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Within one-tenth of a second, people form a variety of opinions about each other based on what they see, and these opinions are not necessarily favorable to us.

Yesterday, while browsing my Google+ feed, I came across a link to my post “Is it a good idea to share your nude photographs, if you are a nudist?”  kindly reblogged and shared on Google+ by Paul K., author of the wonderful blog about nudism Zjuzdme.org. Someone on Google+ left a comment under my photo saying, let me quote, “so small dick u have”. First of all, I felt like I let down Paul, because it was unclear to whom the comment was addressed. Secondly, I thought that it was not a good idea to share my nude photograph taken on a chilly day.

With a feeling of a little disappointment, I turned to the history of visual art.

When it comes to art, there are two popular questions: “Why does Michelangelo’s Adam have such a ridiculously small penis” and why does “the most famous of Greek statues, Michelangelo’s David”, depict “big muscles, but a tiny penis”?

Michelangelo Buonarroti - Wikimedia Commons

Michelangelo Buonarroti – Wikimedia Commons

Michelangelo learned the philosophy and art of ancient Greece and admired the Greeks’ attempt to capture ideal beauty in their statues. According to Larissa Bonfantethere were “two concurrent strains of nudity in Greek art: one reflecting a magical or apotropaic function (herms, satyrs, etc.), characterized by the erect phallus; another, developing from athletic nudity, a more empirical interest in the naked, athletic male body (kouroi, athletes and male figures in black- and red-figure vase painting), where the sex organs themselves are less obtrusive”.

Statue of kouros - Wikimedia Commons

Statue of kouros – Wikimedia Commons

“Satyrs, animal-like human figures with horses’ tails, were represented full of vitality, naked, with exaggerated huge phalli (or phalluses)”. Actors who represented satyrs in the theater in the 5th century B.C. “wore animal-skin loincloths with a large phallus sewn on”. The herms the Athenians encountered daily in the streets of their city, from ca. 540 B.C. on, “consisted of a male head sculptured on a pillar, on which was carved an erect phallus, serving as a reminder of the powerful magic residing in the alerted male member”.

On the kouros, Greek sculpture representing a nude young man, “the sex was simply uncovered; while the phallus was emphasized on satyrs and herms, and on the stage”. “The kouros type fits the concept of the sacred quality of nudity: its nakedness represented a feature of initiation ritual. It referred to those religious dances and rituals that called for the candidate’s nakedness as a special costume or habit”. The ideal of youthful male beauty “included the small penis of a younger man”. “Youth was an essential aspect of the nudity of the kouros. Old men and ugly slaves have longer penises”.

“In contrast to the large, erect phallus of the magic, apotropaic figure, a beautiful young man was characterized by a small penis. For women, too, whether they were represented naked or dressed, in art, literature, and life, depilation and small breasts were part of the ideal of youthful beauty”.

Of course, each time has its own aesthetic values. I’ll bear it in mind when choosing the images for my blog.

According to the art historian Michael Camille, the traces of direct physical attacks can be seen “in hundreds if not thousands” of “medieval illuminated manuscripts” [1] (see also [2]). Specific texts, images, or parts of images were found offensive and destroyed by “the owners, guardians, or users of these books”.

It is believed that images acted more powerfully upon the viewers in the Middle Ages than today. It can be explained by some aspects of “medieval theories of vision itself, which gave an active role to the eye in the process of perception. Vision entailed the eye’s actually taking an imprint of the thing seen” [1]. Medieval scholars have thought that either the eye is sending out rays to see the object or the object is sending rays to the eye. Vision was active, dangerous and “prone to sin”. Pregnant women were not allowed to look at “very disgusting animals” (like apes or monkeys) in the face, because they could give birth to children “similar in appearance”.

It seems interesting that “thirteenth- and fourteenth-century illuminators were not worried about” depicting human genitals. The earlier medieval period, “certainly up to the fourteenth century”, might be described as a time when images of naked human bodies were rife, and “when no danger was seen to exist in explicit representations of bodies” [1].

It all began to change at the very end of the Middle Ages, “not before the fifteenth century” [1] (compare [3]) . The medieval church established a control over public decency. In 1402 Jean Gerson, bishop of Paris, wrote a treatise on the corruption of youth, “which urged the secular and ecclesiastical authorities to introduce laws against the exhibition and sale of obscene pictures”. As a result, “postclassical” pornography was invented “at around the same time”.

Starting from the later Middle Ages, the numerous images of male and female genitals were erased from manuscripts. It continued up to Victorian times, when some collectors of manuscripts took a hand in the process in order “to prevent the penis being seen by wife and children” [1].

Scenes showing naked female characters were often erased from books. “The majority of excised female figures in medieval manuscripts suggests the work of later male clerics” [1]. There was a solid theoretical background for it. In Gemma Ecclesiastica by Gerald of Wales [4] one can find a chapter entitled ‘On not staring at women’. A medieval clergyman wrote: “Just as one should avoid the company of women, so too should one avoid staring at them or being stared at by them” [5]. He quoted St. Augustine: “Even if your eyes should fall upon a woman, you must never fix your gaze”.

Michael Camille wrote at the end of his essay [1]: “The fact that male and female genitals are still blocked in television representations of the body makes us heirs to a tradition that began in the later Middle Ages, when those heirs scratching out offensive and dangerous things from the beautifully illuminated books they inherited, or making representation itself the veil that covers rather than reveals, saw the obscene for the first time”.

Adam and Eve by Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528)

Adam and Eve by Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528)

Image: Adam and Eve by Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) (From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository)

References
1. Michael Camille, Obscenity Under Erasure, in Obscenity: Social Control and Artistic Creation in the European Middle Ages / ed. by Jan M. Ziolkowski, Leiden, Brill, 1998.
2. Art Historian Michael Camille, 1958-2002
3. Vadimage Blog: History of one delusion
4. Gerald of Wales – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
5. Suzannah Biernoff, Sight and Embodiment in the Middle Ages, Palgrave Macmillan, 2002

Don’t you know that “48 percent of people say they would bare it all on a nude beach”, but “among those who are more likely to buy the single than buy the album, only 34 percent would bare it all on a nude beach”? (Based on a survey of 178 people who are more likely to buy the single than buy the album and 510 people in general. Correlation #369 on correlated.org by Shaun Gallagher)

It is noteworthy that “57 percent of women think they look fat naked, but 59 percent aren’t afraid to walk around the house in the buff. Perhaps not surprisingly, more men are comfortable walking around naked at home and in gym locker rooms than women, 63 and 27 percent respectively.” (From FITNESS magazine and Yahoo! Shine survey of 1,500 men and women in 2012)

Statistics tells us that you can hardly find pictures of nude men and women in American homes. 44 percent of Americans “prefer the color blue”. 64 percent “like traditional art more than modern”. 88 percent “prefer pictures that show outdoor scenes, in which wild animals such as deer are preferable domestic cats.” Humans should be historical figures or ordinary people, depicted fully clothed.” Only 3 percent of Americans would rather buy a picture with nude content. (From Marttila & Kiley poll completed in 1994)

What about Millennials? 20 percent of the representatives of the millennial generation “have posed for nude photos or taken nude photos of their partner.” (From Euro RSCG’s annual Valentine’s Day study in 2012)

And finally, about nude beaches. “Worldwide, 33 percent of beachgoers “would never” go topless or nude at the beach. <…> Roughly 5 percent of American beachgoers reported having gone nude at the beach.” (Expedia 2013 Flip Flop Report)

“Statistics is a pain. Every normal person who takes it knows that it is (almost always) badly taught, unreadable, and even when you follow the idea, you can’t imagine where to apply it.” (Statistics for Practical People). So some people don’t love statistics.

But even if not everybody loves statistics, there’s something in it. I must admit that I always buy albums and almost never buy singles.

 

Beauty will save the world. (The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

Dostoyevsky once let drop the enigmatic phrase: “Beauty will save the world.” What does this mean? For a long time it used to seem to me that this was a mere phrase. Just how could such a thing be possible? When had it ever happened in the bloodthirsty course of history that beauty had saved anyone from anything? Beauty had provided embellishment certainly, given uplift—but whom had it ever saved? (Beauty Will Save the World by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)

The herculean task of a photographer is to capture a momentary frame as beautiful in reality, as it would be in a dream. (Ansel Adams, an American photographer and environmentalist)

 

I don’t know whether the Russians, at least some of them, do believe that beauty saves the world. Maybe, they believe only in force. Not all of them, of course, but some of them for sure do. I believe that the beauty around us really helps to go through the hard times and dark ages. The task of a photographer is to capture it and show to the world.

Today I would like to present a great photographer. He calls himself CHILL, French indie & self-proclaimed photographer, and, I think, he copes with this herculean task well.

Links:

Flickr: chill /// indie photographer

chill / photographie

These photos were taken on March 4, 2011 using an Olympus E-30 (1-2) and Sony DSC-TX5 (3), presumably in Mexico.

Mexique 196 By elienai | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Mexique 196 By elienai | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Mexique 173 By elienai | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Mexique 173 By elienai | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

DSC00198 By elienai | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

DSC00198 By elienai | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Images: Mexique 196 | Flickr – Photo Sharing!
Mexique 173 | Flickr – Photo Sharing!
DSC00198 | Flickr – Photo Sharing! (under Creative Commons license)

Link:
Flickr: elienai

The first and third photos were taken on February 2, 2011 (Nikon D200 – Noct-nikkor 58/1.2 AIS – 800 ISO). The second photo was taken on February 13, 2011 (Leica M6 – Voigtlander Heliar 15/4.5 Asph – XP2).

DONNA (TUTTO SI FA PER TE) By Luca Rubbi | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

DONNA (TUTTO SI FA PER TE) By Luca Rubbi | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

BARBAR!NA DOUBLE 15 By Luca Rubbi | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

BARBAR!NA DOUBLE 15 By Luca Rubbi | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

ELEGANTE By Luca Rubbi | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

ELEGANTE By Luca Rubbi | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Images: DONNA (TUTTO SI FA PER TE) | Flickr – Photo Sharing!
BARBAR!NA DOUBLE 15 | Flickr – Photo Sharing!
ELEGANTE | Flickr – Photo Sharing! (under Creative Commons license)

Links:
Luca Rubbi Photography
Flickr: Luca Rubbi

Who knows how many wonderful photographs are taken every minute, hour, day, week or month? In substitution for discontinued “Weekend Columns“, I’m starting a new column “Photos taken in…“. I have in mind to pick out a small fraction of photos worth to be seen (from my personal point of view, of course). Let’s start from January.

These photos were taken on January 28, 2011.

Standing Pose By poolski | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Standing Pose By poolski | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Hallway 2 By poolski | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Hallway 2 By poolski | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Images: Standing Pose | Flickr – Photo Sharing!
Hallway 2 | Flickr – Photo Sharing! (under Creative Commons license)

Links: antispin – Kyrill’s Blog
Kyrill’s Blog on Facebook
Flickr: poolski

The following photos were taken on January 5, 2011 (presumably, in Slateford, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK – at least, the seconds one)

2 45 0001 By tobias feltus | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

2 45 0001 By tobias feltus | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Rebekka TXO 1 By tobias feltus | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Rebekka TXO 1 By tobias feltus | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Images: 2 45 0001 | Flickr – Photo Sharing!
Rebekka TXO 1 | Flickr – Photo Sharing! (under Creative Commons license)

Links: Tobias Feltus: Createur d’Images Photographiques
Flickr: tobias feltus
Tobias Feltus on Myspace