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As a photographer I’m deeply interested in the experience subjects undergo as I take their picture. When I guide subjects through the portrait process I seek to create a calm, comfortable environment where they can be at ease in front of the camera. Despite my best efforts, subjects often feel vulnerable during the process. No matter the scenario, this power imbalance is almost inescapable part of the experience.
The photographer/subject paradigm is one of inequality. Nude Portraits is about leveling the playing field in an unorthodox way. Instead of focusing on bringing the subject to a place of ease--where I am, this project brings me to a place of vulnerability.
This vulnerability is achieved by making portraits without clothing. These are nude portraits in the sense that I, the photographer, am nude, while the subject is not.
Nude Portraits explores what happens when subjects are confronted by male nudity in a context devoid of eroticism. Nude Portraits also examines the experience of photographing subjects in a heightened state of vulnerability. Images of the photographer nude are not included in the series, leaving viewers to speculate on what the subject is reacting to.
Aside from my being nude, portrait sessions for Nude Portraits are like any other shoot. A session generally lasts around forty minutes. Often that time is spent with the subject exploring our mutual, or sometimes solitary, unease. Subjects are made explicitly aware beforehand that I will be photographing them nude. They understand that they may feel uncomfortable, but they should not feel unsafe.
Portrait locations range from the workplace to the backyard to the bedroom. As spaces in which subjects are likely to be at ease, these areas provide an appropriate and contrasting backdrop to the tension that a nude portrait session often creates.Nude Portraits is an ongoing conceptual portrait photography series. All are invited to participate.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where did the idea come from?
Initially I used to joke with friends that I was going to shoot some nude portraits, only I would be the one who was nude. I imagined the image of hapless photographer who simply didn’t understand that it was the subject who was supposed to be nude, not him.
I’m also interested in the experience that the subject has while getting their picture taken. Like it says in my artist statement, I like to explore vulnerability between the photographer and subject.
What are sessions like?
Before the session starts I sit down with the subject for ten or twenty minutes and get to know them. Eventually we start talking about the portrait session and I’ll explain what it will be like and what my goals are.
The most important thing I explain is that subjects should expect to feel uncomfortable, but not unsafe. They’re giving a lot by putting themselves in such an unknown situation. If at any point the subject starts to feel unsafe, the shoot is over.
Besides my being naked, portrait sessions are completely normal. I’ll ask them questions about their lives, we’ll talk about how they’re feeling about the experience and probably laugh a lot. The sessions are not fashion or modeling shoots. I’m interested in exploring genuine emotion and creating a space where the subject can express what they’re feeling.
I typically shoot for about 45 minutes. After I think I’ve gotten the photos I want I’ll ask them if they have any suggestions for images. Once we’ve exhausted all the options, I’ll leave the room and get dressed.
Usually we’ll go over the experience and then we’ll be done. I often find myself feeling much closer to the subjects than I do after a normal shoot. Nude Portraits creates a shared experience.
Do your subjects know you’ll be in the nude?
Absolutely. Everyone who is photographed understands explicitly that I’ll be completely naked.
How are you finding people?
Initially I approached a few close friends. The series blew up before I had a chance to branch out. Now I’m asking for willing participants to send me an email with a little about them, how they found the piece, their age and where they live.
I am a 25 year old, straight, white male. I’m looking for anyone who does not match that description. Diversity will enrich this series.
I am always looking for subjects, both in Utah where I am based, and out of the state. Send me an email with your location and any ideas you may have for your shoot to get more information about participating.