September 6, 2008

Cultural observations, by Beau Nestor

" While much of Europe, and especially France, accepts the place of the Nude in Art as a natural and beautiful thing, many other countries have widely different public perceptions. "Beau eRomantica

" As an Australian that has worked as a photographer of the nude in Europe, Japan and the US, I find the international public expectation and acceptance of the Nude in photography to be a moving target.

While much of Europe, and especially France, accepts the place of the Nude in Art as a natural and beautiful thing, many other countries have widely different public perceptions.

Australia strains to remember that the Nude can be an Art form, but still has to try very hard to find dividing lines between Art and Porn. In the 1960s Michelangelo's 'David' was put on public display, but not until a plastic leaf had been placed over his offensive genitalia.
The last 40 years have moderated the views and that would no longer happen. However, while many people are willing to accept the current concept of Fine Art Nude in photography, there is still much skepticism as soon as the genitals are displayed. Those that are schooled in the Arts usually have a broader mind, and those who have had less education, or work in manual employment, seem to have a narrower perspective.
Australia has grown up considerably, and has a more balanced attitude to the nude, although it is still obviously far behind the far more open acceptance enjoyed throughout much of Europe, and especially France.

Rob Benson
Art Model Sarah

Nobuyoshi Araki

In Japan, the acceptance of the Nude as a Fine Art form appears to be only as a form of Erotica. They have a distinction between Erotica and Porn, but effectively, all nudity is measured in terms of sexuality.
Japanese culture is very complex in this regard (at least to this Westerner), but the average person in the street would blush at the word Nude, and yet, think nothing of walking through the red light districts that are outside every major railway station in Japan. Certainly the whole idea of taking Fine Art Nude photographs, or Exhibiting them would be seen as an embarrassment.

Dick Simonsen
"Sandy Beach Bum"
Art Model McKenzie

In USA, San Francisco, as the centre of the Flower Power and Gay rights movements, has been seen as being very 'forward' in US society, and largely an embarrassing naughty child by much of the US.

GW Burns
"Into the light"

Los Angeles, with its history of motion pictures has its own rules, and these have been fought with censors over the years. Young hopefuls flock to the city, dreaming of being a star in an epic film, only to end up in an industry that is closer to prostitution than film making. The bright lights have attracted a huge porn industry, and given the local concept of Artistic Nude to be not much more than a drunken orgy.

Jeffery Scott

Similarly, there are huge Porn industries in Miami, that maintain that perception. However, much of 'Middle America' lies in the Bible Belt, that just cannot openly accept nudity at all. I say openly, because of the wide difference between stated and actual acceptance of the nude.

I am currently living in the South, and the idea of taking Art Nude photographs on location is quite hypocritical.
To be seen taking nude photographs would quite possibly mean a greeting with a shotgun, with threats of hellfire and brimstone, and yet, the person threatening, most probably has an online porn account, and a collection of glamour nude magazines worthy of any library.

Andrew Shapter

Patrick Demarchelier

Nude, New York, 1975

New York has its own attitudes. They have much of the open acceptance of the European Fine Art Nude concept, and many models and photographers will happily stay in the confines of the city because of its cosmopolitan attitudes. But they also have huge glamour and pornography industries that lure models and photographers away from art with the promise of high returns.

Having photographed the nude in England, France, Holland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the US, I must admit, I prefer to shoot with the models of France (or Western Europe at least). There, the majority appear to be true Artistes, driven by their ideals more than their fees, and they value the recognition as an artist, more than the compliments about their physical attributes. Of the hundreds of photographers that I have worked with, the vast majority of the European photographers have been true artists, and the vast majority of US photographers more interested in the Directors Couch, or the Publishing Fees, than anything associated with a true expression of their creativity.

To those few specially gifted photographers, and truly powerful and passionate models that 'Get It', I apologize, you are wonderful exceptions to the rule - I need your forgiveness - because I need to work with you !"

Beau Nestor
"Federation Square"

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