As artists, we can appreciate the human form as a
beautiful photographic subject, but it seems that once one starts
working with the simple naked form, something not so simple
begins to happen. Inspired by our artistic aspirations, we delve
into form, play with light and composition, line and shadow,
shape and movement, forgetting that the body contains a person,
forgetting that the person contains a personality, forgetting
content and commentary, assuming that what we see is what
Later we sit back to muse over the images and realize we have captured more than we intended. The images speak to us in a secret language. They tell us about ourselves and the world in which we live. They tell us how different we are from our environment, although we are all made of the same substances. They tell us we are products of our own inventions, and we have often chosen badly. They tell us we have forgotten the basics, forgotten where we came from, forgotten where we are going. They tell us we are beautiful; we are free; we are light and shadow dancing on skin canvases. They tell us we are nothing more than form; they tell us we are much more than we could ever know or understand. They remind us we are alive. They tell us we are life.
As much as we try to remain purists in our artistic pursuit, the figure betrays us. Directly or indirectly, the nude becomes a social commentary. Placed in nature, it reminds us: "ashes to ashes, dust to dust; from the earth we come, to the earth we will return." We are wind, water, fire, stone. We are earth and sky, ether and mud. We are saddened to realize how we have separated ourselves from our elemental make-up. The nude encourages us to remember that we came from and are still a part of beauty. It inspires us to respect ourselves more, respect the world around us more, and to see all things as one.
When placed in the midst of industrial decay, the nude figure shows us how opposite we are to the environment we have created, how we have been betrayed by our own hands, how progress, dreams and promises have come and gone, changed and decayed, but the basic human form remains the same. We are not subject to the same mortality as our creations. We are sobered by the farce of our illusions. We are encouraged to see beauty even in the worst examples of our existence.
When placed in the simple studio, the nude reminds us of line and form, the marriage of our conventionalism and our simplicity. Stripped of baubles and dress, the form is universal, the same from yesterday until tomorrow, from beginning to end. We see our daughters and our grandmothers, our husbands and sons, constant, strong, striking, and immortal. There is something so pure and intense about the human form, so innocent and piercing, that it cuts through centuries of lies and cover- ups to tell us truth. To gaze upon the naked form is to look at all that is good and real and honest about humanity.
As artists we sometimes try to comment on and connect with society at large and sometimes we try to create without commentary, but as figure artists, we must submit that regardless of our intent, the figure has a voice of its own. There is something so pure and intense about the human form, so innocent and piercing, that it cuts through all the centuries of lies and cover ups and tells us about truth. To gaze upon the naked form is to look at all that is good and real and honest about humanity; to see all that is beautiful about ourselves.
Jamie Cotton has a degree in theology from Saint Mary's College of Notre Dame and has been nude modeling for six years. She also runs "Bodyscapes," providing models for photographers and tours around the US. She can be reached at email@example.com