Meet the photographers who are changing the way we look at nudes
‘I also really love tits. They’re such pretty, powerful things’
The female nude has to be one of the most prevalent tropes in art history. From nude nymphs and naked classical goddesses to unclothed celebrity icons and pin ups girls, the art world and by extension the rest of society, are fascinated with the naked female form. Yet, thanks to restrictions placed upon female artists (such as the fact that they were prevented from drawing life models), it has only been in recent times that the nude body has legitimately been captured by a female artist.
Despite it being 2016 however, conditions are still being set surrounding female nudity and art. The #freethenipple campaign which started in 2014 and is still being propagated across social media platforms like Instagram and Tumblr demonstrates perfectly the frustration and anger over the censorship of female nipples. The naked body is natural, liberating and should be able to be appreciated regardless of gender.Photo by Steph Wilson for her “Pale Fruit” series
With the rise and recognition of the female photographer, I wanted to find out about the people behind the lens, to get under their skin if you will. Stephanie Wilson, a fashion and fine arts photographer, based in Hackney photographs women often in unusual positions and with random objects placed upon their bodies.
The photographer has just finished a whole tongue in cheek series for Dazed, with models covering their private parts in ridiculous ways or with objects covering their modesty, prompting people to ask whether censorship these days has gone too far.Photo of Steph Wilson herself
Nomnomvega, based in Berlin, takes images that celebrate women’s sexuality and confidence in images that are irresistible to look at. Often, the lines between bodies are blurred, giving her work a fluid quality. Her photos depict naked women in daring, bold positions (for example with hands in knickers or grabbing flesh), challenging the way that women are typically seen.
She is currently working on a book, which will be supported via crowdfunding which will collate her favourite pieces into one collection. I spoke to them both about their work and how they’re challenging the perception of the female nude.Photo by Nomnomvega
What is so interesting about the nude state to you? Why do you choose to photograph it?
SW: I guess it’s timeless, an era isn’t dictated by the body as much as if it were clothed. Although some could argue that an “ideal” body type could dictate an era that way. Either way, if un-retouched, the nude body is honest. It creates automatic honesty on set, too, and adds intimacy to a shoot. No hiding. I also really love tits. They’re such pretty but powerful things.Photo by Nomnomvega
Do you think there has been any change in people’s perception of the female body since you began photographing nude females?
SW: Yes, but not because I’ve been shooting them – but culturally, in that period of time since I began, people’s perceptions have generally changed. In the past year there has been a further uprise in the female photographer, and with that, a shift in the gaze of fashion and nudes. People are finally coming round to the concept that an ugly body isn’t a normal body.
NV: This may be my subjective perception, because of course, since i began photographing I also started to expose myself more to the topic, but i think there are a lot of more different artistic approaches to it now. I’m not sure if there is a different perception to my photography especially since I started.Photo by Steph-Wilson as part of her “Girls” series
In many of your photos the female nipples are covered – is that because of Instagram’s policies, it it a personal choice, is it because you feel there is an element of exploitation if you show the nipple?
SW: Oh god no, it’s not my choice. I shot Emoji for Dazed purely based on the ludicrousy of Instagram’s censorship laws. They’ve taken down a number of my images, bizarrely even shots that have very much, to my distaste, already been censored. It’s very bizarre.
What is exploitative is they’ll allow images of women, very explicitly using the female form to sell a product, but they don’t allow an image artistically presenting the female form, promoting the idea of body (or nipple) equality. I mean, they’re just nipples, for fucks sake! I bet the founder of Instagram fed off his mother’s for six months. Get over it.
NV: Many photos have been taken down and it is a big issue to me personally. I don’t want to do any pornographic pictures but the Facebook and Instagram policies limit my possibilities.Photo by Nomnomvega
Your work shows women in a very open way. Is it important to you for women to be seen like this?
SW: Again it’s not a conscious decision I make based on the models gender, but, I suppose it’s good to see women not in poses that exaggerate their hips and arse and tits, heightening their “woman-ness”.
I find it quite sexy when girls are a bit blokey and guys are a bit dweeby or effeminate. I guess it means they’re not as led down the gender garden path and that’s very attractive to me.Photo by Stephanie Wilson
Do you feel,as a female photographer that your photos contradict the male gaze?
NW: In a way, my photos are exactly the view of a male gaze. In another, they show the back-staring of self conscious, strong women.
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