turn to the showers, which seems to be a major source of discomfort for a lot of the straight soldiers. The adrenalin seems to flow at the thought of confronting the enemy on the battlefield but they recoil at the idea of being looked at by the appreciating eye of a gay guy in the next stall. And make no mistake, we are looking! ;-)
  96. Why do we have to suggest in some cases that body is being neglected for form, when we photograph architecture and don't feel the need to say we are photographing a structure and not interpreting it as some form (and composition). Body is the subject matter we react to, form is what we want to do with it or make of it, at least for those in the visual arts. For some reason it is considered prudish, stand-offish, or whatever, to use the word form instead of body, as if we are somehow rejecting the human content. Not so.
    The de-objectification of the body, male or female, takes place in the head of the owner of the body. Yes, I know you are looking at my body because it interests you, sexually, but you do not possess my thoughts and they are likely to be foreign to yours (In other words I don't give a...). Objectification takes two to play the game, not unlike sexual interaction.
    "A part of what is art is uniqueness." That was my earlier point and I think there is no better way to make nude photography art than that, provided the unique approach, angle or interaction with the subject is not a trivial uniqueness but something that sugests to the viewer that he is engaging in a new experience, and contrary to what Lannie mentions I don't think technique is a major part of that uniqueness.
  97. Hi all. I'm currently packing my bags and will leave for school in the morning. Classes run from 9-6 and then it's open darkroom until midnight, so I don't see myself logging on to chat much between now and the end of the session in two weeks. I just wanted to tell everyone that I enjoyed this thread, and thank you for the conversation.
  98. Zack, enjoy your classes and especially the darkroom. I sometimes need to push myself into mine, when other things compete for attention, but once there, what great possibilities can arise, and we are alone with our thoughts and our creativity.
  99. I like Owen's picture because the girl is lovely and the setting beautiful. But unfortunately it lacks meaning for two reasons: It's silly to see her sitting casually on that bench without any explanation. If her clothes were on the bench beside her it would make more sense. The picture also needs to show what she might be looking at. If there was a person in the distance it would have added some drama, tension, or reason for her pose. As is, it simply looks like she is hiding her face from the camera.
  100. Good luck, Zack! Enjoy it. I am sure that you will find going back to school to be an overwhelmingly good experience. I wish that I could do it just one more time.
  101. I had just finished a page and a half post when I got shut down by someone, hopefully not PN. What I had said essentially was that I was honored that Lannie had chosen one of my images to start this discussion.
    I have no idea what makes anything a work of art, much lessons of my images. Thomas Aquinas once defined art as "Making things reasonably well." That worked for me in college and it works for me now. This image was one I took at the end of a long shoot and the model was not even aware I took it. It tells no story nor rights a social injustice, I simply like it and I think it fit's the definition of Aquinas.
    The nude has always invited critique as a subject as has photograph as a medium. Put them together and they end up under the microscope. Sculpture and painting rarely attract comment the way that photography does and hopefully that will change in my lifetime. When someone creates something in any medium that create an emotional response then I think it is legitimate to call it art. I will accept the recognition of something as beautiful as being an emotional response. I truly believe that the human form is the greatest subject of art but many of you will not agree with that. I think that history is on my side on this one.
    Compared to a lot of my images that may be better in an artistic sense, this image make me feel good and that works for me. I hope Robert Persig would agree with me.
    I don't think anyone can tell you what makes something a work of art but I love looking at them when they come along. I hope we can continue this thread for a while longer. This is what it is all about. Again, thank you Lannie.
  102. Thomas Aquinas once defined art as "Making things reasonably well." That worked for me in college and it works for me now. This image was one I took at the end of a long shoot and the model was not even aware I took it. It tells no story nor rights a social injustice, I simply like it and I think it fit's the definition of Aquinas. --Owen O'Meara​
    Thank you, Owen. I am so glad that you have been willing to post to this thread. I like the photo, too, which is why I started the present discussion by allusion to it.
    I am also very glad to finally find out the circumstances of the making of the photograph in question:
    I now feel justified somehow in choosing this photo as the center of the opening discussion, since I always felt that it had both artistic merit (ahem--the current topic!) and a certain authenticity that can be rare in all branches of photography. "Authenticity" and "honesty" are closely related concepts, and Fred has been talking about honesty in photography for some years now. Above all, the photo seemed somehow natural and unpretentious to me--almost a candid. Well, it turns out that, for all intents and purposes, it was a candid shot.
    Since the actual taking of the photograph took place during a break in the shooting (okay, literally at the end of a shoot), it represents what may be a rarity among nude shots: a candid photo of an undressed woman that is not in any way an invasion of privacy. I confess that I like the photo very much, and I have always sensed that it comes quite close to having no particular or obvious sexual content except that the young woman in the picture is indeed nude--naturally and unashamedly so. On another day, I might have found that to be a starting point for an intriguing fantasy. On the day I "discovered" it and decided to post it here, however, it seemed not so much to stimulate me as to relax me. I have noticed that reaction many times when viewing nudes, something that I do quite frequently, and without apology to anyone. (Thank you, Lord, for the female form. Please do not think that I do not appreciate it.) I still do not know how to explain my "relaxation response" to portrayals of the undraped female form . Perhaps a good psychotherapist could help, though I must affirm that I do not feel sick in the least.
    Surely the skeptics will agree that "nudity" and "sexuality" are at least distinct concepts, even if many claim that it is impossible to view the nude unless one is sexually motivated. I will not waste a lot of time right now with that issue, except to say that many photos of persons who are fully dressed can convey much more explicit sexual content. (I feel that I am beating a dead horse on this issue, even though some seem to want to establish that the nude is always about sex, pure and simple, and I consider that claim to be nonsense--less pure but equally simple, if not simple-minded.)
    I do not want to deny that a component of the photograph's appeal for myself is no doubt related to sexuality, however subliminally, but I think that persons who would not be attracted sexually to the subject in the photo can appreciate it as well, and for reasons that have nothing to do with sexual attraction per se.
    Fred's comments on "sexual attraction" and "sexual component" come to mind here. See the post made at 1:05 a.m. on July 30. I do think that Fred is onto something with his distinction, although there is obviously much more that can be said by way of refining a theory of nudity in art as it relates to sexuality. I have no coherent theory on the subject, but I am not ashamed that I find the issue intellectually fascinating--and I always will. I am no prude, however, and so I will not deny that viewing the female form can and often does give me much pleasure on a number of different levels. That is so obvious and natural to me that I do not think that I should have to address the issue further, but, as I said near the outset of this thread, it seems that it is impossible to post either pictures (or links to pictures, which is morally equivalent to posting them oneself, I think) or comments on pictures without being thought (by some persons) to be some kind of sex fiend. No, I am simply a sexual being, and I like what I like in that regard, no apologies offered. Why, then, do I keep responding to the issue, or even bringing it back up? Because it's there. And it shows no sign of going away!
    Many photographers of the nude seem in particular to be under constant siege as to their motives. This fact both disturbs and offends my own moral sensibilities--let such critics of the nude (artistic or otherwise) speak for themselves. I tire of the issue, but it keeps coming back over and over. Fortunately no blatant claims of such a nature have been made on this thread--even though many of the photos linked to in this thread are not something that one would want to introduce in Sunday school class, much less in the waspiest worship service. (Is waspy a word? Well, if it isn't, then it ought to be. I am not afraid of neologisms any more than I am afraid of nudes. One of my book titles [Militerrorism] was a neologism, or at least I think it was new. if not, then I at least came up with the word independently. It has proliferated on the web since I wrote the book, which proves nothing, of course. Nonetheless, I am not ashamed of the word. So there!)
    In any case, I can in all honesty reaffirm that, although a component of the photograph's appeal for me is somehow related to my own sexuality , my pleasure in viewing the picture stops short of being about sexual attraction. This is certainly not always my response to the female form, clothed or otherwise, but as a straight male I can honestly say that it is and was the case when I view (and first viewed) this particular photograph. That is enough for me to establish that, in my own case at least, I really can and often do view the nude without the least sexual titillation or obvious sexual motivation. Doing so is not a precondition of viewing it as art, as Fred has affirmed numerous times (as I understand his position).
    I should probably leave the issue alone, lest I be accused of protesting a bit too much, but I cannot. The same issue keeps coming around too often at the hands of those who would castigate all photographers and connoisseurs of the nude. I am not only tired of being so accused. I am even more tired of the ceaseless assaults upon photographers who actually do make and post nudes. They share the severest brunt of the Revenge of the Puritans, those misguided souls who know not their own nature. John Peri has spoken to me in private correspondence about the pain and trouble of trying to fend off such assaults. I am happy to count John among my friends, and I am happy to say as well that I like many of his photographs very much--especially some of the better ones in his "Backstage" folder. John, like I, probably posts too many photos and might do better at the hands of the critics if he posted only his very best, but that is another issue. I get the sense, however, that Peri does not worry about the critics. Good for him.
    As for your own work, Owen, I have to say that it represents some of the most beautiful and original work that I have seen, and I am so glad that you came by to visit this forum. Whether or not the thread has run its course (as they all must), I cannot say, but it has been a fun ride.
  103. The "nature v. nurture" distinction has figured prominently in this thread and in others which I have either started or contributed to. I have rather consistently maintained that the source of most norms regarding the display of the body are founded not in human nature but in social convention (and typically explicit socialization).
    Here is an article in yesterday's The New York Times that bears upon the "nature v. nurture" distinction. Thus, though it does not bear directly upon the issue of what makes a nude photo or painting into art, it seems germane to the conversation which we have been having:
  104. A CAUTION
    In spite of all of my liberal remarks above (if such they be), I have to say that viewing of nude photos (or even paintings) for the sake of explicit sexual stimulation makes me more than a bit uneasy. There is art and there is porn, and porn does not, for the record, agree with my soul. That is not a confession but a caution for those who might misconstrue the significance and implications of my remarks.
    If so saying seems like a contradiction with what I have just posted, I can only say that a more careful rereading can surely resolve the problem. I will not further address the issue on this thread, nor in private e-mails. If one still has problems factoring out nudity and sexuality, in spite of my repeated attempts to clarify my own rather complex views on these matters, then there is little more than I can say.
    Yes, of course, the nude form can be sexually stimulating. That is so obvious as not to require further elaboration. Even so, porn does exist, and it is NOT something that one wants to endorse--or at least is not something I want to endorse. I say this even though I firmly believe that, in the overwhelming majority of cases, what we call "pornography" comes from within and does not (with infrequent exceptions) inhere in the photo or painting itself.
  105. [I'm not talking about Owen's photo. I'm riffing on his mention of Aquinas and Lannie's bringing up candidness. So I'm addressing candidness in general and not as it specifically relates to Owen's photo.]
    When Aquinas says art is "making things reasonably well" (is there a context or citation for this quote?), my guess is "reasonably" is the key. With "reason-ably," he would be emphasizing purpose. I'm not sure about his aesthetics but his ethics were about goal-oriented action, action with a purpose, an end.
    Candidness is neither honesty nor authenticity. Candidness may need purpose to become authentic or honest.
    The difference between "mere" candidness and authenticity may be a key to photographic art or at least photographic significance.
    In itself, candidness is not necessarily either authentic or honest, especially when captured in a photo. Often, candidness captured in a photo is simply gawking . . . purposeless.
  106. Technique and craft.
    Knowledge and craft were intertwined in Socratic thought. Socrates was not fond of idleness. Techné (technique, craft) was the practical and purposeful application of knowledge, it was knowledge combined with SKILL, such as what doctors and flute players and house builders do. CARE was an important part of techné and skill. Craft without care can be hollow.
    Craft, skill, and care are significant aspects of art. I often wonder if the difference between a significant shot and a gawker shot is the SKILL of the photographer. Maybe a good photographer, whether in camera or with post processing, in some way crafts (skill, care) the photo, does not just take it.
  107. While I also think that the Aquinas quote needs to be put into the original context, if we just take the line as it stands, does it not refer to a multitude of things we do in life and which are products of our own specific abilities and the outcome of which cannot be predicted in a concise manner?
    Art is a somewhat difficult term to pin down precisely and once you try to define it you are also putting up boundaries around it that may not be reasonable. A craftsman, like the timber-framer who will be making jupiter joints and other connections this week as he tries to save an old shed on my property, is practicing a type of art, just like the fellow down the road who is continually evolving his art of making folk-art like wooden and metal representations of birds and other animals, or his wife who makes woven art based on photographed images off nature. Reasonably well refers back to the abilities of the artist and the expectations of the viewer. I briefly looked at Owen's work and I think the term reasonably well (purposeful or not, for me that is not the most important or what I take from the Aquinas quote) applies to a number of his images. None strike me as being particularly candid (and need not be), even the image that Lannie mentioned. I am impressed by one or two amongst the many poses and compositions, which simply tells me that my appreciation is very subjective, but possibly also, if my analysis is of any value at all, that photographing the nude body (male or female) is an extremely demanding activity if the aim is to produce art.
    I am sensitive to what I consider "mechanical" or "contrived" poses and find that in most work I have seen in this category of photography. Sometimes I feel that a certain degree of abstraction or blur or diffusion of high key or play of contrasts is necessary to enhance the power of the image, that can be a bit wooden when portrayed with perfect exposure and resolution. The interaction of the model and the photographer can be very sympathetic and yet the result may appear unrelaxed or the tensions, if important to the message, wrongly placed. I know this is not necessarily getting closer to what makes nude photography art, but it relates I think to some of the difficult problems in attaining that objective. I commend Lannie for bringing up this difficult subject and Owen for his purpose in attempting to do it "reasonably well" and better..
  108. Candidness is neither honesty nor authenticity. Candidness may need purpose to become authentic or honest.​
    You might be right, Fred. I had not thought about this issue as you have. I do think that the candid shot is honest in the most basic sense of being very often an honest or accurate representation of reality. That does not make it art in the traditional sense, of course, unless one considers documentary work to be inherently artistic. It is not, of course, although certain documentary shots can be done artistically--and have been done artistically. The relationship between honesty and art continues to elude me. I cannot quite figure it out, but I think that you are onto something essential about art. Your introduction of "purpose" does not to me clarify the issue between honesty and purpose. It does have immediate implications for me about art, however.
    Rachmaninoff said that every piece of music should make a point. That is a very approximate quote, but it stays with me from decades back because I thought that the ending of his Symphony No. 2 (one of my favorites) exemplified his position very well. I presume that the same kind of logic can be applied to photographic art. Every photograph that purports to be art surely does have a purpose, a point. Even so, the purpose is in the photographer's head, not in the image. Thus I am still having difficulties.
    Let me be clear: I do think that purpose is essential to something's being art. I do not think that it is essential to something's being honest--at least not in all possible senses of that term. Honesty is simply too vague a word with too many meanings for me to make it the defining attribute of art. Purpose might yet me essential, in my opinion, but, again, the purpose of the artist cannot always be known simply by viewing the finished work.
    I made allusion to John Peri's work above. Since I am no fan of glamour photography, this might seem to be a curious statement. I confess that I have to look long and hard in the "Backstage" folder to find what I like in terms of specific photos, but, when I do find what I like there, I really like it. Is it because it is art? I do not look at John's work with the question "Is this art?" in mind.
    John's larger purpose in making his photos is sometimes obscure to me. Since there often is no clear purpose in each individual shot besides what I believe to be his sheer joy in making them, I will make no claim for most of them as being artistic. The corpus of his work as a whole, however, gives a context that I find intriguing. I often look at the photos entranced by the level of trust and the sense of rapport between artist and model. That is not enough to make his work into art, but it is enough reason for me to be intrigued enough to look further.
    Am I yet simply a "gawker" into the backstage scene? Well, it is my question, but it is a serious question that merits a serious response. The term "gawker" has such a negative connotation that I would prefer to use the word "spectator." What impels me to be a spectator in his parade of beautiful young women, many of whom have a body type which is not my preference? What impels me to view them when I do not care for glamour photography? I hate high heels in nudes, for example. I hate hose that come up to above the knee and stop, with the rest of the body being nude. I am not taken with "girls" whom I can only call "skinny." I am not taken by the "cute" outfits. About the only thing that draws me to his work in most cases--with some important exceptions--is indeed simply the level of trust and the sense of rapport between photographer and model (to which I have already alluded). When I view his portfolio, I view it as perhaps the amateur psychologist. Perhaps, for all I know, he has a similarly idiosyncratic reason for making the photos. He tells me that he simply enjoys the shoots. I believe him.
    In any case, even the barrage of "glamorous" young women in "cute" outfits still can be a vehicle for communicating something about the artist-model relationship. Whether or not that is his express purpose, it is part of my reason, perhaps the great part of my purpose, for viewing.
    Is John Peri's work "authentic"? Immediately the problems start with the use of that word in this context: authentic in what sense, in what context, for what person and his or her reason for making the shot? Since I cannot look inside John's or anyone else's head, I cannot say whether his work is authentic in and of itself.
    In short, Fred, I am not sure that "honesty" or "authenticity" inhere in the image divorced from context and divorced from the photographer's purpose, which often (perhaps usually) cannot be known.
  109. Even so, the purpose is in the photographer's head, not in the image.​
    I'm not so sure about that.
    The nude is often used in photography precisely because the aim is art and the nude has a strong history in art. That can be done with an art historical consciousness and with great skill and vision, or it can just be used as an easy and unconvincing entré into art. It's not unlike the use of homeless people to elicit photographic pathos. On the most superficial of levels, homeless person equals care and naked body in black and white equals art. (Of course, it takes much more than that to achieve either care or art and that's why so much of both genres fails.)
    The nude photo can also be used as an excuse to get subjects to take off their clothes. There's nothing at all wrong with that except if the photographer is in denial about it. (I'm NOT saying all photographers who shoot nudes do it for this purpose. In some cases, it has nothing to do with it. And in some cases, it's just a side benefit.) When I do it, I try to be aware of it and find I can be honest about it both with myself and with the subjects I tend to work with, who are also honest about their own exhibitionism at times. We don't tend to prettify it or to falsesly elevate ourselves by referring to it as art. Art is usually about other things besides art. Passion, for example. And it's aim is often something other than art. Through those aims, art emerges. For me, honesty about the variety of components to working with nudes, when and if those components are present, is an opportunity to be real. And I think it can be seen. In the photographs.
    I don't see it in John Peri's work. They LOOK emotionally distant (though he might maintain that he is emotionally involved), mannequin-like, inhuman which, in itself could be an interesting approach if I sensed some self awareness of this. But I don't. To me, his nudes avoid the subject and the subjects. So, regardless of what's in his head, that becomes their purpose. I wonder if that's why you and so many others are so drawn to them. Because they keep the nudity and the women at arm's length. They are anything but intimate, except in the Victoria Secret sense of intimate. They are, however, skillfully rendered.
  110. A not-very-good snapper may have great intentions and take pictures of homeless people with the purpose of getting viewers to care and highlighting an ill of society. Despite that purpose, which is in the photographer's head, most of those kinds of photos wind up simply being exploitive. In that case the photo serves a purpose much different than the photographer's purpose. The purpose that shows in the photograph is NOT the purpose that was in the photographer's head. To get the purpose the photograph serves, you DON'T have to see into the mind of the photographer. You have to look at the photo, and often the context of the photo (body of work, etc.)
  111. Gentlemen, do continue your intensive personal dialogue. Interesting. Good luck.
  112. Even so, the purpose is in the photographer's head, not in the image. --LK
    I'm not so sure about that. --FG
    The purpose that shows in the photograph is NOT the purpose that was in the photographer's head. To get the purpose the photograph serves, you DON'T have to see into the mind of the photographer. You have to look at the photo, and often the context of the photo (body of work, etc.) --FG​
    Fred, I believe that only sentient beings can have purposes, and therefore I am not sure that inanimate objects such as photos can be said to have purposes apart from the purposes of those who created them, or of those who expropriated them for their own purposes or uses. I admit that this latter category could include viewers.
    Lest I be misunderstood, I am simply saying that the purpose cannot inhere in the photograph itself. I thought that your introduction of "purpose" had something to do with some purpose qua point being a precondition for a work's being considered a work of art. I am sorry if I am not understanding you.
  113. I am reminded of The Gods Must Be Crazy. . . .
    What is the purpose of a Coke bottle, after all?
  114. To get the purpose the photograph serves, you DON'T have to see into the mind of the photographer. You have to look at the photo, and often the context of the photo (body of work, etc.)​
    Fred, I would submit to you that, if I am looking at a photo in the context of a photographer's oeuvre, then I am in some sense looking into her head, i.e., trying to understand her and her work--and thereby quite possibly her purpose.
    Perhaps we are simply talking past each other.
  115. I thought that your introduction of "purpose" had something to do with some purpose qua point being a precondition for a work's being considered a work of art. I am sorry if I am not understanding you.​
    Please don't be sorry. It's a good discussion.
    When I talk of something being a key, I'm not talking about it being a precondition. I'm talking about it being worthwhile considering it when thinking about art. I think fakery and artificiality are every bit a key to art as honesty. They're all worth thinking about relative to photographs and art.
    I introduced "purpose" relative to candidness, not art (though I think it's worthwhile considering it relative to art as well), in order to explore whether photographic candidness without purpose was honest. I understand that there is a level of honesty in candidness. We see someone acting candidly on the street and assume a level of honesty. But there are problems with a candid photograph necessarily being the kind of honesty I really care about.
    We might catch a politician being candid on the street. He's acting like himself, not posing for the camera, not aware that anyone is watching. If I take a picture of him, the picture might portray him very innocently, maybe just walking along benignly minding his own business. But if I wanted the photo to portray him honestly, it might need to show him for the swine he is (if that's the case). So my candid photograph could (since honesty has so many layers) actually be somewhat dishonest, at least on any significant level beyond catching him doing what he's actually doing at the moment. Are candid pictures of Nixon smiling and playing with Checkers honest? Well . . . yes . . . and no. It's why I always laugh when people who don't know any better talk about portraits needing to be candid to be honest. Sometimes, a lot of thought and setup needs to be done in order to get to a significant level of honesty in a portrait.
    Candid pictures of homeless people SEEM honest, in that superficial sense of Nixon delightfully playing with his dog. But the kind of honesty that might be of more significance and consequence might be the kind of honesty that needs some engagement so as to be sure not to be showing something candid but misleading. Sure, the candid photo of a homeless person sleeping in the doorway under the blanket wrings our sympathy and pathos bells. But the kind of honesty I appreciate may require more knowledge which might only come from a kind of engagement.
    You talk about documentary. Think of the photographers of the previous century like Dorothea Lange, who worked for the FSA and lived their photos. They didn't just snap candids. When I look at their photos, the honesty doesn't come through candidness alone. It comes through in the perspective and engagement. You don't have to interrupt someone or get their attention to form a photographic engagement with them. It can be done by knowing how to handle a camera, how to edit, how to sequence, and how to process. So, you can shoot candidly, without them knowing, but still engage them photographically and with purpose and get something more honest than just the candidness would get.
    And you can, of course, get meaningful honesty without candidness. Lange, talking about Migrant Mother:
    I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it. [my emphasis]​
    That's a kind of honesty well beyond candidness.
  116. That was a very good post, Fred. I don't think that there is a line in it that I would disagree with.
    Thank you for taking the time to clarify. I know that you have thought about these issues much longer than I have, in spite of my age, and I do not always know the larger context within which you use certain words or have used them in the past.
  117. I can't speak for anyone else, but sometimes I'm impressed by the form and fitness (or lack thereof) of the model(s). Sometimes I find the composition interesting as when bodies are intertwined in interesting ways. Sometimes there's some element of texture that adds to the effect such as light passing through Venetian blinds onto a nude body (a cliché, but you get the point).
    What makes a nude a work or art? Good luck answering that one.
  118. This debate goes on since the dawn of humanity, or at least art as we know it. For me, the artistic nude is that particular image that has been thought of and completed in the purpose of glorifying the human body as a work of art in itself, not an image done to turn someone on. I don't get aroused by an artistic nude, I just sit there gasping at the composition, light, curves. If anything, I get aroused by the artist's vision and talent of transforming something we all see in something never been seen.
  119. To get back to the tail end of the original question: "...[W]hat makes the nude into a work of art? What, that is, makes this or that nude worth viewing among the many thousands of nudes that really are not worth viewing at all?"
    What can be said for a nude photo can be said for a landscape, pet, baby, flower or wedding photograph. There are not thousands but millions of those kinds of photographs floating around--more than nude photographs, I am sure. All are works of art in the widest sense of the definition. Not all are good. Most are probably awful or only okay. There is likewise a lot of bad and so-so nude photographs. But they too under the widest definition are works of art.
    So the question is what makes a nude photograph a good work of art? The same criteria that makes anything a work of art. There is, of course, a strong prejudice against nudity among many people. But that is irrelevant to question. No amount of artistic excellence will change a prude's mind.
    The most important thing is that a good nude photograph, like any other good photograph, does not exploit the obvious.
  120. This is starting to look like a fishing expedition where Landrum Kelly can display his fine philosophical thinking in response to other's postings. I think he said in his original posting that he didn't want to generate a marathon thread as in previous years - but that's exactly what has happened. Maybe it's an annual outing.
  121. Can you please post one of your nude pictures ?If you don't have one than maybe first try to find someone to pose for you and then come back here.Sure,someone can talk a lot about something he never tried or doesn't know but I think it is kind of irrelevant.Otherwise it looks like the "reviews" of the Ferrari on Yahoo Autos made by people who admit they never drove one.Cheers
  122. This is starting to look like a fishing expedition where Landrum Kelly can display his fine philosophical thinking in response to others' postings. I think he said in his original posting that he didn't want to generate a marathon thread as in previous years - but that's exactly what has happened. Maybe it's an annual outing.​
    Leigh, the thread in 2009 was active from May 11 to June 6 (26 days), and the thread in 2010 went from April 20 to May 13 (23 days). Until you posted, this thread had virtually ended last night after almost exactly five (5) days by comparison.
    The mere fact that the previous threads were very long, however, was less significant than the fact that the philosophical exchanges often degenerated into personal attacks involving speculations as to persons' motives (usually mine!) for addressing such issues in the first place. Such personal attacks involved, that is, ad hominem attacks from time to time, and it is the nature of ad hominem attacks that they involve attacks against persons (or their motives or morals) rather than being rational arguments that address the issues themselves.
    I do not mind long discussions as long as they are not characterized by personal attacks. (The exchange over "What is justice?" raised by Socrates in Plato's Republic started over two thousand years ago is still going strong in many publications in print and now on the web. I even put my own footnote to that discussion on the web several years ago. It was a chapter in a book of mine that was published in 1994. I have not published anything on that topic since, but, needless to say, many others have continued to do so. That issue ("What is justice?") will almost certainly never be settled, and I strongly doubt that the "art v. pornography" debate will ever be settled (and that is ultimately the larger issue that has been behind all of these threads about nude photography as art).
    The present thread has been almost totally free of personal attacks or innuendo as to my motives. The exchanges between Fred Goldsmith ("Fred G.") and myself have been remarkably civil, even if they have involved fine discussions over definitions. I like such discussions, and so does Harvard-educated Fred. It is always a pleasure to lock intellectual horns with Fred, and I was disappointed that the moderator closed the discussion between us in 2009 after only twenty-six days. I thought that this thread was going to go down when Fred and I started diverging over persons' motives for viewing John Peri's photographs, but we recovered from that and finished strong, I thought. Since John and I are long-standing "e-mail pals" over these and related issues, I do not want John's own motives to be impugned--nor Fred's nor mine nor those of anyone else. In fact, for many years John Peri has told me of the sometimes horrible verbal attacks that he has received claiming that his work is pornography. When I linked to a Peri photograph early in "The Power and the Glory" in 2009 (the first of these "annual outings"), I was jumped immediately because of disputes over his photos. Fred has no doubt also come under assault for posting nudes from time to time. Fred and I agreed long ago to channel our e-mail exchanges into discussions on this forum, and I think that the remarkable energy of these exchanges has resulted in part from that decision. John Peri and I have continued to interact by private e-mails rather than on Photo.net, however, because we are both a bit gun-shy when it comes to the ceaseless tirades about claims of "pornography" that have too often marred the photo discussion forums on John's pictures. In many cases, John has been forced to delete some of his own pictures to get rid of some of the more hostile postings. He has always reposted, however, to the best of my knowledge, after the hullabaloo over some of his pictures has gone away.
    As a near absolutist on the First Amendment right of freedom of expression, I have always felt the obligation to return to the fray sooner or later.
    So, Leigh, if you are wondering why I continue to post on such matters in spite of the sometimes personal attacks that result from posting either nude photos or comments on nude photos or related issues, that (belief that I must defend freedom of expression on controversial issues) is the real reason. I am puzzled that you would characterize my posts as "fishing expeditions." (What would I be fishing for except the rational opinions of others?) As to whether or not I want to show off my "fine philosophical thinking" (as you say), I can assure you that, if that were my motive, I would choose a safer topic than issues relating to art, nudity and pornography.
  123. Can you please post one of your nude pictures ?If you don't have one than maybe first try to find someone to pose for you and then come back here.Sure,someone can talk a lot about something he never tried or doesn't know but I think it is kind of irrelevant.Otherwise it looks like the "reviews" of the Ferrari on Yahoo Autos made by people who admit they never drove one.Cheers​
    MM, why should I post a picture of myself nude??!! Oh, wait, I see that I misread.
    Well, MM, I do not actually do nude photography. Perhaps when I am eighty. . . (I am still a youngster of sixty-six years and still a bit shy about asking a woman to actually undress for me. It does sound fascinating, though. Perhaps I shall have to try it.)
    I will certainly consider doing and posting figure studies if you will post a single photo--OF ANYTHING!
  124. MM, I see that you have been on the site since February, 2002. Nine years on the site and you have not even posted a photo?
    I see that you have not even rated a photo in those nearly nine and one-half years. YOU'RE A PHOTO.NET VIRGIN, MM!! Put on your wings and fly, man!
  125. Five days with not a single ad hominem attack against me, and now two in a row! Wow. I can read the signs of the times. I'm outta here!
    Thanks to everyone who participated. It's been real.
  126. Firstly, a mea culpa. After having stated my intention to take a break from posting on this forum (It is healthy to do so every once in a while to preserve one's integrity when one is unfulfilled by the debate) it is probably hypocritical to add anything, but I do want to say that the forgoing last minute attacks are superficial and groundless. The OP creator, Lannie, has maintained an exemplary tone in the debate, which the other posters up to yesterday have in the main respected, and his tackling of difficult subjects is exactly what the forum should be about. I am not surprised that Fred attended Harvard, as you report, or any other top school that requires good intellect and ambition for entrance. Most of such attributes of posters on this site are not known (although some of my peers do like to use their professional degree titles) and that I think is fine, given that we know so little about our fellow debators. I know Fred mainly by his output, photographically and intellectually, which is all I really need to know. It makes for a very level playing field, much like the case of a fresh photograph from an unknown source, that one must simply judge by its merits.
  127. I'd like to direct you to Carlos's (second) comment on Donna Pallotta's photo HERE. I don't know if Carlos has been following this thread, but his comments have many good insights and address many things we've been discussing.
  128. I didn't go to Harvard!
  129. [... having just read Carlos's comment (and agreed with it and enjoyed it) ... ]
    Fred, have you ever seen some big bully telling a five-year-old that there is no Santa Claus? That's how I'm feeling in this thread and that's how Carlos reads to me. I agree with him; I think he's right ... but ... what's going to happen to all the little elves? And Bing Crosby?
  130. I didn't go to Harvard!​
    I thought you did, Fred. Where was it, Princeton?
  131. Nothing's going to happen to Bing Crosby because he had heart and soul and always will.
    I'm not sure if you're suggesting Carlos was talking down, but it didn't come across that way to me.
    Accepting someone else's critiques -- whether they come as alternative thoughts in a forum or as comments about a photo or about another's opinion of a photo -- can be difficult, because it may mean you have to give up ideas and ways of seeing you've become comfortable with . . . or, of course, stick to your own vision and/or guns. The most progress I've made in my own photographing has come from a combination of encouragement (from outside and from my own sense of accomplishment and growth) and a pretty regular dose of my having to give up my own Santa Clauses, which can make me very insecure, but alive.
    Sometimes I haven't had to give up Santa Claus. I've just had to take off his pants.
  132. The OP creator, Lannie, has maintained an exemplary tone in the debate, which the other posters up to yesterday have in the main respected, and his tackling of difficult subjects is exactly what the forum should be about.​
    You're too kind, Arthur, but thank you very much. I know that the most profound comments on these threads do not come from me. I do nonetheless hope the questions which I raise make some sort of contribution.
  133. Thank you, guys, for mentioning Carlos.
    There are others, of course. I have to say, though, that I think that his best photos are not nudes.
  134. So, Leigh, if you are wondering why I continue to post on such matters in spite of the sometimes personal attacks that result from posting either nude photos or comments on nude photos or related issues, that (belief that I must defend freedom of expression on controversial issues) is the real reason. I am puzzled that you would characterize my posts as "fishing expeditions."
    Well, the exchange was all looking a bit self indulgent to me, but then I didn't go to Harvard - or Princeton. Maybe I chose the wrong words.
    And since the forum heading is "Philosophy of Photography/History" I guess it's a valid topic in that context and I'm out of my depth. So I'll shut up.
  135. CARLOS H
    Entire "Scapes" folder:
    Entire portolio on Photo.net:
    Words fail. . . .
  136. Leigh, I'm not an Ivy Leaguer myself.
    Welcome to the deep end of the pool. After you learn to swim here, it is actually safer. Jump in and say what's on your mind. We're all just learners here, and learning a lot from each other--and sometimes about each other. It's worth doing.
  137. Point to any part, form, curve, color etc. on the human body and I can tell you what it's for and why it's that way. My explanation will have nothing to do with beauty and everything to do with reproduction and survival. What one does with one's body may exceed those descriptions but that requires (is about) the/a do-er -- it's not present if we are claiming to treat the body as pure form.
    With the above in mind, I give you the following quotes from Santa-Claus-land:
    "Jock Sturges and his models share a common world. Their lives are at once parallel and commingled, defined by family values: by affection and love, by trust, and by shared experience -- by a bond for life. Regardless of what time may deliver and how lives evolve, these bonds will endure as memory to the end of the models' lives. Over the years the artist has become an inseparable part of their extended 'felt' family, bound to them by values of love mutually. Jock Sturges' pictures are life companions that will remind the people in them of passing and past time -- a quiet memento mori.
    "Jock Sturges has for decades been seeking and, fortunately for us who like his art, never quite finding what he hopes to come upon: absolute beauty. ... The pictorially careful affection for the subjects in the photograhs allows us to be what we have always wanted to become from the very beginning of our lives: a true human being. ... " -- Walter Keller in an essay in Jock Sturges: Life ~ Time
    "Why are the models nude? Because of the marvel of shame's absence and a hunger for truth. Clothed portraits are pinioned by fashion to specific moments in time and become as much, if not more, about culture than the people depicted. Those clues are absent here and thus one is left considering more essential states. I have watched and recorded this little host of beings grow and evolve physically and emotionally and intellectually as well for decades and find the greatest beauty in the all, in the whole thing -- the gestalt of life and time." -- Jock Sturges at the end of Jock Sturges: Life ~ Time
    "There is in fact nothing sexy at all about standing on the beach in the all-together, talking with a group of like-attired friends. Not distracted by the play of any sort of status symbol clothing, jewelry, or other purchased adornment, we are left considering only each other -- what we know, what we have to say, how genuine our minds are. There is something immensely reassuring in the fact that no matter how our bodies look, it's all right, it doesn't matter. ... when I make pictures in Montalivet, I am simply dealing with the real. There is no room or need for any sort of sly look or leer -- people are simply who and what they are. They are absent of shame, magnificently themselves." -- Jock Sturges in Jock Sturges: Notes​
    End excursion into Santa-Claus-land.
    Sturges says, "I am simply dealing with the real." What real?
    Sturges says, "Those clues are absent here and thus one is left considering more essential states." What "essential states"? What's left if you remove sex, reproduction, survival. Clothes, culture, shame or sort of accidental add-ons? We're all a-sexual, non-violent cuddle bunnies at heart?
  138. What real?​
    Julie, what is real, after all? When we try to cut away from the artificialities of culture in order to discover what is essentially "natural," we find ourselves creating constructs that are really quite "artificial." This reminds me of discussions of the ding an sich as well as the noumenon in Kantian theory. This kind of philosophical stuff gets to be pretty heavy in a hurry!
    Heavy or not, are such issues relevant to this forum? Since they raise questions about perception and reality (not necessarily to say "perception versus reality"), surely they are relevant--but anyone trying to write on such topics on an online forum is probably bound for disappointment.
    You have raised a lot of interrelated issues, Julie. Is sex really only about reproduction? Is life only about survival of the body? What is shame and how did we get it? Do we need to get rid of shame? Would we thereby be "innocent" or merely "shameless"?
    Where does one start? In my opinion, one starts by clarifying the question. What precisely is the question? Is the question "What is real?"?
    Well, here is a "reality" which someone said (in the first comment) made him think of something else:
    What is "real" here? Is the photo real? The photo is, after all, only an abstraction from reality. What is the reality here that one finds so appealing? Or does one evaluate the photo apart from the reality it purports to represent?
    As for the photo which I have just linked to, I think that it is a better "nude" than many nudes which I have viewed--and I am not being facetious.
  139. My answer would be Sturge's reality, the one he photographs and apparently lives in (and married into). The mechanistic interpretation of body parts brings to mind the way human genes were looked at back in the late 80's.
  140. "Sturge's reality"
    Luis, I don't know anything about his personal life, and so I do not know what you are alluding to with regard to the reality that "he photographs and apparently lives in (and married into)."
    I do not usually inquire into persons' personal lives when evaluating their art, but Sturges has been such a controversial figure that I decided that I would peek at least as far as Wikipedia, from which I got an allusion to his having photographed a young woman (referred to as "Misty Dawn") from her childhood into her twenties. Searching for "Misty Dawn" led me to this:
    I am not suggesting that Sturges corrupted her, and ordinarily I would not pass along this kind of nonsense, but, on the assumption that one does know persons by their fruits (their deeds and consequences of their deeds?), I speculated on the cultural context in which Sturges has lived and worked. "Does it hurt the kids?" was the first question that came to mind. My obvious response has to be "I don't know." Nonetheless, I still wonder.
    It turns out that one of the places where he made some of his famous photographs was actually a "naturist resort" on France's Atlantic coast. Since naturism claims to put us back in touch with our own authentic nature, I wondered what the larger legacy of such cultures really is--and along with that question came a disturbing question as to whether the artistic culture of nude photography also has a dark side that we never hear about. If we did an empirical study, would we find that children who grow up in such cultures typically turn out better or worse than children raised in other cultural contexts? I have no idea. I would not even have any idea how to begin such a study. All that we are left with is anecdotes, and anecdotal evidence is notoriously unreliable.
    Just idle thoughts, but disturbing ones, for some reason. . . . I am concluding nothing nor am I assuming anything, simply wondering what happens when we free ourselves from the old conventional norms. Are we liberated or are we more likely to fall prey to anomie, normlessness?
  141. The photographed nude is not an equation to which one must add or from which one must subtract qualities and get to a description of what it's supposed to be or portray or what it is. Nudity, sexuality, line, form, shape, reproduction, cultural
    inputs . . .
    The OP, in simple terms, asked us to solve for x, where x is what makes a nude photograph art. All this does is highlight one of the differences between mathematics and photography or art. The question uses the language of solution rather than the language of possibility. As a matter of fact, by opposing the art nude to the trash nude, it begins by eliminating possibilities rather than opening us up to them.
    Among the things nudes are about to me, both when I'm viewer and photographer, is touch.
    Nudity, skin, texture, touch. Our skin receives the other's touch. We use our skin to touch. Our bodies have amazing textures. Texture/touch is sensual. It's sexual. It's intelligent, as it brings us information. Light illuminates it. Shape helps contain it. It's physical and has beauty.
    There may be something unique to the touch of the nude because it sets up something interactive, something reciprocal. Our skin accepts touch and our skin is what touches.
  142. what happens when we free ourselves from the old conventional norms​
    We get things like happy homosexuals, alternative families, more empowered women, and art.
    And . . .
    . . . of course there's a dark side to a lot of this. That's where the possibilities and the trash might come in. There's the nudity of the meadow but there's also the nudity of the gutter in San Francisco's Tenderloin. There's the often proud, athletic nudity of Greek sculpture and the sometimes more shameful and anemic or at least necessarily-hidden nudity of the back rooms of bars and sex clubs. There are heroic nudes and writhing nudes. There are innocent nudes and shocking nudes.
    Art denies none of it.
    [And if, in the name of art, one breaks the law or is abusive, one may need to be judged or stopped which, to me, is a different question.]
  143. Art denies none of it.​
    We are back to defining art. Any takers?
  144. Fred, agreed, touch is huge, but do not all the senses come into play here, whether real or imagined? A look from another can bring goose pimples to the surface of our skin, bring about arousal, major hormonal rushes or rejection, fear, etc. An individual's smell is worth a thousand madeleines, let alone taste, and so much of it is running below the language centers of the brain, the roar of autonomic exchanges incredibly intoxicating. A voice on the phone from thousands of miles away simply telling us "I'm naked".
    Lannie, I think we all photograph out of our own reality, even if doing a fictionally authored series. This is the sense in which I meant my response to Julie's question. In the case of Sturges, he is literally immersed in his work. There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach.
  145. I've run through a myriad of emotions trying to understand how I feel about this question.
    A little over a century ago Edward Steichen did series of nudes, where the models asked him not to show their faces. They sold for about $5.00 a piece back then. I can't even imagine what they'd sell for now. As he explains in his autobiography, they were mostly displayed in the bedrooms.
    Today, it seems psychotic that we live in a society that promotes and condemns sex and desires in the same breath. Of course this stems from religion, and these moral shackles have turned many of us into hypocrites. Each artist has his or her reasons for capturing the human body, and I waste no time trying to figure out why. In defense of morality, I do understand that without lane markers people will drive all over the road, so there is a responsiblity to approaching this hornet's nest without getting stung.
    For me, a photographer who has shot nudes for commercial and personal purposes. The nude represents a timeless moment, where the camera, fashion, defined beauty, and morality simply don't exist. I am honored that a person (both men and women) will allow me to be a sort of new mirror for them. While I will show a face, I try to do it in a way that they can't be recognized. I usually try to cover or draw attention away from the genital area because it takes the image from 3 to one dimensional. For me, the image then becomes sexual. Since most of my models do repeat work with me, a sort of trust has formed, a freedom without residue so to speak.
    In answer to the original question, when Cezanne's work was exhibited at the Berheim Gallery in 1911, his work drew a hostile response. People "laughed their heads off," critics as well as visitors. No one who owes one today is laughing, except all the way to the bank. So in my opinion, from a society point of view..."Time", determines if it will be considered art. On a personal level "Emotions" determines what is art to us.
  146. Yes, Luis, as I said "among the things nudes are about . . . " Good additions.
    And Luis's question ("but do not all the senses come into play here?") helps make my point. I can focus on an aspect of nudity that reaches me at a given time, and I don't have to give all the other aspects or qualities of it equal attention at that moment, which does not mean I'm denying them. So, one nude photo or photographer can accentuate sexuality, one can accentuate form, one can accentuate touch, etc. That's often what passion is about. It can be, in part, the (TEMPORARY) disregard or forgetting of all else.
    Lannnie, do you really think that was defining art or an invitation to do so? [Or . . . what's the difference between defining art and discussing it?]
  147. The OP, in simple terms, asked us to solve for x, where x is what makes a nude photograph art. All this does is highlight one of the differences between mathematics and photography or art. The question uses the language of solution rather than the language of possibility. As a matter of fact, by opposing the art nude to the trash nude, it begins by eliminating possibilities rather than opening us up to them.​
    Fred, you are no doubt correct, but I have found that simple questions work for getting threads (or even discussions in class) started. If questions were initially presented in all of their complexity, persons' eyes would glaze over and they would quickly "turn the page."
    What usually happens with simplistic questions is that the question has to be refined, even completely restated. In any case, I expected to be challenged for my simplistic way of formulating the issue, and I am happy to see that I have been. I could say that, in my opinion, art and trash are not mutually exclusive--but do I really believe that? Well, again, it depends in part (but only in part) on how one defines one's terms.
    As for what happens when we challenge the old norms, yes, wonderful things can happen. I did not mean to suggest only a doom and gloom scenario. My entire vocation for decades has been about challenging authority, tradition, and convention.
    As for Sturges, I certainly do not hold Sturges responsible for choices that his subjects subsequently made. I simply wondered what his larger legacy has been. What I have seen of his work has been very good, and not at all exploitative of minors. My questions about the culture within which he operates derive from my ignorance of that culture, not judgment of it.
  148. Lannnie, do you really think that was defining art or an invitation to do so? [Or . . . what's the difference between defining art and discussing it?]​
    Fred, I was simply making the observation that that great (and ultimately unanswerable) question as to "What is art?" is always hanging out there. I was not challenging you to define it, nor am I prepared to offer a definition. The question is nonetheless raised anew in my mind from time to time in these threads, and you raised it again for me, whether you meant to or not.
    Phil, that's a great shot.
  149. Thank you Lannie:
    The biggest drawback to questions like these, is there's so much to say, and the computer isn't the best way to convey context. This is face to face stuff over beer, wine, etc. Just like art, sometimes you have to be there to truly see what's being communicated, otherwise you're just assuming. Or better yet, knowing the artist gives you a better perspective on what they're trying to communicate....
  150. Some nude photography on here just makes me shake my head and feel bad for the model. But then some take my breath away and have me mesmerized. To me the difference is where one makes me feel awkward because it has the model in this sleazy pose where it clearly is about sexuality, that borders on pornographic. Where the other, I'm attracted to the form of the body, as it emphasizes the beauty of it not the sexual nature of it. I think a lot of the times, the breathtaking ones, the lighting is done very well too. There are some ones I have seen where it's almost there but not quite because of technical aspect of how it was shot.
    The one you chose as an example, has more intrigue as it asks questions rather then being bluntly put in front of you. You see the environment, her posture, the mood it's creating. It creates a conversation, not just look at my breasts or vagina. I also think posing does play a role in it as well. And yes there is definitely blatantly sexual poses, even though they may argue it's about the beauty of the model. I think when it's art there isn't any sexual undertone.
    To me when it's artistic I call them nudes because it's about the nude form. When it's not artistic I have a hard time calling it a nude as it's more just a naked woman/man. There is nothing artistic about it, they're just naked.
    And when I think of it another question arises, is it just male photographers that produce the "naked" shots....Of course there are male photographers that produce breathtaking artistic nudes as well. There are some amazing ones on this site. But when I come to think of it, I don't think I have come across any female photographers that produce "naked" shots. I'm sure there is out there but I don't browse nude portfolios that often because most of it on here tends to not be artistic driven, so I tend not to seek out nude photographs. I'm not trying to be sexist or anything, but it just got me thinking...I think women have the ability to put aside sexual desire and can focus on the beauty and not involve sexuality. I'm also not saying artistic nudes have no sexuality in them either. I think it's a given since we are viewing the human body at it's purest form. But sexuality tends to be on the bottom of the list as to what attracted you to the image when it comes to artistic nudes. It's just not the first thing you see.
    Anyways I have thought about this a lot and have thought about making a post about it too. I think this is the best description for me and what I feel defines an artistic nude compared to a naked photo.
  151. I think when it's art there isn't any sexual undertone. --D.D. Toth​
    Well, D.D., that issue has been at or near the center of this discussion so far. Many strongly disagree with your position, of course, and without that tension and disagreement I do not think that the thread would have taken off as it has.
    When it's not artistic I have a hard time calling it a nude as it's more just a naked woman/man. There is nothing artistic about it, they're just naked.​
    I have heard many people say that, DD. Last summer in a comparable forum, a related question was raised: "Why does the photographic nude vary so greatly in its impact on us? More specifically, why do some nudes appear more naked than others?"


    The idea for the question came from my stumbling upn a nude in which there was no display of genitalia, breasts, or buttocks, yet in which the model somehow looked naked. The implicit question was whether the resulting shot still struck one as art or not. I argued that it did (which possibly challenges your point of view, since you have strongly counterpoised the naked v. the nude), but some argued against the photo's artistic merit without yet going so far as to call it pornography. Here is the photo that set off that discussion:
    I never did ask the photographer, Jim Phelps, whether he used the title "Deep Thought" as a challenge to the obviously pornographic (so I am told) movie Deep Throat. Was Jim, that is, implying that the degree of thought provoked by a shot redeems it from being pornography? I do not think that I ever asked, nor did I even ask whether the title was intended to convey anything at all in particular.
    The question raised in last summer's thread is relevant to your stance, D.D., since it was obvious that Jim's model was naked--but it was not obvious to me, at least, that the power of the picture was solely about her nakedness. I still felt that it had substantial artistic content. Not everyone agreed with me that it was an artistic photo, of course, but at least the discussion allowed for a pretty thorough airing of the "naked" v. "nude" distinction.
    Thank you for raising that issue again, D.D. We could perhaps refine it or modify that issue for this year's thread and ask, "Does the sense of nakedness detract from the artistic impact of the photo?"
    The question for this year's thread has not changed, of course: "What is the essential difference between the nude as a piece of trash and the nude as a work of art?"
  152. Just for the record and in case anyone is interested in the history of these long threads abuot nude photography, in the summer of 2009 the thread that went so long on a related topic was this one:
  153. One thing that the photo link brought up for me is that it isn't nude photography. Whats weird is that now that Boudoir photography has become more popular, as well as the direction that photographers are taking with fashion and glamour photography, I see those kinds of photography to be different from one another.
    I shoot boudoir photography and to me that photo seems more boudoir with a touch of fashion to it. When people ask me about my boudoir photography there is a distinction bewteen boudoir and artistic nudes. It's not the same thing to me. Boudoir is more about who the person is, implication, less is more, emotion, sensuality, involving bedroom settings, lingerie, props, etc...That shot seems more fashion/boudoir to me because of the sunglasses, make up center, and the attitude she is putting off in the look she is giving, but still partially covered up not revealing everything. I wouldn't even consider that a "naked" photo. Those are blatantly sexual and force you to look at them. They're in your face and tend to not have any emotion behind them either. You look at it and the first thing you see is their genitalia. Where you open up the photo and it's like "Whoa, Penis!" You don't see the person or get any sense of sensuality. It's just a photo of a naked person.
    Artistic nudes tend to be more about body/form/lines/lighting etc...Not too often do I see an artistic nude where the subject is giving a sassy look. In fact I don't even know if artistic nudes have any sense of who the person is in it. It's just about the body form. To me there is a difference with boudoir, so it has it's own category and doesn't really fit into the artistic nudes.
    It also got me thinking that there really is even a difference between nude photography("Nudes"), artistic nudes, and the "naked" photos that are borderline pornographic. The original photo you posted I would probably put into the nude photography category because it's not really an artistic nude, it's not solely about the body and it's beauty. The environment she is put in as well as her pose tells a story and evokes a response from the viewer, rather then just admiring/photographing the beauty of the human body, as I believe is what artistic nudes do. Maybe because I'm an artist as well, that is why I view it that way. When we paint artistic nudes it's about the body, not about the person or environment...Something else to think about...Yup, I think Nudes, and Artistic Nudes are separate from one another. As is Boudoir, and Pornography.
  154. redeems it from being pornography​
    Listen carefully . . .
  155. Categorize. . . .
    Or is a given work sometimes irredeemable?
    The question reminds me of discussions in the sixties or seventies as to whether the plots of certain movies were merely thinly-veiled attempts to prevent them from being judged as having "no redeeming social value," in the words of one Supreme Court decision involving claims of "obscenity."
    Fred, the inclusion of the link to one of your photos should not be thought to imply a judgment on my part--simply a recognition that certain photos are more controversial than others because they are contrary to prevailing norms or "contemporary community standards." (Miller v. California 1973)
    The public discussion has typically proceeded on two levels, that of the moral versus that of the legal. By introducing the realm of the (a)esthetic as a presumed independent third standard, are we thereby free of the other two types of judgments?
    More to the point, to what extent do our moral judgments inform our aesthetic judgments?
    Perhaps that should be the title of a separate thread, although it would seem to be germane to this discussion as well, since words of approbation ("art") and disapprobation ("porn") so often seem to mask ethical judgments of the worth of a work.
  156. Since I have made reference to the Miller case above, here is a link to it for anyone who might be interested:
    I want to point out that my reference to legal decisions is for me admittedly tangential to this thread. Whether the law leads or follows where community standards are involved, neither the law nor the moral judgment of the community gives any guidance whatsoever into either the ethical or the (a)esthetic value of a work, in my opinion.
  157. While I am on the subject of the law (again, admittedly tangential to this thread), the standard for obscenity prior to the Miller case was Roth v. United States 1957.
    The case is noteworthy in more ways than one, but two phrases in particular have always stood out for me: "patently offensive" and "without redeeming social value."
    As I said, this case was superseded by the even more conservative Miller case, which, by appealing to "community standards," could make artists at risk in one jurisdiction but not in another. The Supreme Court thereby seemed to give up on a general or national standard for adjudging the legality of certain works of art.
    The problem with the Roth case, on the other hand, was obvious enough: "patently offensive" to whom? "without redeeming social value," in whose opinion? The subsequent Miller case did not resolve these issues, simply shifted the burden of judgment back to the states and localities.
    For the record, my own opinion regarding the law's judgments on such matters is that a given legal dictum is simply another another anthropological datum. It has no independent moral force for me, much less any aesthetic force.
    The question as to what is "art" or "trash"(or "porn") remains, simplistic though it may be.
  158. Here is the link to the Roth case:
    The link to the Miller case which superseded it is above.
  159. simply a recognition that certain photos are more controversial than others because they are contrary to prevailing norms or "community standards."​
    May be time to get beyond that stage and start looking at and feeling the photos themselves. Looking at photos from the standpoint of "prevailing norms" won't do much help to allow you to see what's there. It's a very restricted view, IMO.
    SF MOMA is currently showing an exhibit of Leo and Gertrude Stein's collection. It was interesting seeing the paintings of Matisse, Picasso, Gris, et al within the context of the appreciators who helped support and introduce their work. Leo said this of Matisse's Woman With a Hat:
    "[It is] a thing brilliant and powerful, but the nastiest smear of paint I have ever seen."
    The first point is to help undermine your art/trash (in this case, nasty) dichotomy. It's not just a simple way to begin the discussion. It's false. Leo understood that art and nastiness could be bedfellows, and I understand that nastiness is transitory. What was nasty in 1904 was no longer nasty by 1908.
    The second point is to suggest that, at one point, people missed the relevance and depth of Matisse because they were busy worrying about the controversy and his supposed flouting of prevailing norms. Leo and Gertrude Stein, on the other hand, were looking. And Matisse was painting as he saw. His goal was something more than to shock the world by defying prevailing norms. Now that the world has come past that limited assessment of his work, we look at the painting itself and allow ourselves to SEE it and to FEEL it.
    If you keep seeing vaginas and penises as "controversial," will you ever allow yourself actually to see them and go beyond them to what may be a deeper view or message in photos that may contain them?
    I have no clue why you posted the two Peri photos and mine in your last post. You're flinging vaginas and penises at us as if they were bullets. Please, what's your point? Do you see anything more than controversy in them? If we were adolescents, I could see getting hung up on them. As adult photographers, I'm hoping for more.
  160. Fred, Fred, just because I compared your work and Peri's in the same post is no reason to get so emotional.
    I am quite aware that the fact that something is controversial is no judgment as to its worth on any level, whether aesthetic or moral. I just said so--more than once.
  161. Who will photograph the photographers?
    We judge in many ways, Fred, but nothing that I have said was intended to be a judgment of you or your work.
    Methinks thou dost protest a bit too much.
  162. You post links to three totally uncontroversial nudes and then talk about legal definitions of pornography ... it's just bizaare. Fred's reaction and questions make perfect sense to me.
    Link to what I find to be interesting nudes, to get off this weird tangent:
  163. Thanks, Julie.
    Lannie, my questions were quite genuine. You haven't attempted to consider or respond to those questions. You seem to want to toss about vaginas, penises, pornography, art, legality, and not to want to look at, talk about, and feel the photographs beyond that. I don't know what you think I'm protesting too much against. I'm simply trying to move this discussion past puberty.
  164. The Chan Chao link is great, Julie.
    One never knows what is going to be controversial. Some photos--and some posts--are "patently offensive" and "without redeeming social value"--to some persons.
    I am not here to hurt feelings, simply to keep the philosophical conversation alive in what I think is a civilized, non-judgmental, and non-threatening way.
    People bring to their reading and to their viewing much more about themselves than they know. I am not responsible for that--or for their reactions.
  165. I'm simply trying to move this discussion past puberty.​
    Fred, I thought that you were above ad hominem arguments. Physician, heal thyself.
  166. I'm paying absolutely no attention to the debate. Looking at the proffered image link, I was impressed by the classic style of the photographer. Browsing through his gallery showed many more nudes that were intrinsic elements of the whole image--rather dispassionately, in fact. While a few might have been of prurient interest to an 11-year-old, a goodly number were truly artful.
    It is my opinion that it is as difficult to produce an artful nude by way of photography as by any other method--just a bit quicker, however.
  167. My arguments are the things you haven't been addressing. My comment about puberty is an observation, not an argument. It's meant somewhat as an attack, to be honest, but definitely not an argument. It's meant to attack the way you approach this subject. That's my moral, philosophical, and aesthetic judgment for you in a nutshell.
  168. It is my opinion that it is as difficult to produce an artful nude by way of photography as by any other method--just a bit quicker, however.​
    I like that, Charles. It seems that there are far too many persons who think that the forms represented and interpreted through photography are somehow aesthetically inferior to those done with oil and a canvas--and, as you say, simply because photography can be much easier and quicker than painting.
    There is yet that group that thinks that the graphic nature of the photograph, with its capacity to reproduce in explicit detail, somehow debases the subject. I have never thought so.
  169. From my early film days--when I really didn't know what I was doing​
    Well, it is a truly beautiful and evocative photo, Charles. I would not want anything more in a photo by anyone, at any stage of artistic development or maturity, but then I have always been partial to the "nude in nature" sub-genre, even if some consider it to be a cliché. (No one ever explained that last claim to me, although I have heard it more than once.)
  170. Thanks for the Chan Chao link, Julie. I had seen the Burma pics exhi9bited, but never gone to the site and seen the others. The nudes are interesting. In the same deadpan vein as his portraits, they come across to me as serene, open, without shame (even those that are shy), with apparent references to art history, and (don't laugh) they make me feel exposed also.
    Count me in among those who think there's a lot of self-repression and ensuing distortions in this thread, right from the OP, which is why I've mostly lurked.
  171. Not of any particular relevance to this thread, but I ran into this nude/art event online yesterday:
  172. Speculations about my motives are interesting in a perverse sort of way, but are way off target in this case. Such speculations invariably have a way of getting personal, even though persons say that they are not getting personal. The personal (ad hominem) attacks tend to drive many persons from this forum, and they have no place in philosophy or photography. They discourage me from posting on a regular basis.
    I have attacked no one, especially not Fred. Nor have I thrown penises and vaginas at anyone. The only link to a photo involving a penis was to Fred's photo, and there have been no links by anyone to vaginas on this entire thread. I have done my best to make this thread free of sensationalism. If a vulva or two has peeked out, I hope that no one's tender sensibilities have been hurt too much.
    The reason for counterpoising Fred to John Peri was simply that the two photographers could not be more different. That's it. No hidden agenda. Anyone viewing could thereby address the issue of whose body of work is the more artistic. I did indeed choose the one I did by Fred because it was bold enough to leave itself open to attacks from the public and therefore would attract or provoke controversy, which in my mind is not a bad thing at all. I am often accused of being a controversialist, especially in the academic setting. My political views are radical, and the fact is that I do not have to try to be controversial. I simply say what is on my mind, and that usually suffices to provoke controversy, here and in every part of my life. That fact does not rattle me, although sometimes I tire of the simple-minded madness that lies behind it. I have not deliberately tried to provoke controversy here on this forum. The issues are still controversial enough in the larger society without any help from me. In an earlier era, Fred's photo would likely have been attacked as obscene or pornographic. There are yet many who would so adjudge it today, but we do not evaluate art by plebiscite. It is not Fred's best work, in my opinion, but that is neither here nor there. It is yet art. It is not pretty. It is yet art. It is not even wholesome, in my opinion (for what that's worth). It is yet art. Peri's work? Peri has not said too much about art, but he has had to defend himself from many zealots against the charge of posting pornography. I can imagine that the very same zealots would have a field day with Fred's photo. I thought that a brief look at the two side by side could be interesting, since both men's photos have generated controversy--even though their bodies of work are very different.
    I have tried to patiently explain that, yes, the original post by me contained an oversimplification, but I also tried to explain that questions often start that way by some necessity. (See my earlier post on that matter if you are interested.) I anticipated problems by counterpoising "art" to "trash"--but there is trash and there is trash, and some nudes are trash, and not necessarily because they are offensive in some way. They are simply no good. I let the ambiguity in the word "trash" stand. I did not want to lock the discussion into one or another avenue. Let it flow as it would, I said to myself.
    Let me say one thing to all of you sunshine posters: this is hazardous duty, and I invite you to try posting threads which are as direct as mine have been on such topics. I know and knew before I started that I would likely come in for the same nonsense that invariably comes when these issues are broached. I think that it was Anthony Flew who said that one cannot frame a philosophical issue in such a way as to make oneself invulnerable. I agree, and so I have not tried to be invulnerable.
    There is a tendency for these threads, the longer they go, to become more and more about the poster than about the topic. That is regrettable but unavoidable. I knew the risks. I would do it again. It is not easy, but it is not terrible, either. The cacophony reminds me of the bitchiness of faculty meetings. I am always glad to get back to real work. I cannot try to rebut every claim, but let me say this much:
    I went off on the legal tangent only as it relates to controversy, and I addressed controversy because controversy has been at the heart of public discussions of art, obscenity, pornography, etc. The legal realm has actually come down on the side of the view that there is art that might be offensive while yet having redeeming artistic and social value--and which therefore should be adjudged as being protected by the First Amendment. I did not want to go into detail in comparing the Roth and Miller cases. I yet thought that a passing reference to them might be an interesting footnote for some, and so I went to the trouble of tracking down the links, especially for those who have not witnessed the way that the courts have arrived at the current view, and who have no idea how to find such material on their own. I could have linked to issues involving attempts to censor since the rise of the internet, but that was even further afield, and so I let it go.
    I could go on in this vein, but at some point one goes ahead with one's posts and invites others to do the same. No one has an obligation to respond to my posts, and I do not have an obligation to respond to theirs. My view is that, when things get crazy, I should try to remember what the original point was.
    Oh, yes, it had something to do with what makes for great art. . . .
  173. I am quite aware that the fact that something is controversial is no judgment as to its worth on any level, whether aesthetic or moral. I just said so--more than once.​
    Lannie, what I (and a few others) are trying to tell you is that nude photographs are not inherently controversial. Your assumption that posting the nudes of John Peri and me is looking at something controversial is just that, an assumption. It is controversial in your head. As you said:
    People bring to their reading and to their viewing much more about themselves than they know. I am not responsible for that--or for their reactions.​
    And should it be fair game, then, to look into that, since you bring it up, or will that get deflected with the usual claims of "ad hominem"? Presumably, you are responsible for your reactions as well. It is in YOUR mind that there is controversy in those three photos. At some point, after several threads over several years, you will have to start to take responsibility for the way YOU see these nudes and not try to escape that responsibility by claiming it is something about the nude photograph, something somehow related to Kant, pornography, trash, or a fabricated academic discussion punctuated by titillating photos of naked girls and boys accompanied by defensive claims that "art" must be beyond such titillation.
  174. I appreciate the comments, Lannie. That was the mid-70s and I didn't have a studio available, so nature was my friend. I did have a lab at work, and the boss let me do my personal work when I was done with his tasks. My wife, at the time, would sketch the models as I shot them, since she was more into the traditional art. I wanted reality with just a touch of something else. In print, the model's eyes are feral, challenging, like a woods creature--or Diana caught unaware.
    I never really wanted just a pose, but something that expressed an emotion. I'll add another from the same period.
  175. Lannie, Junior High School kids might look at the penises and point and laugh, just like some in Kansas might be offended by two nude males together, and some who haven't been as exposed as others might think of these photos as controversial. I completely accept that and understand it. But I put those kinds of reactions in their place and those reactions don't make "the nude" funny, offensive, or controversial. In discussing photographs with other mature and enlightened photographers, I do expect to go beyond the silliness of Junior High Schoolers, the myopia of homophobes in Kansas, and the lack of exposure of those who find nudes controversial. Just because I know it exists, accept it, and understand it, doesn't mean I want to make it the foundation or starting point of a discussion that I can learn something from.
  176. Fred and Luis, I deal with controversy as I find it on Photo.net and in the larger society. I study politics for a living, not art or literature. I do have a feel for public opinion, national, state, and local. That is part of my job. I do not teach only political philosophy but public opinion and voting behavior. Such is life at a small college.
    Of course these things that you mention are not controversial to artists. I have never thought they were. They are increasingly less controversial in the larger society, but the internet is probably the big driving force there. Attitudes are certainly changing and have already changed a lot. There is still a long way to go from my vantage point here in the Southeast.
    I am still interested in what anyone has to say about what makes something into ART. You guys seem more concerned with what makes it trash. That was never my emphasis, nor the point of the thread. I have yet addressed it as it has come up. I will not be posting a theory of trash anytime soon. Such does not interest me. A good theory as to what makes something art would interest me very much. I do not have it.
    I have two free weekdays before our first meetings begin on Monday for the fall semester. If I fail to respond to every post from now on, it will not mean anything except that I feel the press of time.
    In any case, whether you acknowledge it or not, you are attributing to me views and motives that are not mine. I yet see the issues as being a lot more complicated than some persons seem to be willing to admit.
    I still would like to remind you that this thread is not about ME, and I wish that you would stop trying to make it about me. My patience with you is exhausted, and I am quite sure that I will never bother with these issues again on an internet forum anywhere.
    Please post to the issue of what makes art. I am not the subject of the thread.
    Thank you.
  177. That is another wonderful photo, Charles. You not only capture emotion. You evoke it--as I mentioned earlier.
    As for the weeds, yes, Photoshop certainly has cut down on the time needed for retouching. The weeds are a minor imperfection. I do love your work.
  178. Charles, I went back and looked at the first picture you posted of the nude covering herself as she stood against the tree. I can get a glimmer of the expression you caught in her eyes. I wish that I could see that up close. Can you perhaps give us a 100% crop of her face so that we might see more detail in the eyes? Thanks.
  179. I wish that more persons would post photos or links to photos that they consider great art--or at least something that they have shot and that means something to them. I like to know the photographers whose work I am critiquing and analyzing. It is not always possible to do that simply by looking at a portfolio.
    It is hard to discuss great art when very little is being posted. Thank you again for posting your work, Charles. It is wonderful.
  180. a fabricated academic discussion punctuated by titillating photos of naked girls and boys accompanied by defensive claims that "art" must be beyond such titillation.​
    Fred, you know (and knew!) the implications of saying such a false thing. The only "boys" in my links are the ones you shot fooling around in the dark (below). I have made no shots of "girls." You have at least come up with a recipe for a good lawsuit.
    As for the nude of yours which I posted, I do think that it is art--very bad art. Very disgusting and revolting art. The fact that you can find some coterie of sycophants who will praise such work does not change my opinion. I will yet defend to the death your right to post.
  181. I think what makes it "art" is the viewer.
  182. The changes of media over the years is astounding as I look back. This was one of my second best prints and this a crop of a scan without retouching the spots. My best print was stolen out of an open art show in Biloxi, Miss. I guess the attraction was too great for someone. There is a story to the darkness under her eyes, I suppose, but no makeup.
  183. Lannie - "You guys seem more concerned with what makes it trash."
    That's simply untrue, Lannie. I am not being judgmental by what I said, merely descriptive of what I am reading. It is true that the typed word is about 7% of what the in-person spoken word with body language can convey, so I am sure a lot gets lost through those cracks. No attack meant or implied. And somehow, in spite of all the contretemps, some interesting things do crop up in these threads.
    Lannie - "As for the nude of yours which I posted, I do think that it is art--very bad art. Very disgusting and revolting art. The fact that you can find some coterie of sycophants who will praise such work does not change my opinion."
    Wow...a "coterie of psychophants"? That's a below-the-belt insulting and ugly, mean thing to say, and not just to Fred, but to those of us who have commented positively upon his work.
  184. I can definitely see where Fred is coming from and agree with him Lannie. I try to read your posts but I get lost and wonder how it relates to your original question.
    "What makes nudes into a work of art?"
    I have tried to explain how I would categorize nude photography. I believe there is a distinction from Artistic nudes, to Nudes, to Boudoir, to the "naked photos". I didn't even call them trash either. I have nothing against those photos that I would categorize as "naked" for me. There is always a reason why things exist, it's just not something I find appealing. I feel for me when I look at a nude person I want to see the beauty of the body. It definitely can be sensual as well but when it comes to Artistic nudes, I feel the sexuality is the last thing you notice. Nudes or nude photography can be about the body but also have a sense of sensuality to it.
    It frustrates me that you seem to be ignoring my posts when I have clearly tried to answer your question for what it is. I have tried to explain to you what my theory is as to what makes an artistic nude in both my posts. I didn't put any focus on what you have labeled as "trash". I have to add that kind of photography in my posts to explain my distinctions as to what is considered art but it seems you choose to focus on other things rather then discuss my honest theory and description as to what is art.
    I feel my theory is something that relates to most peoples views. I don't want to post photos but I just went to the Gallery Top Rated Photos and had it set to Nudes, of all time, and recent ratings(average), and there are some great examples that fully relate to my theory.
    Vladimir Geogriev's photo has done something very creative and unique. You view the lines of their legs and the shape and lighting - This is a very creative artistic nude. It's almost fun to view.
    Manuel Gairinho is a perfect example of how you can photograph genitalia and still show the beauty of it and make it artistic. It's for sure an artistic nude done with a touch of humor in it. You see lines/shape/form before anything else.
    Igor Amelkovich's photo is different. Based on my definitions this could be considered Nude Photography not artistic nudes. Even though there is an environment she is put in, there really is no mood/emotion being created. It's more about the beauty of the lines and form of her body. The way the light is hitting her in contrast to her environment.
    Elena Platanova - is more Boudoir to me. It's because her eyes are on you. Almost all artistic nudes, their eyes are almost always focused on something else or their faces aren't even in the picture. But this shot there is an expression she is giving which makes it feel personal. She is not fully exposed, it's implied, and very sensual.
    Thomas Doering. A shot I've seen many people try to duplicate (even I want to try it one time) But this shot is just the epitome of an artistic nude. Lines/Light/Form/Beauty...Breathtaking!
    These all are top rated because people view them as art and can appreciate them more. When it comes to true artistic nudes I think the majority of people can view them and see the beauty of it and know when they see something done well. I think there is a small selection of nudes that can be considered artistic nudes. There can be beautiful nude photography, but Artistic Nudes are hard to do and are few and far between. You for sure know when you see art. You can see a beautiful nude photo but it doesn't necessarily mean it's an artistic nude. That is why I feel there are categories in Nude Photography. You can't put it all into one. There is a difference.
  185. Luis, I have praised much of Fred's work in the past. I am not attacking those who have praised this work or some other particular work. I am simply saying that the mere fact that something is or might be appreciated among a circle of admirers does not, would not, change my personal opinion. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the tense used.
    I do not like the photo. ( http://www.photo.net/photo/13882943 )
    That is the point. I do not even feel the need to analyze what it is about it that I do not like. I would prefer to spend my time explaining what I do like about photos that I find worthy. Many of Fred's do fit that category. For me, this one does not.
  186. So, Lannie, now that you've disingenuously disowned your poke-in-the-eye attempt to change the subject, how about finally addressing Fred's questions?
  187. D.D. I did spend a lot of time responding to one of your posts. I appreciate your comments very much.
    As for the second one, I can only say that I am not sure about your categories (that is, in terms of their utility for evaluating nudes, since good work can be found across many genres and sub-genres). I am not saying that there is no value in such categories. Whether Phelps' shot belongs in one category or another I had not previously thought about. I can see your logic for labeling it as you did.
    As for your defense of Fred, that is all well and good. I can only say that threads can go downhill pretty fast once personal attacks start. Criticisms of our works are hurtful enough, no matter how well-phrased and purged of malice. When persons start speculating on motives, they have crossed the line IN A PHILOSOPHICAL DISCUSSION. Since philosophers spend their lives in what can seem like interminable discussions, they know full well to avoid the personal attack or anything that smacks of the personal attack.
    Fred has the philosophical training. He should know better than to try to keep playing around that line as to what can be construed as an attack on persons--and analyzing persons' motives is way, way, way out of bounds, way over that line. I hope that he remembers that in the future.
  188. Julie, I will keep trying to change the subject back to the topic at hand. There is no need to infer that I have some hidden motive in writing what I write. I have no hidden agenda. If I have time and something interests me or is promising, then I will respond--as I see fit.
    I cannot respond to everything. I simply have other things to do.
    Could we possibly just drop the great Fred v. Lannie issue and get back to the topic?
  189. D.D., I think you did make some valid and thoughtful distinctions, though the category thing can start to drive me a little nuts. Yes, I think there's a difference between what we might call a fine art nude in a traditional sense (formal, study-like) and a Boudoir Nude, a Fashion(ish) nude, a nude portrait, a nude story-telling photo, a nude street photo, and on and on. For that matter, there are differences even in the more salacious or sexual nudes, whether coming from Picasso and Matisse or Playboy and Mandate. Playboy is whole lot different from other magazines I've seen and I've seen all different levels and sensibilities involved in the soft- and hard-core gay stuff as well.
    I can appreciate what you may be drawn to personally, regardless of what that is. Since I know how important it is to me to shoot what's personal, I admire anyone who goes for what moves them, though I also try to keep in mind always expanding what moves me and what will keep my taste buds open to new flavors.
    Obviously, I disagree with you that art wouldn't have sexual undertones. I don't know where that would leave Tennessee Williams, Nabokov, hell, even Alfred Hitchcock. A lot of great art even has sexual overtones: Last Tango in Paris, a significant few from Picasso's body of work. Perhaps the photograph, because it is as much a product of the real world (we take pictures of things that exist) is a little more in-your-face sometimes so the sexuality seems more blatant than when we see it in paintings and drawings. I don't think, however, you can say the sexuality itself is any more blatant or raw as much as that the medium may present it that way. We should be used to that, because there can be that kind of difference with all subject matters between paintings and photographs.
    My point is that the fine art nude, the boudoir nude, the odalisque, the nude portrait, the nude photo that tells a story, a story or photo all about sex can be art.
    Nudity and sex are fairly personal. I don't see how one could discuss their feelings about the photographic portrayal especially of sexuality without expecting that personal issues around our reactions would be discussed and questioned. Ad hominem is "your argument against Social Security is wrong because you're a stupid tea-partier." Ad hominem is NOT "your argument against Social Security shows a lack of compassion."
  190. I don't see how one could discuss their feelings about the photographic portrayal especially of sexuality without expecting that personal issues around our reactions would be discussed and questioned. Ad hominem is "your argument against Social Security is wrong because you're a stupid tea-partier." Ad hominem is NOT "your argument against Social Security shows a lack of compassion."​
    Why not simply argue for Social Security on the strength of what it actually does for persons, as well as the injuries that would occur if benefits were cut? I see no need for discussions of motives, even seemingly "innocuous" remarks about persons' motives. There are no innocuous attacks on motives. When persons are told that they are lacking in compassion, then their motives become the topic, and the original discussion of the merits of social security is lost.
    As for art and sexuality, we do not even have to use the nude to show that art can show sexuality--and still be art. Here is a very mild example of sexual expression that does not even involve nudity:
    I do believe that the photo has some artistic merit. Would it if a couple were engaged in sexual intercourse? That would be more difficult, not necessarily to say impossible.
  191. It's incredibly important to know the difference between an ad hominem attack, on the one hand, and the recognition of how certain personal beliefs, assumptions, or prejudices may be affecting the philosophical thinking of another person in a discussion. Suggesting reasons for why someone may be tied to a particular view or, even more strongly, bound by an existing assumption or prejudice, has and will always be fair play in discussions. A philosopher needs as thick a skin as a photographer. If it's good enough for Socrates, please don't claim it's not part of philosophical tradition, and please don't teach your students such nonsense.
    You know what piety is, if any man does, and I must not let you go . . . If you had no clear knowledge of piety and impiety you would never have ventured to prosecute your old father for murder on behalf of a servant. For fear of the gods you would have been afraid to take the risk lest you should not be acting rightly, and would have been ashamed before men, but now I know well that you believe you have clear knowledge of piety and impiety. So tell me, my good Euthyphro, and do not hide what you think it is. --Socrates to Euthyphro in what I think is a pretty traditional philosophical dialogue!​
    It's hard to imagine anything more personal than Socrates bringing into the argument what his interlocutor did with his own father and using that to show Euthyphro that he saw right through his position on the matter.
    Descartes's ties to the church and beliefs about the Copernican revolution, his motives relative to that church and to science, are so important a part of his philosophy that not to study these things and take them into account is to turn a blind eye to knowledge.
    The role that compassion plays in our systems of social justice is dismissed only by someone who would allow economics to trump humanism when teaching or discussing politics.
    Here's Ben Oneil's response to Rawls' idea of social justice.
    In fact, since the program of social justice inevitably involves claims for government provision of goods, paid for through the efforts of others, the term actually refers to an intention to use force to acquire one's desires. Not to earn desirable goods by rational thought and action, production and voluntary exchange, but to go in there and forcibly take goods from those who can supply them!​
    I can only imagine the screams of ad hominem because O'Neill (who I disagree with) suggested that Rawls' intention was a governmental use of force and those same screamers would mistake O'Neill's use of rational thought as a personal attack on Rawls. Speaking of protesting too much. You're like the boy who cries "ad hominem" when you don't want to look at or answer a direct question.
    You make the thread eminently about yourself, time and time again telling us about your life as a teacher and as a controversial figure in your community, trying to bring in my own academic credentials (to no avail), and linking to your own past threads on this topic, telling us what you think is disgusting (which I am both fascinated and appreciative to hear). When it's suggested that your views are uptight and repressed you cry out in horror. PUH-LEEZE.
    If you kept claiming that Descartes was right about the subject/object distinction and I told you you were an out-of-touch foundationalist, would you get so irate about being called something or would you buckle down and answer me with some reasons for your views? (Believe me, Wittgenstein said much worse to the logical positivists he whose philosophy he rejected later on in his life.) Look back on the question Julie and I and D.D. wanted you to answer and then on each of these threads you've started. The minute your prejudices and assumptions are challenged, you derail the threads by making them about others supposedly attacking you and then threaten never to start another thread like it. And yet, here we are again. Same old, same old. When you want to rise to the challenges you are obviously asking for, let us know.
  192. Challenges, philosophical and photographic, don't always come in forms we find palatable. We can usually find many excuses not to take up a difficult challenge. Your default seems to be this "ad hominem" claim. I have my own excuses that I've used with mentors, professors, and friends. When I let them go and take on the substance rather than my perceived slight at the form of the challenges (these are some of the ones I use: you didn't say it nicely enough, why'd you imply that?, you're bringing up something we weren't discussing, you're making this personal, and on and on and on), I usually gain some insight. The more personally I feel the challenge, the more is usually waiting in the wings if I take it up rather than deflect it.
    The question, again, was this:
    If you keep seeing vaginas and penises as "controversial," will you ever allow yourself actually to see them and go beyond them to what may be a deeper view or message in photos that may contain them?

    I have no clue why you posted the two Peri photos and mine in your last post. You're flinging vaginas and penises at us as if they were bullets. Please, what's your point? Do you see anything more than controversy in them? If we were adolescents, I could see getting hung up on them. As adult photographers, I'm hoping for more.​
    And it very much can set a path for you to begin to answer your own question about what makes the photographic nude art.
  193. Nonsense, Fred. You are full of overt lies as well as being fundamentally self-deluded. My absolute is that I will not engage in pseudo-philosophical discussions with anyone who reserves the right to make personal attacks as he pleases--and you always manage to do it, sooner or later, inevitably.
    I am not avoiding anything, for the record. You have given me no "challenge" worth responding to. You have no knowledge of my motives, nor will you ever, because you are close-minded and self-justifying--and vicious, as I was warned long ago by more than one person.
    I am leaving this thread--and this forum. I am sure that it can flourish without me. You will say that I am leaving because I cannot respond to you. I see nothing worth responding to--and the moderators stand idly by.
    How many discussions have you wrecked here? How many persons have you driven off? I know quite a number who will not come near this forum becaues of you. You caused the thread to be shut down by moderators in 2009 ("The Power and the Glory").
    These are not philosophical arguments. These are facts about the reality here. You learn nothing, and you intend to learn nothing. You have nothing to teach, and you will not learn.
    Who wants to try to exchange ideas with such a person? I can say this. "By their fruits shall you know them." This kind of trash is your fruit:
  194. close-minded and self-justifying--and vicious​
    I am sorry. I meant to say "closed-minded and self-justifying--and vicious."
    I regret the error.
  195. Actually, I see it much more as OUR fruit.
    Since this is a photography forum, let's discuss the photo. I welcome anyone else's views, negative or positive, or non-judgmental as well. I don't mean to be self-indulgent (though I don't mind being so, obviously), but it seems pertinent to the discussion to be a little more specific than we've been able to be.
    It's a staged photo, and looks like one to me. I see it as somewhat ambiguous, left it purposely so. What I see are two men, naked, a lighting situation that obfuscates parts of bodies, which I guess I see as adding to some of the ambiguity. A spotlight which seems to call out "staged." I see the obviously artificially-manipulated movement of interrelating hands, the fabricated stuttering of a standing man's body, barely any face, but yet a hint of some sort of expression. I see two penises illuminated, one touching the other's body. And then there are some lines added to the surface of the photo. It is my first direct foray into a kind of created surrealism, also influenced by some of the Russian Avant Garde stuff I've looked at. I have a long way to go in progressing toward what I want out of this. I like it as a start of an exploration and a direction worth pursuing. I'm very drawn to that kind of work and see hints of the direction already present but not-yet-even-close-to-fully realized in my work. I'm doing it with subject matter that seems to lend itself to this sort of view traditionally, but would like to find my own voice to work with it.
    Now, trash, disgust, whatever, is an honest and reasonable response. Like I said, I appreciate that kind of honesty. We both bear some responsibility for that reaction. I, for making a photograph that I can understand some seeing as somewhat blatant, though I myself don't, and ambiguous enough to beg for any variety of responses. You, for seeing whatever it is you see that leads you to disgust. I'll say that some might see it as sculptural, two nude men in a close encounter. Some might see it as sexual, two nude men about to get it on. Some might see it as representing what guys do in dark back rooms in bars. Some might see it as a dramatic expression of closeness. Maybe some would find an element of massage, the physical beauty of touch. Who knows? Many of my friends would probably prefer it be more blatant. Others would be made to feel uncomfortable because, though they are getting more and more used to "gay" and more and more used to penises in photographs, maybe they don't often see what two penises look like when there's some sort of touch between them. In any case, I could go on and speculate. To suggest that I can't imagine someone being disgusted by this would be totally disingenuous of me. Of course I can. Do I think that makes it a disgusting photo? Of course not. Though any critic can say of it what he likes.
    Regardless, your reaction is both honest and curious in the way many reactions are curious when people respond to my work. What exactly are you seeing that's disgusting? What do you imagine (imagination is a key) is going one here? I might suggest that whatever that is is some sort of projection on your part, which is precisely what this photo may be asking for and why your reaction is so gratifying to me. Because you did project. I can't ask for more from a viewer than for them to project their imaginations, their judgments, their genuine responses and feelings, into a photo of mine, especially one that may suggest a narrative as this might. But you must also take responsibility for whatever it is that you're seeing that leads you to your response. That's where your mind and gut has taken you. I left things pretty open and ambiguous . . . beyond some suggestions and some obvious facts, which I recounted above. It is you that have gone somewhere that's disgusted you. What is that place and why did you go there? And is it bad to be disgusted? These questions may remain unanswered and I am often myself not quite able to answer them. But I think you're the one taking a bite of the apple here, disgusted by something you're seeing. I can imagine this photo causing some people to see what they think may be disgusting things. I actually feel as if I can see them. So none of this surprises me that much. I don't find it disgusting. And I don't really find it not disgusting. Disgust, either way, is not somewhere I would have gone with it myself. I'd take it in different directions if I came across it (to whatever extent I can be objective about it). But I can easily understand that others would find it disgusting. The thing is, I see that, and I see all the other things I mentioned.
    What makes a photographic nude art, you ask? Often, it's what it is and more than what it may seem, it's more than one thing or interpretation. Art often allows me to go to several different places, but as if at the same time. It often has that contradiction to it that just when it seems to be this it also seems to be that. Of course, sometimes it seems very clearly this and nothing else. That's why art's so tough to talk about in the abstract. Better to talk about individual paintings and photographs and what we see and what they make us feel, and why. In short, art is often, but not limited to, precisely what it's not. There's a little truth in the little bit of Dada that's in art.
  196. I want to say a few more things for the sake of anyone who might come by here and wonder why I am not responding to Fred's interrogations several posts above.
    I have already responded at this post: Landrum Kelly [​IMG][​IMG], Aug 03, 2011; 11:46 a.m.
    In that post at 11:46 a.m. today I gave Fred my response, but he does not accept it. This occurred before, at the end of our nearly month-long thread in 2009, "The Power and the Glory." Fred started asking the same question (or variations thereof) over and over, and I tried to answer over and over--until the moderators shut the thread down. Fred cannot accept that persons who do not share his assumptions are going to cast the questions--and the answers--differently. He insists that he and he alone will set the terms of how others should think--and write. There is something fundamentally perverse about this. With Fred, it is absolutely impossible to say, "Then we will have to agree to disagree." He will not stop. At some point what was philosophy has morphed into the kind of harassment that one finds on web postings from time to time. Fred uses his words as weapons, but not in a truly philosophical style--he simply bashes, and he is no Socrates, and so his comparisons of himself to Socrates in Plato's Euthyphro are laughable.
    This thread was going along quite nicely, I thought. When it started going crazy and started turning into a repeat of that 2009 ("The Power and the Glory") debacle, I decided that there was no way that I was going to let a liar like Fred Goldberg waste any more of my time.
    And I never will--not ever again.
    Thanks to all who have been civil and generous and tolerant. I have enjoyed these eight days, but it is just as well that I get off now. There is other work I absolutely must attend to before my 2011-12 academic year begins this coming Monday.
    I will not likely be back on this forum, since I see no evidence of moderation in the face of this hacking, attacking, lying style. There is philosophy and there is philosophy. What we have seen yesterday and today is not philosophy. Whatever it is, it is sick. I want no part of it.
    Again, thank you all. These are my concluding remarks on these matters.
  197. Lannie;
    Sorry to see you sign off and I hope you will start something new soon. As I said earlier, I am glad you used one of my images as a starting point. It is an education to read whatever comments people have to make on your own work. Philosophy and art must always be discussed together simply because they are so similar in essence. I stood in The Denver Art Museum about ten years ago and looked at Degas "Before the Performance" and tears started to come down my face. At the time I had no idea who the artist was that created the work; If this kind of emotional response does not warrant discussion at a serious level then what does. By the way the subjects were no nude.
    PS. The model for my image that started this was thrilled that you used it and I told her that I would pass it along. Cheers.
  198. PPS.
    I would like to ask people that have contributed to this post to comment on the artistic merit of this image and perhaps one more in another post.
  199. Well, Owen, I have to come back long enough to say that this is absolutely awesome--the lighting, the form, the expression, everything. This is truly well done.
  200. Thanks fornthe come back Lannie. I wish I had taken this image but I did not. In fact it was the first nude that Edward
    Weston claimed to have taken. It was taken in 1918 and it is my favorite image of his as well as being my favorite
    image period. I would rather have an original platinum of this image than the Mona Lisa;=}}.

    He marked it as image I-N.

    One more of mine to follow. Cheers my friend.
  201. This is one more of mine that I would like to think qualifies as an artistic nude.
  202. One more shot at trying to upload the image.
  203. Weston! Wow, Owen. I thought that you had done it. Well, no wonder I liked it.
  204. Geez, Owen...here I was, thinking this was the best nude I'd ever seen by anyone on PN.
  205. Lannie and Luis:

    It may have been the best you have seen here and I wish it was mine. This is a majestic image in just about every
    way and Weston himself did not like it. I have been having trouble uploading one of mine to the thread but I will give it
    another shot in the morning.

    -Cheers mates
  206. [The excerpts are from Wikipedia, with some quotes from his Daybooks. Some of my own thoughts follow each excerpt.]
    In February [Weston] started a new series of nudes, this time of dancer Bertha Wardell. One of this series, of her kneeling body cut off at the shoulders, is one of Weston's most well-known figure studies. At this same time he met Canadian painter Henrietta Shore, whom he asked to comment on the photos of Wardell. He was surprised by her honest critique: "I wish you would not do so many nudes - you are getting used to them, the subject no longer amazes you ‒ most of these are just nudes."​
    Though this is not a critique of Weston's first nude (the one posted above which is likely to be deleted because of PN policy), it's an interesting critique, coming from a respected fellow artist, one which Weston himself seemed to put some stock in. It's not about her feelings relative to the photos nor about her interpretation of them. It's about the photos themselves and his work and Shore's perception about the work, as Weston's. It's her being in touch with and being able to see his relationship to the subjects. She seems to want to empathize with his perspective. I wonder if her word "amaze" has something to do with art?
    They arrived in Mexico City on August 11 and rented a large hacienda outside of the city. Within a month he had arranged for an exhibition of his work at the Aztec Land Gallery, and on October 17 the show opened to glowing press reviews. He was particularly proud of a review by Marius de Zayas that said "Photography is beginning to be photography, for until now it has only been art."​
    Interesting quote in the context of this thread.
    The different culture and scenery in Mexico forced Weston to look at things in new ways. He became more responsive to what was in front of him, and he turned his camera on everyday objects like toys, doorways and bathroom fixtures. He also made several intimate nudes and portraits of Modotti. He wrote in his Daybooks: "The camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself…I feel definite in the belief that the approach to photography is through realism."​
    There may be some secrets here to art, or at least to his photography, even if not in the specifics. No, art is not realism because Weston's approach to photography was through realism. It may be in his commitment to it. It may be in his looking at things in new ways, in his responding to what was in front of him rather than a concern for the particular artistic merits of his work. On one level, his subjects always seem as important as his photographs and yet it seems also obvious that his subjects serve his photographs. Perhaps one small thing that helps make his photographs art is our seeing that passion he had for the harmony and tension of the thing photographed and the photograph. And even if that's not what makes it art, it's probably something worth noticing about the photos.
  207. It's her being in touch with and being able to see his relationship to the subjects.​
    Maybe it is about being an artist herself and knowing when works begin to show the mediocrity that comes from mechanically cranking out paintings, going stale.
    The important thing to remember is that her critique was directed at the works, not at the artist, in spite of the fact that she recognized the signs of staleness and associated mediocrity. As an accomplished artist herself, she could tell whether she was viewing greatness v. mediocrity, and she knew from her own experience that mediocrity comes from a certain loss of inner vision with a concomitant loss of awe, amazement.
    The lesson here is about recognizing staleness in the work, not about empathy or understanding another person's motives. She was telling him something about her own experiences. She inferred that he might be falling prey to the very same staleness which she understood all too well. Going dry is going dry, regardless of the medium, regardless of the genre. For me it has happened at times with writing. If one stops searching for inspiration in the subject, whatever it is, then one is going to go dry, and the work will reflect it. Simply producing more and more will not necessarily solve the problem. Weston was doing that. It was not working.
    How it is that persons lose the capacity to see beauty and respond to it in a creative fashion would be quite another type of judgment, one that she probably wisely refrained from making. Friendships do not survive that kind of judgment, and constructive interaction with the other person begins to suffer, sometimes drastically. In the movie The Natural, the Redford character begins to lose his edge when he gets involved with the Basinger character. The omniscient narrator/playwright knows this--and shares it with us. The manager character only knows that she is "bad luck" for the slugger, and therefore bad luck for the team.
    We (due to our special relationship to the omniscient narrator/playwright) get to see the sin--and the redemption. The teammates only knew that the slugger came out of his slump in time. They were supportive throughout, as was the painter who helped Weston.
  208. Owen, I wonder if Weston did not like the nude that you posted because it was about an interaction with the photographer, who by the subject's intense stare is drawn into the picture in what might have seemed to Weston too crude and obvious a form. The sultry stare speaks to me. I like it. Perhaps Weston wanted to move beyond that sort of work.
    The nudes we remember and that Weston must have wanted us to remember are overwhelmingly about the subject, not about the photographer-subject interaction.
    That is my speculative theory, at least. Thanks again for posting it, Owen.
  209. Perhaps another possibility, Owen, is that she is partially dressed and apparently at or near the point of removing the last remaining garment(s). Perhaps Weston found the fully nude figure to be less sexually provocative (I know that I do). This is not to say that the nudes which are typically recognized as being his are sexless, but what they do not seem to be in general is titillating.
    Perhaps he felt that titillation cheapened his work. Again I am speculating, of course. I have the short video documentary about his work with Charis Wilson, narrated by Wilson herself, and there is no allusion to this photo nor to the type of vision that he wanted to capture.
    Where did you find it? Do you have the link, in case the photo disappears?
  210. Two schools of thought, certainly, with regard to art nudes. Like Lanny I prefer to see the eyes. Windows of the soul--right?
  211. Thank you, Charles. I am left with this:
    Well, maybe so and maybe not. . . . The hypothesis is suggested by the fact (that Owen relays to us) that Weston did not like that particular nude (posted by Owen a page or two back) and went on to a different style of nude photography.
    The posted Weston nude is still art, but, since Weston did not like it, perhaps we should have to conclude that, in Weston's own mind, it was not great art. I am not sure.
    What if it should be the case that the great artistic nude transcends the "merely" artistic nude by a certain purity of motive (foregoing of sexual titillation)? That purity of motive would not be about the display (or lack of display) of body part, but about the artistic vision--even amazement--that inspires the entire work.
    As I said above, none of that (reducing the "titillation factor") would try to desexualize the nude, nor to impel the artist to cover up this or that. "Sexuality" and "sexual titillation" are two very different things. Erotic art does titillate. That is its purpose. Perhaps great nude photographic art (and, I repeat, it is only a "perhaps") does not try to do that.
    None of this is to say that even the greatest nude art cannot or will not be used for the purpose of sexual titillation at times. Even there, however, I am reminded of the words of Paul Simon in "Kodachrome": "Nothin' gonna match my sweet little imagination." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SExsuRIGAlg
    Charles, the above is not only for you, of course, but for the entire community that visits this forum. If there is a "distillate" in my mind from what I have studied over three different major postings (over three summers) having to do with nude photography, it is indeed this idea, that the very highest art is possible with nude photography, but only if it foregoes sexual titillation.
    Thank you as well, Charles, for the two nudes that you posted in response to my question at the outset of this thread. I did not see any nudes in your portfolio, but I did find this:
    It is wonderful work. Thank you.
  212. A few artists who've done nudes I find interesting...[All of these are NSFW]
    [NOT safe for work]
    Carla van de Puttelaar's strangely haunting, eyes-closed nudes.
    The hardcore elegance and Modernist formalism of Drtikol's nudes contrasting with the organics and sensuousness of the human body...
    Wilhelm Von Gloeden's homoerotic nudes and portraits, some of young boys (it was legal at the time/place), are some of the best I've ever seen, keeping in mind their time/space coordinates.
    I am ambivalent about Ryan McGinley's nudes. Monotonally too fashionable, too hip too nubile, too young, too much, etc. One thing really redeems them for me, something very rarely seen in nude photography: Action.
    Friedlander reinvented the nude, within the context of art history, and clearly under the spell of the Storyville pictures. He pulls no punches regarding sexuality, either.
    The Storyville pictures have a palpably potent intimacy and directness few nudes ever show.
  213. "Titillation" is in your mind, not Weston's. Of this nude [ link ], made in 1928, he wrote: "She bent over forward until her body was flat against her legs. I made a back view of her swelling buttocks which tapered to the ankles like an inverted vase, her arms forming handles at the base. Of course it is a thing I can never show to a mixed crowd. I would be considered indecent. How sad when my only thought was the exquisite form. But most people will only see an ass! and guffaw as they do over my toilet."
    Nine months later he printed it, and wrote "I also printed a nude, which in contrast makes the cliffs pale [probably his first photograph of the coastline of Big Sur]: the latter visually tremendous as seen in reality -- the former transformed by my way of seeing and understanding into something greater. This nude is months old -- and of F[ay]. ... The figure is presented quite symmetrically, great buttocks swell from the black centre, the vulva, which is so clearly defined that I can never exhibit the print publicly -- the lay mind would misunderstand."
    Is he saying that the picture is not sexual? Yeah, right -- with the vulva fully exposed on print center? What he's saying is that sex is always already there. It's integral; part, just as the buttocks, the arms, the legs, the everything else. It's not the point -- or rather its not THE point. It's assumed. Among many other normal, natural, integral things, a body is sexual.
    Link to the image [terrible scan; sorry about that] http://unrealnature.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/weston_fig555.jpg
  214. "Titillation" is in your mind, not Weston's.​
    Julie, it is in everyone's mind at times. That is inevitable. But don't forget this portion of what you quoted:
    Of course it is a thing I can never show to a mixed crowd. I would be considered indecent. How sad when my only thought was the exquisite form.​
    "[M]y only thought was the exquisite form."
    Weston's PURPOSE, that is, was not titillation--by his own admission. Perhaps the purpose of the greatest artistic nudes is NEVER titillation.
    The thread, as I said to Fred, is not about ME. It is about what makes for nude art. I am extending the topic to speculate about what makes for the very BEST nude art. I stand by what I said above: the point is not to desexualize the nude, which is impossible. The point--of the best artistic nudes, I am speculating--is NOT titillation.
  215. Lannie - "The posted Weston nude is still art, but, since Weston did not like it, perhaps we should have to conclude that, in Weston's own mind, it was not great art. I am not sure."
    I don't care what Weston thought of it. Of course, once I know what he thought of it, it influences the way I think about it to some degree, but in my interaction with a particular image, it's relatively minor.
    Lannie - "...a certain purity of motive..."
  216. I think Owen may have been mistaken when he said Weston didn't like the nude of Weston's that he posted. In Edward Weston Nudes, Charis talks about it (and it's shown), then immediately after that she writes, "Were there dozens, scores, or hundreds of early nudes? Edward always ruthlessly purged work that he did not like. ..." Since this nude was not purged, it would seem that he did like it.
    "purity of motive"​
    The (great) nude photograph is nothing of the sort, in my opinion. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. LOL.
    For me, at least one secret of (great) art probably lies in what Weston lived. That he inherited the conventions of pictorialism (in part, a romanticized, soft-focus ideal of beauty) and transitioned to realism through a mode of exploration, discovery, and liberation is much more significant than whatever specific criteria might be suggested, especially ones that preach at me.
    Weston was a link in a chain of transitive visions of what photographs can be. There's art in that.
  218. This is what I have been trying to say. I feel that for nudes, when it becomes art, you view the image first, the beauty in the lines, the form, the lighting, etc...Of course since you are viewing a nude body there is always going to be a sense of sensuality in it, but that is the last thing on your mind. And I think there is a difference between sensuality and sexuality. I think with great works of artistic nudes, or nude art, it's more sensual, not sexual. You are able to set aside that sexual attraction and just view the image and body and see the beauty of it. I feel when it starts to become something sexual it starts to become something different. It becomes something more private, which could be why Weston felt he couldn't showcase that one image to the public.
    In my own shots of boudoir, there are images that I see as paintings, and ones that I wouldn't put on canvas. I think when I come to the decision as to what would make a great work of art, is the fact that it's something that everyone can see as art, not just the subject or their partner. And the majority of the ones that I paint, the eyes are always somewhat hidden. Once the subject is looking at the viewer it becomes more personal, more intense. You want the viewer's eyes to linger, explore the image, and just see the beauty of it. My fellow artists feel the same way. I had one go through my photos to see what she would choose and she chose the same way. She feels when the subject is looking at you, as a viewer you feel somewhat intimidated and look away faster. You feel like you're imposing. But when the eyes are looking elsewhere you can view the image more freely and really take the time to admire the piece, and choose for yourself what it is to you.
  219. Of course since you are viewing a nude body there is always going to be a sense of sensuality in it, but that is the last thing on your mind.​
    It seems actually to be the first thing on the minds of its detractors here, sexuality as well, most of whom are then trying to run away from it.
  220. Thanks, Lannie. My nude work was a long time ago when my life was much different. To say that I was only interested in art at the time would be inaccurate. In the years preceding that phase of my life, I had been a soldier and, later, a Peace Corps volunteer in India. Magazines like Playboy and Hustler fueled my fantasies, but outside of the titillation factor, I was less impressed with the artificiality of that magazine work. As I studied photography in the late 60s and into the 70s, I tried to find my own interpretation of female beauty--which sometimes worked and sometime didn't. Some of that work may have gone into oblivion, because I only have a few prints that were saved in a wooden box from my first marriage.
    The next phase was paying the bills, so I was mostly a news shooter. Now I'm totally retired and my photography is just playing around, although that shot above is from one of my last employers and is a cover shot for a now defunct weekly magazine that was about the Daytona area. I have a lot of more recent stuff, mostly unedited uploads from trips or events at
    The last of my scanned nudes was another experiment with light and processing and this is possibly more explicit and certainly reflects an atmosphere of sexuality. It will be years before I let my grandkids from my first marriage see this one.
  221. It's a powerful shot, Charles, and I like the high-key treatment. There is something about the romantic atmosphere of the other two that you posted that I find even more appealing. Perhaps they take me back to the seventies. . . .
  222. Weston was a link in a chain of transitive visions of what photographs can be. There's art in that.​
    Fred, I think that there is a distinct possibility that he was better than many greats who have succeeded him in that chain. The most recent is not always the best, after all.
    I do think that you are right about his transition to realism being perhaps the reason that he might have adjudged his earlier photographs as being inferior to his later ones. I don't really have an objective standard for what is better or best, of course, just tossing out ideas as they come to me. Theories and hypotheses are cheap.
    I am not sure that we will ever overcome the purely subjective assessment, except in the realm of technique, which is objectively verifiable--and technical expertise is not what at all what concerns me here. I am assuming that all candidates for "best" (if we must choose, and perhaps we need not) have the requisite technical skills.
    I yet feel that some have a superior vision, and that is harder to put one's finger on. I am reminded of Hume's claim that "reason is or ought to be the slave of the passions." Maybe we judge ultimately by our emotions, after all, and the quest for logical or rational criteria for greatness is doomed to failure.
  223. I still disagree with you Fred. I guess I think sexual and sensual are two very different things. When I look at photos that I would consider "naked" not nudes. Where it's more explicit. I see those as sexual. Where they are purposefully exposing their genitalia, not hiding their intent. Those are sexual - of, pertaining to, or for sex.
    Even with this last image posted. It is a very sensual image but when you view it, you see her pose, her porcelain skin, the hand on her neck, the curls of her hair, the lines of her torso, her eyelashes on her cheek, her parted lips. You view the beauty of her body. Yes you see the sensuality in it, but you are able to linger and explore her body with your eyes and see the beauty of it. It would be different if she was looking at you, exposing herself, it would be more sexual, more personal, more intimidating, like you are invading. Artful nudes, to me, are ones that leave it to the viewer to decide what it is for them. They are able to see the beauty of the nude form. See the sensuality of it but not immediately think of sex. There is a difference for me. Maybe because I'm a woman I can separate the two...who knows.
  224. I think Owen may have been mistaken when he said Weston didn't like the nude of Weston's that he posted. In Edward Weston Nudes, Charis talks about it (and it's shown), then immediately after that she writes, "Were there dozens, scores, or hundreds of early nudes? Edward always ruthlessly purged work that he did not like. ..." Since this nude was not purged, it would seem that he did like it.​
    Julie, glad you brought that up.
    A couple of things. The nude Owen posted is not Weston's first. It was done in 1918. He'd been doing nudes of Flora (and her children) since as early as 1909.
    Also, he'd been doing Pictorialist nudes for over a decade, when he met Stieglitz and was so impressed with the nudes of O'Keeffe and other work Stieglitz was doing. That had a great influence on his realization that he'd been seeing a certain way for quite some time now and it led to his moving toward Realism, evident in his nudes from then on as well as in his pictures of peppers, sea shells, and even the very famous toilet (Excusado, 1925).
    So I'm not clear on whether he didn't like that 1918 nude from the time he took it, for whatever reasons he may have had (the least likely having anything to do with titillation), or if it was just at some later time that it seemed to him an emobodiment of that Pictorialist style he was giving up and so it no longer suited his vision or was no longer about what he wanted to be doing.
    (Weston had disappointments even in his most successful nudes. He was never happy about the shadow on the outer portion of Charis's right arm. Disappointments and acceptance of them is probably significant to any discussion of artists.)
  225. I still disagree with you Fred. I guess I think sexual and sensual are two very different things.​
    D.D., I invoke yet another distinction, that between the "sexual" and the overtly "titillating." Again, I do not know how to take sexuality out of nude photography, nor would I want to. I simply do not want the sexual componet to degenerate into mindless titillation.
    I concede, however, that it is fine line, and it might be that I am playing on a very slippery slope in making such a distinction.
  226. I think sexual and sensual are two very different things​
    I do, too. Very much so. I just don't arbitrarily draw the lines of art by that distinction. And I think there's a blurry line at the edges of that distinction as well. I do get different feelings when a photo reaches me sexually and when it reaches me sensually but, again, I don't use that difference to categorize what is or is not great art. Honestly, your statement that sensuality (especially since it is different from sexuality) is the last thing on your mind when you look at art photos or nude photos shocked me. I've always thought of sensuality as one of the key ingredients of good photographs. (That doesn't mean I think a photo HAS TO BE sensual in order to be good. It means that when it's present, it's noticeable, affective, and significant.)
  227. I simply do not want the sexual componet to degenerate into mindless titillation.​
    Why not? And why do you think mindless titillation (which I assume is something shy of abuse) is something that something else "degenerates" into? And what's wrong with degeneration? A lot of great photographs are all about degeneration, from urban decay to the death of heroin addicts on the street.
    How do we determine when the purity of motive has gone out of sex? What in the world is "purity of motive" anyway?
  228. I stand corrected about when Weston took his first nude. The posted image was the first that included in his numbered
    catalogue. It was numbered 1-N and it was indeed taken in 1918. As far as the model is concerned I don't think he
    ever noted her name in his notes. His grandson Kim is not aware of her name ever having been noted. Kim and I
    have talked about this image for years and he thinks I am nuts for loving it as much as I do.
  229. Lannie:
    Let me add one more of my images to the discussion before it winds down. It is an image that has little or no sexual charge and it is one that I feel deserves to be considered as art. It is one from a workshop I was teaching last year. I would like to hear your thoughts in the context of this discussion.
  230. I like nude photography because I imagine the story behind the shoot. Are the photographer and subject a couple? Hot, wild sex
    after the shoot because it's so arousing? If the subject is a paid model, do they spend time with the photographer and get to know
    eachother before doing the shoot? Do they talk a lot about what they each want from the shoot and types of poses or locations to be
    the appropriate foil for the subject? And then did I mention the hot and wild sex they must have after the shoot :)

    Art makes you think and feel, unartistic nudes don't. So it's mostly in the eye of the beholder of course.
  231. Owen, I have not been part of this thread, but I fell on your first uploaded nude above ( Aug 03, 2011; 08:54 p.m.). It is indeed one of the best nude shots I have seen since long. Brilliant light and use of blur. The challenging starring prevents anyone just to contemplate the nude beauty of the model and forces the viewer to be part of the scene. She is looking at us as we are looking at her and her nudidity. Great shot, that I will keep as benchmark for what nude photography can achieve.
  232. Anders, that's an early Edward Weston.
  233. Yes, Fred, even I noticed it, although I don't accept that he only found his "own voice" by what he did later.
  234. Good. It's what I've understood from reading about him, but would make for an interesting discussion sometime. I've loved his photos for a long time but am just learning more about him and definitely wanting to know more. (As you can see, I had already edited my post, wondering if it might be too controversial a claim.)
  235. Fred, if I were to start doing nude photography, I would want to avoid creating something that is simply for sexual titillation. That is, I would not want to be creating "porn." I am likewise not going to judge a piece of work, no matter how well it is done technically, as "great art" if its purpose seems to have been to titillate, or if that seems to be the most likely use to which it may be put.
    As for "purity of motive," I defined it for my purposes here in the same sentence that I introduced it:
    What if it should be the case that the great artistic nude transcends the "merely" artistic nude by a certain purity of motive (foregoing of sexual titillation)?​
    So, for the purposes of this discussion, that is, for evaluating and possibly creating the nude, one criterion for great art for me would have to be that is "pure" in the sense of free of this emphasis on sexual titillation. That would ruin it for me.
    It is not my intention to be imperial in so saying. Nothing impels anyone else to follow my ideal, nor to judge by it, but that purity or freedom from titillating content or purpose would be one of my primary criteria.
    Either one shares these values or one does not.
    I have speculated that Weston's greatest work is free of the titillating factor to the maximum extent possible. I could be wrong.
  236. Let me add one more of my images to the discussion before it winds down. It is an image that has little or no sexual charge and it is one that I feel deserves to be considered as art.​
    Owen, I like it very much. Thank you for sharing.
  237. Lannie, I'm not understanding. You've alternated among wanting to avoid creating something that is "simply for sexual titillation," something that is "free of an emphasis on sexual titillation," something that adheres to the "foregoing of sexual titillation." Earlier in the thread, you said "That is enough for me to establish that, in my own case at least, I really can and often do view the nude without the least sexual titillation."
    So I'm having trouble following just how this art nude you are wanting to identify comes to be, either for the viewer or the photographer. Should it have no titillation factor ("without the least sexual titillation")? Is it OK if it has some titillation factor as long as that's not it's sole purpose? Is it OK if it has a lot of titillation factor as long as the emphasis is elsewhere? Or should it forego sexual titillation altogether? You've speculated (completely unfounded speculation) that Weston might have felt that titillation cheapened his work. That's strong stuff. "Purity of motive" is also strong stuff. Purity suggests to me NO TITILLATION ALLOWED. But you may be moderating that, I'm not sure.
    It seems to me you started out with high ideals for the art nude. That it should lack whatever you consider to be the titillating part of sexuality. But now you're talking about emphasis, and presumably now allowing for some titillation as long as that's not all it's for.
    Sexuality can certainly be confusing at times.
    It's funny, you talk about art excluding mindless sexuality. I wonder if mindless sexuality isn't the most artistic and actually the purest form of sexuality. Presumably, without the interference of the mind (which would house all kinds of stuff like guilt, shame, morality, judgment), one might be in touch with the purest of sensations. If art is, at least in part, an appeal to sensation, something that really hits us in the gut, you may have struck on something significant here quite by accident.
    Now surely, for many (or at least some), the best sex is combined with some kind of emotional bonding with their partner. Let's call that "love." But we know that all sex isn't accompanied by love and all love isn't accompanied by sex, so the two are separable. So maybe the best thing is to have mindless sex with a person you're in love with. Maybe an artistic counterpart of that is mindless sexuality (or sense-itivity) toward the nude with an accompanying love for the photograph you're creating?
    Anyway, it gets so, so complicated.
  238. Something often at play when I'm making nudes is that it's not about the nude person. It's about the photograph. Often my sexuality (mindless, titillating, or otherwise) is actually directed toward the act of photographing and the photograph itself rather than the subject. And often it's some combination of being directed toward the subject and the photographing. And sometimes sex is the furthers thing from my mind. It all depends.
  239. Fred, how it might be viewed is at least partly responsible for the ambiguity. The purpose should not be about titillation, in my opinion. What persons might get from it is quite another. Take Weston's shot of the model bending over, for example. I did not find it particularly erotic, but I might if I were in a certain mood. I see no absolute line where the capacity to titillate or be titillating is concerned. After all, clothed forms can be very titillating, too.
    My point can be seen best at one extreme: porn is for sexual titillation pure and simple. I do not see how it can ever be great art. On the other hand, Bellocq's work is fascinating--and potentially titillating--and I still love it.
    I certainly have no absolute standard, no litmus test, here when speaking of titillation, except in the obvious case of porn--but perhaps there are those who think that porn can be great art. I cannot call it that under any circumstances.
    Now, setting aside what is titillating and taking up the issue of what is fascinating: for me the female nude is always fascinating. Since the male nude does not affect me that way, clearly some kind of sexual component is involved.
    Of course, clothed women fascinate me, too, but perhaps not always in the same way. This is interesting psychological territory, and fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Number me among the fools.
  240. So, here's what it seems to boil down to, hypotheses aside. Art is not porn. And porn is not art. Cool. And it only took three summers to get there! :)
    Now that we got that over with, maybe next time instead of starting out by looking for a standard (what makes the nude photograph art?), which we know now (hopefully!) we will not find, we can think of ways to start on a different sort of path.
    Here's one: What are some of the different varieties of artistic nudes and how are you affected by them as a viewer or how do you go about creating them as an author? Just an offhand suggestion. I'm sure you'll come up with something of your own.
  241. So, here's what it seems to boil down to, hypotheses aside. Art is not porn. And porn is not art. Cool. And it only took three summers to get there! :)
    No, now we have to establish what makes it art, not what prevents it from being art.
    I tire of this game.
  242. I have some advice for those so wraoped up in the debate of sexual attraction-titillation versus asexual depiction of female or male nude form in a desired artistic manner, or whatever combination of the two.. Forget that you are looking at a nude and imagine what it is, if it is, that speaks to you of art or of a potentially powerful visual statement. Treat it as any other attempt at art and if you find it wanting in that regard, so be it. Disregard it. If it is of a beauty or a strangeness or is something that surprises you then you may be looking at art. That is all that is important and it matters not if it is a naked human or other subject. Putting barriers (specific definitions) around the nude as an art subject is like putting barriers on your imagination. A sterile pursuit. The nude, like any other subject can be interpreted as art, or not. That should be obvious without the need for a couple hundred posts on what is art in regard to a nude subject.
  243. Forget that you are looking at a nude​
    Thanks for the advice, but my immediate reaction is, no thanks. I don't forget what I'm photographing and don't forget what I'm looking at. Even if I transcend the subject, the subject is usually (though not always) still of great importance to me. Often, the subject is way more important than this vague art thing you're talking about. I can sink my teeth into a subject. I can care about it, relate to it, empathize with it, fight it, control it or let it control me or back and forth. I can respond to the subject itself sexually or not. And I can respond to my photographing sexually or not. I am photographing what I'm photographing. It's real and alive (even when it's not a human), like Weston said. It matters very much to me if it's a nude body, a horse, a landscape, a person with disabilities, a gay middle-aged man. I'm not looking for some sort of disengaged affair with art. In so many cases, it is the subject that's speaking to me or the subject photographed that's speaking to me.
    That being said and upon further reflection, sure, Arthur, Weston proved that the pepper could be dealt with as a nude or a toilet. And so, there's much to consider in what you say. There is a sense in which all subjects are alike and all need to be paid attention to as potential photographs, etc. I just find myself getting to that place not by forgetting the subject but by paying very close attention to it. Maybe it's just two sides of the same coin.
    Putting barriers (specific definitions) around the nude as an art subject is like putting barriers on your imagination.​
    This I very much agree with. Well said!
  244. I did want to add, Arthur (Luis said it very early on and I think you're approaching it as well), that whatever it is that makes something art (and we'll never name it because it's not something like a criteria or standard) will apply similarly to nudes, portraits, landscapes, and the street. Though there will be different considerations in approaching these subjects, different associations and connections, etc., artistry is artistry.
  245. I can't resist. Then there is flesh made into art.
  246. I guess you're right Fred. Maybe that's probably not the best way of phrasing it, saying that it's the last thing I notice. I guess when I can view an image of a nude body and let my eyes explore and see the beauty of it and not have it scream "sex" at me...i don't see it as being the main focus. When I think of it more, the "contemplation image" posted, of course I do see the sensuality of it. But it's not getting in the way of my viewing experience. I guess it adds to it rather then detracts from it. When it is explicitly sexual, that is when gets in the way of my experience and becomes the main focus. It's hard for me to not see "sex" whenever I look at it, rather then being aloud to view it on my own terms and see the nude form for what it is. After Arthur's contribution, I think it kind of relates to how I view all images. If I see a beautiful landscape photo and there is a bright orange garbage bag sitting in the foreground, it detracts from my viewing experience. It becomes all I can see. I can't just view it for what it is and decide for myself how I feel about the image. When I view a photo or painting I want to be able to explore it and let my eyes linger and experience it for what it is and be able to decide for myself how I feel about it.
    I think it relates to my own upbringing and who I am. I have always been an artistic soul. Always able to see the beauty in everything and appreciate the flaws (like a not "perfect" nose or a wilted flower) and see them as adding to the beauty of what I'm viewing. I'm also very detail oriented. I think, I talk, I see everything in detail. My paintings almost always end up being more photo realistic. It's just how my brain works. So when I view a piece of art, my eyes explore every detail. I want to find the beauty in it and have it bring out an emotion, or at least an appreciation out of me. Most of the time, I don't just look at an image, view it for what it is and move on. Great art allows you to take your time viewing it, explore the composition and the details and moves your eyes around the piece, evoking some sort of emotion or reaction from you.
    I think when you look at the history of art, anybody can take anything and call it art, but it's the recognition of the populace that makes it so, to some degree. I think when it's universally claimed and recognized as great art....that is what I am thinking about when the question is asked, When does a nude become art? I don't think my views are too far off from what the majority's is. I don't have any preferences for one thing or another, nor do I have any prejudices. So when asked the question, I realize I'm thinking, what would the general populace view as art when it comes to nude photography. Hence why I thought to look at the Top Rated Photos for Nudes on photo.net. I think even you Fred can see those images and appreciate them, and agree those are beautiful pieces of art. There are always going to be people at both ends of the extremes as far as what their personal tastes are, but there is a point where both can meet in the middle and I think that is what I'm trying to explain.
  247. Hence why I thought to look at the Top Rated Photos for Nudes on photo.net. I think even you Fred can see those images and appreciate them, and agree those are beautiful pieces of art.​
    D.D., first, I think we toss around the word "art" way too liberally here. Looking at the photos you referenced in your earlier post, I don't want to individually critique them but I'll give you my overall impressions. Here are the links for anyone who's interested:
    As a general matter, most of the stuff in the top-rated photos looks like what people think art is supposed to look like. But it often rings hollow to me. It's got the superficial look of "beauty" in the sense of a combination of "pretty," "clean," and "near perfect," but often has little depth or soul. My opinion (and I understand we differ and appreciate that . . . a lot of this is a matter of taste) is that the photos you've chosen are for the most part sterile, rely on some sort of gimmick (in at least a couple of cases), have little mystery, passion, intrigue, or life, and don't show me anything unexpected.
    I think art is not about popularity though certainly some art is popular.
    I don't perceive beauty and sexuality as fighting or interfering with each other. Besides, art gave up its exclusive attachment to the kind of beauty you're describing decades ago. I can definitely understand that if you were seeing a typical, pristine, cleansed, idealized landscape and there was an orange garbage bag distracting you, that would be a problem. But some landscapes these days are being shot as is, warts and all. Some are shot with an ugly side showing, with trash strewn all over the place and, in those, the orange bag would be totally appropriate. Sexuality in an image can certainly be out of place or a distraction. That depends on how it's integrated and what the shot is. But sexuality itself is not the problem or the distraction. And sometimes, it's the main point. For me, it's not out of bounds, whether as a well harmonized sub-plot or a compelling and genuine main feature. I accept it as I do lots of subject matter, as long as it works. I understand that it's a problem for others, but I consider it their problem, not the problem of sexuality or of given photographs.
  248. titillate: excite or stimulate as by tickling esp., excite pleasantly, gratify (a sense, the imagination, etc.), exhilerate
    This is a bad thing?
    Long long ago, in the town where I grew up, there was a case brought against one of those places that used to rent out "naughty" video casettes from behind the counter [if I'm misremembering some national case as local (though I can even remember the street location), please correct me -- my memory is getting worse every day]. They were charged with dealing in pornography (they probably were) and the case was put before a jury. The law hinged on one particular phrase: that in order for something to be considered pornographic, it had to "appeal to one's prurient interest."
    prurient: having or characterized by an unhealthy concern with sexual matters, encouraging such a concern
    The jury found the defendants not guilty. Not because they didn't think the videos were pornographic; but because none of them -- not one -- would admit to having a "prurient interest." If the jurors did not have said prurient interest to be appealed to (and all said they had no such thing), the videos were ipso facto, not pornography.
  249. One theme that repeats over and over on PN, and not just on this forum, is the idea that there must be some simple litmus test that can be quickly (in one post, preferably) learned and applied by the unknowing to instantly determine whether something is art/not art, or good art/trash, etc. It's not that simple.
  250. I think I'll try to be serious. Take the three links above.
    Legs is all about craft and design. The human parts are just that. Parts of a piece. By most standards, this is art. Certainly the creator contemplated and gave a good deal of effort to make a visual image that could safely hang anywhere, be a part of anyone's decor.
    Oh, the paint brush is clever. It took as much thought and time in composition, but it could not hang everywhere or be part of everyone's decor. It is still art, but art that requires a sense of humor and an appropriate audience. If only it were possible for all the world to be free of moral judgements, but that seems so unlikely in the US, so this kind of imagery becomes subject to societal limitations--at least where I live.
    Lastly, the nude in nature. Part of a long established tradition, no? I like it at first glance. It's what I did when I was doing that kind of thing. Looking at all that went into creating the image, it seems so simple compared to the other two pieces. So simple that it is easy to say it is not art, merely photography. On the other hand it is not crude, as is so much amateur work amply displayed in various forums around the net. The photographer had an eye for light, made good decisions, operated his equipment correctly. Compositionally, (my spell-check does not like that word), he could have framed the model differently to create more of an undefinable relationship to the world. As with so many of the examples shown in this thread, the nude is a dispassionate element.
    I would prefer, then, the same dynamic tension of the forces and objects of nature in harmony or at odds that one would seek in a stunning landscape--think Ansel Adams' Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941:
    At least that is what I would want today as opposed to what I would have wanted at age 25. Then I emphasized the nude. Today I would want the nude to be more a part of nature and I would want to create something mythic, rather than have a perfect woman arched on a rock. What's that old saying, if wishes were horses...
    What I want, whether through sexuality or some other factor is passion, more than thoughtful dispassion.
  251. Charles, I appreciate your takes on the three photographs and agree with a lot that you say. I don't know why it's so important, however, to put it in terms of "so these are art." You could have provided the very same insights and comments without insisting that these were or were not art. The use of the word becomes almost meaningless.
    it is easy to say it is not art, merely photography --Charles​
    "merely photography" - YIKES! Read again what was said about Weston's photos:
    "Photography is beginning to be photography, for until now it has only been art." --Marius de Zayas, reviewer​
    Even though he was advocating photography be accepted in the art world and have a significant place in exhibitions and be accorded a certain stature, he was actually moving away from the traditions of art he inherited and was beginning to explore photography not on art's terms but on its own terms. Many of the great photographers of his day would have said just the opposite to what you said.
    “I am not a painter, nor an artist. Therefore I can see straight, and that may be my undoing.” --Alfred Stieglitz​
    Now I think Stieglitz is an artist but I also think we can learn from these kinds of statements.
    There are problems with this thread, and Luis has suggested it in his comment just above. First of all, I just did a search for "artistic" and it came up 100 times in this thread, the vast majority having been used by Lannie, who doesn't even know what makes one of these photographs art. Art has devolved in this thread to meaning something really, really great. If it's not that then it's used as an excuse to not know what you're talking about, which is often the case especially on PN. "It's art" is usually another way of saying "I don't want to address it as a photo." If we talk about the "art" we can talk about the magic and not worry about coming down to earth to realize it's a photo, it's been made by someone, it often took craft, talent, accident, spontaneity, planning, lighting, focus, sweating, fabrication of some sort to make.
    "Art" is also used moralistically and quasi-religiously in this thread, which bugs the hell out of me. It's being associated with "purity of motive" which is absolutely medeival, it's been associated in this thread a couple of times with redemption and with glory. ENOUGH! We don't have to make the nude or anything else godlike in order to accept it, in order to be in denial about our own shame or guilt around it, and in order to avoid experiencing all parts of the humanity, good and bad, in it.
    Talk about photographs. Talk about what you see. Talk about why it strikes you however it strikes you. But enough talk about art, which is completely evading the point. Lannie couldn't or wouldn't address a photograph long enough to talk about why it disgusted him yet he thinks he was saying something meaningful by allowing it the status of "art." What the hell? Get to it! I think there's more fear here of photographs than of sexuality. There's an inability to relate to photos, to address them honestly, to let them speak (in some cases). So we categorize to avoid all that. And we categorize as art or trash, as Julie so well pointed out in her last post, in order to avoid our own role as viewers and our own part in the things we imagine and the way certain photos strike us.
  252. I did say I was going to be serious, but I can't always take my tongue out of my cheek. I have spent my life being a "mere photographer," so when I use that expression I'm not exactly denigrating photography as a form of expression, but being a smartass (troublesome part of my nature).
    Man, I love seeing great art. When I travel, a big art museum is always one of the things on my list of things to see. Sure some art appeals to me more than another versions. The thing with the artist is that great art seems to be created by great craftsmen (or craftswomen). It doesn't take long seeing the root work of someone like Picasso to understand that his wildest flights of creativity were built on his earlier work.
    Then you can see living artists working, often with the simplest materials. Maybe we do throw the terms art, artist, artistic around too much. But we all have the ability to sort out for ourselves what that means to us. I can see the nuts and bolts that go into a photograph and whether I respect or appreciate the resulting image is going to be influenced by that knowledge. Lord knows there are people who pop up with a natural eye, but who know nothing beyond basic settings and snapping what's in front of them (not even that with the green box on the controls). Is their work of less value than the person who spends hours in the darkroom or at the computer to make an image reflect an idea or a passion?
    I don't think any of us have any real answers. There are no firm conclusions. The conversation can be entertaining, however.
  253. Charles, got it. Read with a different tone of voice, "mere photography" makes more sense to me.
    I also appreciate your mention of the way nudes are so often dealt with by the photographer dispassionately. It's a keen observation.
  254. Many of the nudes typically considered "artistic" lack just the passion Charles is talking about. Passion can be gritty and human. It's not always pretty. It can even be scary. It's definitely not always a thing of "beauty" in the superficial sense of the word. Passion can even be easily mistaken for trash because it's often so personal. When passion is given to something as personal as the nude body, it can be especially mistaken for something sexual or something titillating, especially when the passion toward or for the nude is so feared.
  255. So we are back to the ever repeated question of: "what is art?", trying disparately to forget the question on whether he/she is naked or dressed and whether we are "titilated" or not (what a terrible prudent term for simple excitement or whether we are sexually aroused !).
    Let me try to stick my head out and say:
    Art is creation, involving thoughts and imagination of an original idea with aesthetic or non-easthetic content. It courses transcendence, sublimation and spiritual enrichment through our sensitivity and intellect, often exceeding the intentions of the creator .
    If this is art, also nudes are subject to the criteria - and so is photography in general what ever the scene and subject matter presented.
  256. . . .[Lannie], who doesn't even know what makes one of these photographs art.​
    Please enlighten us with your own definition, Fred. The word "art" was used in the original question. If that was such a fatal problem from the outset, then why did you bother to respond to the original question?
    I personally think that it was inevitable that we would get back to the definition of "art," whether applied to the genre in question, or to some other genre, or more generally. How could one possibly define the artistic nude without offering one's own definition of art?
    Here is the question as it was posed in the title of the thread:
    What makes the nude into a work of art?

  257. It's a strange thing to say as a philosopher, but the longer I photograph and the more I get into photographing, the less inclined I am to ask the question "What is art?" and the more I ask questions like, "Why is the shadow so severe?" or "Is that gesture strong enough or too obvious?" or "What were you trying to convey here, if anything in particular?"
    The "What is art?" question seems too general and distant to be of much use to me anymore. I may be jaded, though, because I did it for so many years.
    When I did do it, what I came up with is that it can't be answered as Anders tried to do it, though his was a risky and valiant attempt, and I say "Kudos" for your insights and for the attempt.
    For me, the answer (or non-answer) is somewhat of a nexus and a look at history. It is a study rather than a statement and it is a discussion rather than a definition. There is a nexus of overlapping ideas about art, from Plato's theory of representation to Aristotle's catharsis to Dickie's institutional theory to theories of beauty, etc. They all speak truths and none of them speaks The Truth. No criterion or set of criteria are going to apply to all artworks. There will be a matter of degree and some artworks will fulfill criteria that others don't. Good art will consistently defy given criteria.
    Put the various theories and criteria together, mix and match, pay attention to context and history, look at each work individually and see what may apply and what may not apply to it, look for those very important exceptions to the rules and there may be a better understanding of art, without a definition.
  258. Lannie couldn't or wouldn't address a photograph long enough to talk about why it disgusted him yet he thinks he was saying something meaningful by allowing it the status of "art." What the hell? Get to it! I think there's more fear here of photographs than of sexuality. There's an inability to relate to photos, to address them honestly, to let them speak (in some cases).​
    My, my, Fred, you are going to ride your ad hominem train into the sunset, are you not? Can you not see that such a tendency does not make you happy, and probably makes everyone else around you miserable.
    It certainly adds nothing to your presumed attempt to answer the question. I certainly saw nothing in your photo worth addressing as "art." You babble and babble while saying nothing, and you expect me to analyze why this "masterpiece" of yours disgusts me. I do not think that it is worth discussing.
    So I should let it speak, as you say above? Well, speak, then, oh great masterpiece by Fred G. Tell us why you are an outstanding artistic nude. Some of us obviously are in need of enlightenment.
    For the record, Fred, I am not sure that it is even art, much less great art--but what do I know in the face of such genius?
  259. It's a strange thing to say as a philosopher, but the longer I photograph and the more I get into photographing, the less inclined I am to ask the question "What is art?" and the more I ask questions like, "Why is the shadow so severe?" or "Is that gesture strong enough or too obvious?" or "What were you trying to convey here, if anything in particular?"​
    In what sense are you a philosopher, Fred, except in the sense that nearly all persons may lay claim to loving wisdom?
  260. Fred, in regards to the ones you posted from what I mentioned in my previous posts. I chose those ones because they kind of fit into my whole theory about categories of nudes. But for me, you missed the most important one by Thomas Doering. This one, to me, is pure art. It is just mesmerizing to me and I think all of you can appreciate this one piece and call it art as well. And this piece definitely does not lack passion.
    [Warning, considering these are links to nudes, probably Not Safe For Work ;-)] View at your own discretion
    But as to your comments about it not always being pretty or a thing of beauty, I do agree with you too. This next image I consider art as well. When you first look at it you see the lines and form and then see what it actually is. Everyone who I have showed this to, takes a few seconds to view it, then are shocked by what they are viewing. As surprising as it is, sex isn't the first thing you see but then once your mind makes out what it is you are viewing, the viewer becomes caught in this internal struggle. I think it's a great piece of art, and I think because of that fact too (the feeling of being caught). Again in the Top Rated Photos, rated by the majority.
    There are other pieces in this portfolio that are "easier" to view then others, and some are definitely suggestive and hard to view. But even those don't have me react the same way I do to those explicit, blatantly exposed, legs spread open, suggestive, borderline pornography, "naked" photos that leave me shaking my head and feeling bad for the model. These ones, considering what's being photographed, don't scream "sex" to me. They are definitely more artistic and you have to figure out what she is trying to say. Which again it's left up to the viewer to interpret. There is definitely more going on in the photos, and as much as it may leave people uncomfortable viewing them, it's hard not to look at them and figure out what is being said or what is happening. And also I think the uncomfortableness is part of the viewing experience and attraction as well.
  261. Lannie, I have no need or desire to put certain nudes on some sort of safe and holy "art" pedestal. I haven't once said whether I consider that photo of mine, which you have now referenced about half a dozen times and completely at your own choosing, to be art. (I am moved by your obsession with it, however, good or bad.) Whether I'm making art is relatively unimportant to me at this stage in my photographing. I do what's in front of me. I'm trying to communicate things and to express myself and to share, among other things, with photographs. I certainly don't consider that photo a masterpiece nor do I put as much stock in referring to things as masterpieces as you do. As a matter of fact, I consider it, as I already stated above, the very beginning of an exploration for me. I already talked substantively about it from a photographic perspective, not in terms of masterpiece but in terms of what I see and what I was after. You have said nothing. I have no need to tell you whether or why I am an "outstanding artistic nude [photographer]." (I'm certainly NOT an outstanding artistic nude!) That's your grammar and vocabulary, not mine.
    Again, you went on the defensive with your accusations of ad hominem, and sidestepped the question about what you're seeing that you find disgusting. I already talked at length about the photo. See this post above:
    Fred G. [​IMG][​IMG], Aug 03, 2011; 06:45 p.m.
  262. I have no need to tell you whether or why I am an "outstanding artistic nude [photographer]." (I'm certainly NOT an outstanding artistic nude!) That's your grammar and vocabulary, not mine.​
    Read it again, Fred. I am speaking to the photo, not to you. It can speak, right?
  263. Well, Lannie, I doubt it has much interest in telling you why (or whether) it's an outstanding artistic nude either.
    That may be the best thing you can take away from this thread. STOP seeing things as outstanding, artistic, and masterpieces (or not) and start looking at them for what's there or what you can find.
  264. Oh, and once again, you haven't said what you see that's disgusting.
  265. Fred, face it, the photo does indeed speak for itself, as you so correctly say.
  266. Oh my gosh you guys, Grow UP! Fred and Lannie, if you can't respond respectfully to one another's posts then don't respond at all. It just seems you guys like to push one another's buttons and it's becoming rather annoying. Everyone else is trying our best to ignore you two and stay on topic, but it's becoming rather hard. You both respond well to others posts, so continue to do so, but leave one another alone. Like the saying goes, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. Play nice, and stop trying to instigate another confrontation.
    Now that I'm done giving my verbal spanking, let's continue this post in a respectful manner.
    I believe my last post contributed something significant. What do you think?
  267. Just because I think photos speak (I didn't say they speak for themselves) doesn't mean I can defend a critic who calls something disgusting but doesn't have the guts or self awareness to say what he's seeing that's disgusting.
    Why is it disgusting, Lannie?
  268. Well, there is nothing dispassionate about a bound penis and a female hand grasping the testicles. There's a statement...
  269. Like you said, Fred, the photo speaks. I also said that I do not think that it worth discussing. You said that I must be obsessed with it, since I post it so much. Nope. Just want the world know the stakes of this increasingly petty discussion:
    So, could we simply lay this to rest? Next time, don't start with the ad hominems again and you will be surprised at how much better things go, on and off the forum--for everyone concerned.
  270. D.D., a lot of my comments to Lannie would also be in response to you, particularly my feelings about categorizing things as art or not and about what I see as strange and, frankly, somewhat questionable reactions to sexuality.
  271. Lannie, no ad hominem intended. But no, it's not put to rest. The question about disgust still hangs unanswered.
  272. Well, there is nothing dispassionate about a bound penis and a female hand grasping the testicles. There's a statement...​
    LOL, Charles. Not sure which photo you're referring to, but I've seen several of those in the PN galleries. Funny thing is, though the real act is usually a passionate one, the photos most often are very much NOT passionate. They often feel removed and cold.
    Just shows to go you that what's happening at the moment of the snap or what's being staged to happen isn't always translated well to the photograph. I may feel a lot of stuff when I'm shooting and processing and the subject I'm shooting may feel a whole lot as well. The point is to get it into the photograph.
  273. D.D., the photo you posted by Doering has a good technical look to it. You're right that most would consider it impressive. I see some problems, which may have to do with the compression of creating a jpg especially in the highlight area of the neck. There's a lack of gradation that, if nuanced, would read a lot better. As it is, the viewer almost sees a ring around the strong highlight. It feels a little more like a blotch than a highlight. Also, the highlights on the body, once we get above the breast area, are fairly consistent. They lack dynamics and variation. So my eye is left feeling a kind of static quality. It's more confronted by the light than drawn by it or led by it. In any discussion of art, I'd make a fairly big issue of the importance of craft to art. Though they are different, there's a significant relationship and even dependency.
    The image strikes me as having all the right signifiers for passion but doesn't quite get there for me. Part of that is because it's been done so much and this doesn't bring much new to the table. For example, the crisp water droplets on human flesh. Not that I have anything against that per se, but tell me something personal, unique, or extraordinary about that. The not unusual gesture of the head flung back like that. It gets a little stale for me after a while. Again, this just looks like it's trying very hard to fit into the mold of "art." It's like it's hyped or something.
    What I notice about the nudes you've have chosen is that they are "tasteful" and what I'm looking for is generally (though not always) more of a challenge. I feel as though I'm seeing many more answers than questions, more comfort than tension, more completion than suggestions of possibility.
  274. If you are not sure what photo Charles is referring to you did not read my full post.
  275. I can think of at least one photo that I find completely, upsettingly disgusting but which I also think of as art (partly because it is so upsetting to me). It's in Larry Clark's Teenage Lust project.
    If Fred wants to comment on Hujar's Bruce St. Croix (which is not disgusting at all IMO), I'd be interested. Passionate or not? [totally NSFW link]. (This is a terrible reproduction as compared to what I have in a book print.) I'm juvenile enough that it made me laugh out loud at first, but I think it's a good picture (and not least because it made me laugh).
  276. D.D., I can assure you I've read your posts thoroughly. I have not looked at every referenced photo in the thread. Now that I look at the hand on the testicles, I can say the reason it seems to lack passion is because the hand is so at rest. It's just there for effect. It's not tense, it's not active, it's not doing anything.
  277. Speaking strictly for myself...Presently, I photograph artists, art, and write about both. Curiously, the label 'art' , as a qualifier, almost never comes up in my mind. The thing I am most conscious of and focused on is my own personal interface with the work. Before I compare it with what else is going on in the medium, or like subjects, artists, history, etc. How does it interface with me, and I with it, ojo a foto?
    My own definitions are simple and broad and I do not advise anyone to adopt them. Forge your own. Or use the dictionary definitions, they're good enough.
    Art is a contemplative object. Art is a psychic generator. Now, good art is that which you want to look at again and again. Unforgettable (and that can mean irritating/scary/repulsive, too) work. That which invades your dreams and waking life. That which you use eight million dollars of your company's money to buy, build a room to house it, then stay there consuming massive quantities of sake until the company fires you. Art that mysteriously irritates you, and/or spurs you to make copious quantities of your own work. My definitions are woefully inadequate and full of holes, I know. The thing is, it's a matter of successive approximations, but it always ends up being like herding cats.
    Bad art is forgettable. The kind of thing you leave in the house while it burns, or when you are being displaced without a second thought.
    The gradient between those extremes can be partitioned in an infinite number of ways.
  278. Julie, I'm in full agreement. There are surely disgusting photos I think of as art and even would say I love on some level. Little disgusts me more than Nick Ut's photo of Phan Thị Kim Phúc. Is it art, documentary, photojournalism, all of the above, some of the above? I'm not sure you or I would care. It's a moving and important photo.
    Hujar's photo. Didn't make me laugh, though once you said you found it funny, I can absolutely see the humor in it. The first thing I thought, juvenile or not, was "Wow, what a big dick!" The big dick, relative to the body and in relation to the surroundings is a commanding presence and there's a boldness that appeals to me. I like the starkness of the photo a lot, the way the space and the space of the wall behind him and the solitary chair (and hard penis) relate. I'm often attracted to photos that provide me with a palpable feeling of space. The photo turns me on a little. He feels a bit stiff (aside from the obvious), his gaze, the way he holds himself, particularly that hand poised on his body. Perhaps even disengaged even though his eyes are trained on the penis. Funny, I think of it as "the" penis, not "his" penis. Like you, I wish I were seeing a better representation because it's hard to read the contrast and shadows here. It comes across as strong in places but it might be a much more refined print. I would spend time with it. My sense is that it might wear thin after a bit. I don't see a whole lot of passion, no. The ones of Hujar that I've found that seem maybe more passionate . . .
    Portrait of Charles Ludlam
    Untitled (May be too small to tell if there's really passion here or if I just want there to be. Couldn't find a bigger version.)
    . . . though passion is not a word that would come to mind in my first foray into his work. The good thing is, though I haven't read anything by or about Hujar, he doesn't seem to be striving for passion, so it's not an issue here. I'd say most of the photos seem honest, even if quite staged, which I'm drawn to.
  279. Luis
    good art is that which you want to look at again and again​
    or you flee it, because it hurts. The question on what is art and what is not cannot, in my eyes be answered, by our reaction to a work, but by answering the difficult question of "Why?" we come back to it or flee it - or maybe in some cases, why we feel indifferent. My own suggestion above of a definition on what is art tried (in vain?) to go in that direction.
  280. Julie, I made some changes and additions in the ten-minute period to what I originally posted, so please read what's posted here rather than what may have come to you in your email prompt. Perhaps you're used to doing that with me!
  281. Anders - "or you flee it, because it hurts."
    Which is why in the next line I added "Unforgettable (and that can mean irritating/scary/repulsive, too)".
  282. Fred,
    I don't see passion in Bruce, but I feel passion from Hujar -- for what he's seeing (not who and not [only] the big dick). Similarly, in Alvarez Bravo's nudes, the women seem almost remote, but I feel tremendous passion from Alvarez Bravo *for* what he's seeing. I am using that vague phrase ("what he's seeing") on purpose, because it's seems to have to do with fertility, fecundity, potency, generation and regeneration -- going back to cycles, harvests, the seasons, etc. Full of life, but beyond that, potent.
    [I am going to look at your links later ... as usual, I'm lacking time right now.]
  283. Ah yes, well worded Luis. You're right it is hard to make a definition to it, we'd spend days and days trying to uncover an answer....which we have been doing! The one thing I agree with you is that when I view a piece of work I want to spend the time deciding what it is to me. What kind of emotion it evokes from me. Good art doesn't have to be technically flawless either. Sometimes those flaws are what makes it better in some cases. Sometimes it can be the subject matter, or sometimes I can be amazed and drawn only by the skill and technical execution from the artist as well. You're also right, where bad art is forgettable. It doesn't hold interest. You view it and move on without returning.
    Maybe "art" creates interest and conversation...
  284. Julie, I'll look further. I understand the distinction you're making. On first glance, I didn't feel the kind of passion you do coming from Hujar. I'll check out Bravo as well.
    A word about critiques. I've been critical of photos in this thread but no more critical than I am of my own photos. When I want to look at masterpieces, I know where to go and it's not PN or my own portfolio. I go to books, museums, galleries. I come to PN to see work at approximately the same level as the work I'm producing, though obviously it varies. I consider myself a beginner. Most of the things I've been critical about are the same things I'm critical about in my own work, especially the nuancing of highlights, getting poses just right, and finding good balances and tensions. I'm not making masterpieces. I'm looking for insights and to learn. I do that by being critical. Seeing stuff that's not quite right in others' work often allows me to go back and understand where I want to concentrate in my own work. If I viewed a lot of the work here as masterpieces or put them up on the pedestal of "art" I couldn't have the same relationship to them, which I actually value quite much. At my present stage, I find the whole idea of masterpiece relative to my own photos a big distraction from what I'm doing.
  285. These days I look for art where I can find it. People make art or become art. Sometimes they are the same thing. I'm just the photographer and an old man recording a granddaughter's activities.
  286. I love that first one, Charles. The fact that it was your granddaughter's hand is, I am sure, a big factor in your own evaluation of it. For me it is overwhelmingly about color and form--and I think that it is extremely well done.
    For what it may be worth, I would call it "art." The visual impact is stunning, in or out of context, I think.
  287. Fred,
    I have your third too-small linked photograph in a book and it does indeed have passion (it's Alan Lloyd, 1975 -- needs to be seen large to get all the amazing textures and the eyes). If you get one of his collections, look at the compositional genius of Tomata du Plenty, 1978.
    From the middle of an essay on Peter Hujar by Hripsimé Visser:
    "... The theme of mortality, and with it the essence of humanity, also plays a role in Hujar's work in another sense. Strangely enough, for me it was his photo of the baby which was the key to this aspect of his work. There is something about the photo which connects it with the images which depict nude men standing or sitting, a number of which have an openly sexual import. Just like these naked men, sometimes with erections, the baby holding on to his penis [I don't know why Visser says that; the baby's hand is lying on his navel, close to, but not touching his penis] makes one think of those Renaissance paintings of the Christ child or of the Man of Sorrows which, according to the American art historian Leo Steinberg, manifest the theme of the ostentatio genitalis, visualizations of the theological doctrine that the child Jesus was the incarnation of God. The genitals were the sign of his being human. [ ... ] They show the simple fact of sexuality, and with it of being human -- or more precisely, of being man -- without any embarrassment, but also without any challenge or provocation."​
    The following is from a group of In Memoriam's to Hujar. This one is by Marvin Heiferman:
    "The one Peter Hujar photograph I own shows a skinny guy sitting in a chair jerking off. His dick is huge, a dick out of a dream, a good dream or bad dream, depending on who you are. His eyes are closed and he's neither happy nor unhappy, sitting in a chair that many other men with erections posed on. Physically present in Peter's loft on Second Avenue, he is somewhere else -- on a mind trip, a sex trip. There will never be a way to know what he is thinking or feeling. If he were alive, even Peter couldn't tell you. Most photographs describe what they depict, and too many have been celebrated for being elegant cartoons, but this picture's power is speculative. You cannot see, you will never see, what it is about. That's why it hangs, somewhere, where I live and work -- over the desk, the couch, the toilet, next to the shower, in the kitchen, just above my pillow. People who look at this photograph (and everybody does) stare at the dick. So have I, many times. But ultimately, what there is to see, what I look at the most, is the literal and psychological space between the guy's head and his dick, a space that both connects and separates the mind and the body, life and death, here and there, a space I'm sure that Peter (a handsome, complicated man) came to know, very, very well."​
  288. Thank you, Julie. I had not previously heard of Peter Hujar until this thread. Here is a bit of what I was able to find out about him, for others who might not know anything about him:
    As for the second passage above, I a reminded of a scene in cinema from American Beauty in which Lester Burnham (played by Kevin Spacey) matter of factly tells the viewer, while describing the humdrum nature of his life, "Here I am in the shower jerking off. This will be the high point of my day. Everything will be downhill from here." (approximate quote) One gets no sense that the screenwriter or director was trying to either amuse or evoke disgust, simply trying to establish near the outset of the film certain facts about the life of Lester Burnham which allow us to put the events in the unfolding plot in context. The director chose to show the Burnham character from behind, showing motion but with no explicit display of genitalia. The visual impact is mild but effective in terms of setting the tone for what is to follow.The movie is interesting also in its portrayal of Rickcky Fitts (played by Wes Bentley) as an eighteen-year-old with a video camera, with which he systematically records events in the life of the Burnham family (but especially the daughter, played by Thora Birch). The voyeuristic Ricky Fitts character comes across as less creepy than inquisitive and aesthetically sensitive, if a bit eccentric.
    Perhaps the best scene in the movie, in my opinion, is a very long segment in which the wind blows a trash bag looping over and over against a brick wall. The scene is presented during an interlude in which Ricky Fitts tells the Thora Birch character that this is his favorite clip of those which he has taken. At one point he also shows two girls a photo of a dead bird (which he describes as beautiful), and at the end of the film he is shown looking with equal fascination and obvious sense of aesthetic appreciation at the eyes of a corpse (whose identity I will not reveal for those who have not seen the movie). During the last scenes one hears the haunting voice of Annie Lennox:
    I was immediately reminded of the Edward Weston shot of the dead man in the desert, the story of which I do not know.
    I was sufficiently inspired by the movie and the music to label one of my own photos here on PN as "It's Only Castles Burning."
  289. Due to the sensitive nature of the topics, combined with where I work (a church-related college), I have tended to avoid sexual imagery here on Photo.net, except through abstract imagery:
    The photo referred to at the end of the previous thread is this one:
    and this over-cooked variation:
    I will say pretty much what I please with words.
  290. Julie, I've been thinking about the distinction you drew between passion in Bruce (who's depicted) and passion in the photograph (or coming from the photographer, which is probably another distinction). Certainly Hujar may have been feeling passionate when he shot these and he may have, intentionally or not, avoided showing that in the photos or putting that passion into the photos.
    It's funny, Heiferman describes Bruce as jerking off. Until he said it, I didn't once even think of it. Sure, it makes sense, after all he's got a big old hard-on squeezed in his hand (though it feels to me more like he's holding it determinedly yet not really squeezing). I just get the sense he's holding it, almost sculpturally, not using it.
    None of the reasons I'm going to give for my not finding most of the photos passionate, in themselves, would be a reason. But, taken together, they probably add up to the lack of passion I sense:
    • Starkness
    • The space, which I see differently from Heiferman as well. I see it as separating his mind from his penis, not connecting them. More importantly I see the space he's surrounded by, the room, the wall behind him, as very much isolating him
    • I see this as an honest approach, one that is very intellectual and physical (as Heiferman says, mind and body) but not terribly emotional. Passion would suggest emotion.
    • Static, quiet stillness. For me, no heat.
    • I probably agree with Visser that the penis is not terribly provocative or challenging and there seems to be no sense of shame or embarrassment. My guess is that's probably not the case for a lot of people looking at this. Photographed penises, let alone erect ones, are found quite provocative by probably the majority of viewers. It's a testament to Hujar that he can pull it off (oops!), even for the few who won't find it thus. I supposed, though, passion does have a provocativeness to it, IMO.
    • Though a passionate expression, gesture, or holding of his body would, of course, be at least partially up to Bruce and would be seen on Bruce's face or body, and though it could be distinct from the passion Hujar is giving the photo (we could imagine someone looking very passionate being photographed dispassionately), it's not totally separate. That, to me, is one of the joys of photographing people. The expression of the photo is ultimately a blending of what they give me or I manage to get from them and what I'm doing photographically, with light, perspective, motion blur, etc. So, in addition to the other things I mentioned, Bruce's dispassion plays a role for me.
    In looking more and thinking about your question last night, it may be that one of the unique things about what we're seeing in this photo is a kind of passionless sexuality. It's as if it's an almost rigid (penis included) look. I was thinking it might even be a purposefully dispassionate look at a sexually aroused man, a kind of challenge . . . but much more an intellectual than emotional challenge. Of course, for me, strong intellectual challenges are very emotional but I think that's different from passion. I see an almost cold calculation here to depict passion with a kind of deliberateness. Passion, I think, requires that you turn up the heat, which is not, I think what Hujar seems to have wanted or at least not what he's accomplished in my eyes.
    Again, I'm really taken by the distinction you drew between the passion in Bruce and the passion given to the photograph by Hujar. Can you tell me what passionate cues you, yourself, got from the photo? I'm so curious especially because I do see it differently.
  291. Little disgusts me more than Nick Ut's photo of Phan Thị Kim Phúc.​
    Fred, the word that I might have used (I don't remember) when I first saw this on the evening news many years ago was perhaps "horrifying," not "disgusting." The war and policy of bombing civilians were "disgusting."
  292. I just read the Introduction to the Marks Gallery that I got through the link Lannie provided while I was posting. The line that stood out to me is
    "Highly emotional yet stripped of excess, Hujar's photographs are always beautiful, although rarely in a conventional way."​
    That excess, either in or beyond emotion, may be where I often find passion.
  293. Oops, the line in my longer post this morning, toward the end, should read: I see an almost cold calculation here to depict SEXUALITY [not passion] with a kind of deliberateness.
  294. Lannie, thanks for the American Beauty vignettes. I remember those scenes well; interesting to think about with reference to our discussion here.
    Fred, I too didn't think Bruce was jerking off. He seems very still to me -- which stillness is what I took to be particularly interesting. But therefore I seem to have ended at the same place as Heiferman which is the face -- that face! and then the hand on his abdomen (which I described as "sacramental" somewhere way back at the beginning of this thread). And I am very appreciative of the overall composition (I keep forgetting to mention that explicitly) -- in particular, I like the forward reaching left leg/foot and, as you have already noted, the airy space on which the angled (slightly bowed) body is strung.
    On the "stripped of excess" quote, that may be because he was working in the late seventies and early eighties. From the Foreword to the book I have, "Wide-angled, distorted views, enlarged on RC (plastic) paper for the first time, sought to explode form, to expose the content of a new view of the world as system, as structure. // By contrast Hujar's photographs must have looked like classics."
    Bits from Visser's essay that you may find interesting (I'm still pondering what they mean) repeatedly talk about Hujar going after the in-between: "... after he ceased to do work for clients, he chose his models himself and no longer concentrated on that moment in which the pose and person form an indivisible entity. To all appearances, it would seem that Hujar pressed the shutter just after -- or perhaps before -- that moment in which the pose might possibly change or in which the person, having become conscious of the pose, might have wanted or been able to change it -- or, to put in another way, at that moment when person and pose were mutually exclusive."
    And later, "... among [actor John] Heys's many guises, Hujar chose precisely those moments in which the assumed role and the person did not coincide ... "
    Hmmm ... I just got the email notice of your "deliberateness" comment which seems to contradict the above. The plot thickens (heh!) ...
  295. Excess--I have been accused of not knowing what it means, although not in the context of my photography.
    (I have to admit that sometimes less is more.)
    Here are a couple from North Korea--not a place that typically comes to mind when someone says the word "passion." I have often wondered how one keeps the human spirit alive in the face of such repressive totalitarianism. That it is alive is obvious enough in these shots from a slideshow:
  296. With regard to conveying passion, music and cinema perhaps have an edge over still photography. When they work together,the passion that is evoked can be almost overwhelming.
    Although these are not stills, the photography here works very well to evoke the passion and anguish of lost love. I have not seen a still nude that works as well in conveying that emotion in that particular context (loss), although it might exist:
  297. Julie, no, no, I don't think my deliberate idea contradicts what you quoted. The bit you quoted about pose is great. Hujar's relationship to pose does seem deliberate.
    There's an uncomfortable, even forced, quality to posing. Getting someone to seem comfortable can wind you up with something extremely uncomfortable. (Now, I don't really think these poses are a matter of comfort and discomfort. Comfort and discomfort are what portrait photographers at WalMart worry themselves about.) Working with the staged quality of pose, the artifice of it, the persona that Visser alludes to regarding John Heys, can be very tricky. You can get the right balance or not. There are many different balances that can work. IMO, the best photographers feel those balances.
    If Visser is correct (and it's a wonderful description) that John Heys was photographed when the assumed pose and the person did not coincide, then Hujar was, in fact, capturing something about that very assumption (not a mental assuming, but the assumption of the pose). Which is sort of an in between."That moment when person and pose were mutually exclusive" may be the deliberate disconnect I've been sensing. The in-between is that space in which the connected and the disconnected are simply different ways of describing the same thing. Bruce, maybe, is depicted as human and not human because of that. He's at ease but he's also hard as a rock, literally and metaphorically. We call people stone-faced. That's easy to photograph. Let's call Bruce's entire body and being stone-faced, but it's not quite that simple. Because there is an ease pervading it that undermines what we think we're looking at. (Speaking of art.)
    I notice many of the same aspects of the composition that you do. Do these aspects read as passionate to you? If so, can you describe how the composition is passionate? It doesn't read that way to me. The composition seems, again, to be very deliberate but not terribly involved. That would be one (among many) way of achieving photographic passion. I'm thinking I might describe the composition as a deliberate matter-of-factness, something I'm coming to understand only in time. For me, the most passionate element in the photo is the shadow on the floor, created by his leg the most strongly, the chair which is dissipating more, and his body which is very amorphous. It's where distinctiveness and surety have ceased. It's more of a splash of water (or fire) and less of a reliable and steady rain.
  298. Marvin Heiferman in response to Saul Ostrow's question, "So, The Family of Man wasn’t about art?"

    Definitely not. If anything, it was just the opposite. It was about effect. And about how art didn’t really matter. What got us started was Cindy Sherman’s pictures, they constituted the ground level for a whole generation of artists. The film stills and commercial photography existed as source material. The Real Big Picture show was about the difference between the artists’ and the public’s use of the same mechanisms.
    Museum shows tend to put nails in the coffin. I want to put pictures together in such a way that people can bounce from one to the other and walk out the door not with answers, but with even more questions. I know you’re supposed to tell people what they saw, what it meant and how it all fits together…A museum audience is thought to be really different than a gallery audience. . . . In the art world the question, “Is a photograph art?”, has been internalized. I’m more interested in the role art plays in people’s lives. (Emphasis supplied.)​
  299. [My wi-fi at home has croaked, they're sending me a new modem/router thing, until then, I'm geeking on the fly, so it may take a long time for me to respond to things]
    My view of Hujar is that he personally is an above average passionate guy (from his themes and what I've seen and read), particularly concerning the ephemerality of life, but in his photography, this is severely restrained, and secondary to more formal and intellectual concerns. The picture of the man pleasuring himself on the chair is a great example. In spite of the unavoidable punctum, it's fairly cerebral, and I could even see it as a commentary on art.
    One thing I like about him is that he leaves a lot up to the viewer.
  300. Fred, my stuff ...
    They are to me strongly felt, but I never expect them to be to other people in the way they are to me (and that's fine). The only way I can think of to put this -- and it applies to all pictures that I look at -- is that I feel weight. I feel stuff from the inside out. If it's good, I feel it from the inside. That one word, "weight" seems to always be there for me (and I can't imagine that it means much of anything -- I'm at a loss to explain it; it's just a visceral thing for me).
  301. luis_g