If there’s any thing, in particular that I’d like to believe I strive for in my nude photography, it’s to depict the individuality of the person in front of the lens as much as possible. It’s not always explicitly their identity, but for me, identity plays an important role in that depiction.
I’ve always been bothered by the ‘headless’ nude, parts close-ups and the sense of objectification and disempowerment that, for me, almost always accompanies such images. Accordingly, I’ve played it safe by making sure to include my collaborators’ faces in most of my photography… then I faced a challenge.
The advent of Tumblr has created an interesting phenomenon that echoes the experience of creating nude photographs in the early 20th Century, but with an interesting twist.
When Edward Weston began photographing nudes in the 1920s, most of his models were compelled to hide their faces, out of concern that they would be stigmatized or face a social backlash amongst their peers in Carmel, California. Though they had a hand in creating iconic and timelessly beautiful images, they were nonetheless stripped of their identity, becoming forms rather than individuals.
Tumblr has created a platform where self-portraitists can anonymously post nude images, while their identity. One such artist, Femme-Perdue, approached me over the summer to photograph her – only the second time that she’s collaborated with a photographer – and take part in an oral history project.
Her most essential stipulation gave me pause, though: I wouldn’t be allowed to photograph her face. In all honesty, I tried to push back (I’ve been able to persuade past collaborators to take a ‘wait and see’ attitude on face photos – my ‘sad puppy dog’ face is pretty compelling) but she wouldn’t budge… and I’m thankful for it.
Femme-Perdue pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me reexamine my methodologies. She forced me to be creative and depict her uniqueness in ways I’d never have considered, otherwise. I can’t express how much I appreciate that (and what an accomplishment it is, on her part – she’s a force of nature.) Beyond that, I’m simply lucky to know her.