Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Shortcuts in photography: nudity = intimacy

It's quite surprising how bad photography is for capturing certain things. The lack of narrative of single images and even sequences is a large handycap compared to mediums better suited for such things (as literature or cinema). One of the main 'cheap tricks' that this has led to, I think, is the equation nudity = intimacy in photography. As soon as we have somebody naked in a remote location (tree, lake, desert) or in an enclosed space (hotel room, house), there is this tendency to give intimacy to the shot. In some cases this is the case, as with Sally Mann's Immediate Family, where the artist photographed her own children for years. But more often than not, just an illusion of closeness is created. The nudes of 100th East Street by Bruce Davidson comes to mind. I like the work, but, what's their purpose and how did the photographer get there? It's not as clear cut as Mann's work.

Anyway, if you like the nudity = intimacy equation, you might want to sign up for the newsletter Nofound(secret). It's limited to 5000 subscriptors.


Mei said...

At first I thought that of course you were right in your assertion, but on reflection I'm not so sure.

You say, "As soon as we have somebody naked in a remote location ... or in an enclosed space ..., there is this tendency to give intimacy to the shot."

It's the "there is a tendency" that I have a problem with. A tendency for who? Not for you (that's the point of your post in a way), and not for me, and I've not heard anywone describe such photos as 'intimate'. Maybe the idea comes from some academic study of such photos, or conversations with certain people?

Sure there's a tabboo associated with nudity, but I think mostly it's not considered as intimate. Baby photos, porn, art-nudes, none of those are particularly intimate. Maybe that's what you're saying?

In my own work the only truly intimate moments I've photographed are while doing weddings. Occasionally I'll take a couple aside for some pictures so it's only myself and them present, and the looks, the chemistry between them is palpable, so intense that I feel awkward being there, like I'm in bed with them. In these situations everyone has their clothes on.

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