Human Figure As Art In Photography

The nude in photography is something that has become increasingly important to me. Being a Life model has been one of the defining parts of my life. Part of my reason for becoming a Life Model had to do with my personal views on nudity, the strong belief that nudity in itself is not wrong. Regardless that societies opinion seemed to be that the body should remain covered, i never really understood why.

On most photo sharing sites you have to flag nude photos as adult or mature material. I can photograph a students drawing or painting of myself nude and post it on any site i want, but to take a photo of myself during that pose and post it and it has to be classed as mature. Some sites will not allow any nudity at all. Facebook won’t allow any nudity. Naturist groups can have a page on Facebook, but can’t show a full range of photos. An art photographer who photographs the figure can’t show their work. You can’t even have a setting that shows a warning.

So why do so many sites not allow nudity, even in photographic art?  Why is there such a paranoia about the human body?
I wish i knew!

As i grew up nudity never really bothered me. Very often i’d find myself expressing my views that nudity in itself is not wrong, it’s not harmful, and doesn’t have to be a sexual thing. This was a part of why i answered an advert for a life model at a local college, i thought it would prove to others, and myself, that i really did mean what i said. The mixed reactions i’ve had from people are quite amazing. Some show respect and say they could never do it. Others laugh unashamedly. A few are quite mocking about it, and some really quite rude and insulting.

Many people equate any form of nudity with sex, but a life drawing class is a completely non sexual environment. This is the same for my personal art nude photography, and yet on many sites a photograph of me at work, or one of my art photographs has to be classed the same as hard core porn. I find this quite insulting. Whilst not meaning to insult those who choose the porn industry, i’m pretty sure they would also agree that there is no similarity between my work and photos, and their work. Just how do these sites equate an art nude with a cum shot ?

Some sites do at least offer the choice of three levels, Safe, Moderate, and Restricted. Flickr and DeviantArt offer this. But even a moderate setting won’t show to non members, so i can’t share the photos with non photography friends even if they have no problem with nudity. Surely a simple warning that it may contain nudity would suffice. Surely adults should be able to decide for themselves!

Of course there are those who will say that young people could still view these photos. Well maybe we should stop teaching children that nudity is a dirty thing. Children will happily strip off and run about naked, but then they reach an age where they’re told they must cover themselves up, and they shouldn’t see the opposite sex naked. Yet the youngest i’ve modeled for is a fourteen year old girl who came to evening classes with her mother. Seeing a naked man didn’t have any kind of negative effect on her at all. In fact, she enjoyed the challenge of working from the human figure, and it helped her art work immensely.

Some people would claim that a more liberal attitude to nudity would just encourage perverts. But this doesn’t seem to hold up in reality. A few years ago i saw a report showing the rates of sexual crimes in various countries. Those with a more liberal attitude had lower rates of sexual crimes. Britain with it’s rather pompous attitude came out quite badly. It would seem that repression is more likely to cause a problem.

Around the world there are still societies where the body isn’t covered, so why is it that  our supposedly civilised  society has turned the perfectly natural body into something dirty? Why should the quite wonderful human body be regarded as adult material? Isn’t it about time that the civilised world grew up as far as the human body is concerned?

I honestly believe the human body is art, and when photographed in such a way it should be accepted as art, and not something that is dirty, and to be covered at all cost.

So here’s a few examples of my own work. Be warned there is nudity involved here. Sadly, although i have some lovely female nudes, i don’t have a model release for them, so can’t show them publicly.
As far as i can tell i’m not breaking the Terms Of Service of as the only relevant part seems to be this “the Content is not pornographic” and surely no one can suggest nudity in itself is porn……..can they?

Self nude

A self portrait taken with a single light source.

Window-lit 1

This was taken using just the light from a street light coming through the window.

An old one, also using light from the street through the window.

I got my eye on you!

I felt this was quite a good composition. I set a very high ISO for the noise, and added grain to give it a more gritty look.

Pinhole Self Portrait

I took this using a home made pinhole attachment on my DSLR. It gives a very light effect with strong soft focus. In this one i processed it to give a faded sepia look.

Pinhole Self Portrait

Another using the home made pinhole attachment. This one shows much heavier black and white processing. I really like the dark look of it.


I was working on an idea with a friend, Pixi, we came up with this rather lovely photograph.


The same pose as the last photo. I love the pose, composition, and background.


This was working on an ideal about being caged.
I like the rabbits on the wall behind, they help show how we often cage animals, but in parts of the world people are also caged, and in far worse conditions than this.
Soon after this the developers moved in, and i think these were demolished. It’s a shame as i wanted to return and try out more photos….

Celebrating The Day

Celebrating The Day!
This is a great location and gives an almost ritualistic look to the photograph.
It was taken with the help of a friend.

The Anonymous Snowman

The Anonymous Snowman!
Although this was to start up a long term project, it was also meant to be a bit of fun.

The Crawler

I took this self portrait in the late 90’s. The negative got scratched quite badly, but i quite like the effect.

In The Street

Another photograph taken in the late 90’s. I projected a photograph onto myself and set the camera on a self timer.

Self Portrait

A self portrait taken a few years ago.



3 Responses to Human Figure As Art In Photography

  1. Pingback: Google, Facebook, Why The Problem With Art Nude Photography? | PurpleT Photography

  2. sam says:

    i am quite interested by this. i do whole heartedly agree, i hate the way i feel ashamed of my body the way i was taught to be. but im my mind i know our body’s are natural and perfect. and society has ruined this for us, and further call parents perverts if they try to teach a different attitude to it

    • PurpleT says:

      Hi Sam.
      Society doesn’t help people who don’t have that “perfect” body. The emphasis needs to be on accepting people for who they are, and not what body shape they have.
      I recently watched the Paralympics and loved the way the competitors were seen as people and athletes. The way amputees showed their stumps and could be proud of who they are, and what they were achieving, without anyone shying away from their appearance because you could actually see their disability.
      Nobody should be made to feel ashamed.

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