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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.

Self-portrait 08/09/13 by t-maker on DeviantArt

For the first time, I’ve learnt about nudism from the summer catalog published by Oböna Reisen, which bills itself as Europe’s largest tour operator for naturist holidays [1]. It was the first half of the 1980s and I was a teenager. At that time I lived in a country called Soviet Union, where anything that wasn’t sanctioned by the primitive, poverty-stricken form of imperial ideology was forbidden – or at least considered suspicious. The images in the catalog gave me a chance to glance at the world of naturist clubs, some of the photos even seemed to tell short stories about people and places. The Oböna catalog (the latest one can be found here: [2]), which fell in my hands by accident, was my only source of information about nudism for a few years. In some sense, it was like something from the ancient world, when the people had limited access to information.

In the Middle Ages, the largely illiterate population relied more upon visual representations of important information (such as different religious events) then the printed word [3]. Now the situation is different. “Nearly everybody in America and western Europe has learnt to read and write nowadays. Illiteracy recedes everywhere”, wrote Herbert George Wells in 1929 [4] . But the tendency to focus on visual representation of information in many areas of human activity does not vanish. We are visible creatures. “We depend on our sight more than any other of our senses and amazingly, 80% of what we perceive comes through our eyes; and our memories are 80% imagery” [5].

“Photography is one of the most compelling and authoritative forms of visual communication, challenging the viewer and demanding an emotional response” [6]. It is not surprising that photography “played an important role in spreading the word about naturism”, not only in my case. “In the early decades of the twentieth century”, when nudism emerged as the “cult of nudity in the concept of the simple life”, photographs “helped to convey in visual form evidence of the pleasures of being without clothes, to suggest a range of activities with an emphasis on life out of doors, and to attract new supporters” [7].

The first naturist magazines “could only print the most circumspect of poses and still risked prosecution. Photographs of naked men were carefully posed so that the genitals were concealed by arms or legs or the figure was shown from the side or from the three-quarter view; from the rear the figure could be safely shown completely naked. <…> Women rarely appeared in naturist photographs until the 1920s and 1930s, when they too went through a similar de-sexing process which involved masking out bodily features such as pubic hair and the dark circles around the nipples on the photographic print” [7].

“The air brush (‘pneumatic pencil’) was invented in the 1890s and proved excellent for use on photographic prints to tidy up the image and remove unwanted detail. It produced a thin fine pencil spray of neutral coloured paint which could be judiciously applied to photographs of the nude.”

“Naturists and the publishers of nudist books and magazines fought a constant battle with the various authorities for the right to print honest and accurate ‘life’ photographs, showing the outdoor activities of the nudists and the lives they led without censoring the image.” “It was not until the 1960s in the UK and the USA that any major success was achieved: naturists won the right to print untouched photographs” [7].

The principles of the American Sunbathing Association state: “We believe that sunshine and fresh air in immediate contact with the entire body are basic factors in maintaining radiant health and happiness. We believe in creating beauty in all things and therefore encourage men and women by daily care and culture to create for themselves the body beautiful. <…> We believe that presentation of the male and female figures in their entirety and completeness needs no apology or defense and that only in such an attitude of mind can we find true modesty” [8].

I believe that the modern nudists should continue spreading “the word about nudism” and, in full agreement with principles stated above, provide visual evidence of nudist lifestyle “as a healthful and moral practice”.

References
1. FKK-Urlaub mit OBÖNA Reisen‎
2. Katalog – OBÖNA Reisen FKK-Touristik
3. Book Review: Gothic: Visual Art of the Middle Ages 1150-1500
4. Herbert George Wells, The Work, World and Happiness of Mankind, Greenwood Press, 1968.
5. EYES 101: Basic Facts and Anatomy
6. Digital Photography | Ravensbourne
7. Emmanuel Cooper, Fully Exposed: The Male Nude in Photography, Routledge, 2013.
8. Elton Raymond Shaw, The body taboo: its origin, effect, and modern denial, Shaw Publishing Company, 1937.

This question has no answer, as, in fact, any question related to human behavior. This field deals with opinions, not facts. I’ll try to come to solid grounds by specifying, what can be considered as a ‘good idea’. Probably, one can describe an idea as ‘good’ for an individual, if it increases (at least slightly) the probability of his or her survival in social or biological sense. If we accept this, then we can consider a few self-evident arguments.

I’ll start with an argument expressed by Bart Simpson, maybe the most gifted philosopher of my generation, who said once: “But girls might see my doodle”. Only a brief answer can be attempted here. First of all, anxiety impacts negatively on human social and emotional well-being and thinking. In this sense, unnecessary worries are not helpful in any case. Of course, there are many things in the world a responsible citizen should worry about, such as ‘global warming’, ‘exhaustion of natural resources’, or ‘unfair distribution of revenues’. Against this background, all the worries about ‘doodle’ appear as more or less meaningless. It is not surprising that Bart did not take this argument seriously himself.

Another problem is that after seeing your nude photographs, one may begin to suspect that there is something behind them. Namely, you may be suspected in belonging to a deviant subculture. Exactly. Nudism is a “deviant subculture“, a “social and sexual phenomenon“. Nudists “are usually socially disapproved of by the larger population“. It is not clear that there exist “social and cultural benefits to involvement in the deviant subculture of nudism“. (see Nudism as a deviant subculture. StudyMode.com. Retrieved 10, 2010, from http://www.studymode.com/essays/Nudism-As-a-Deviant-Subculture-459650.html). Does it look like a real threat for anyone who wants to improve his or her chances of social success? The answer is, of course, individual.

The biggest immediate benefit for me of being a nudist is a feeling of freedom and consciousness of it. I believe that the impact of a nudist lifestyle on my life is positive. I hope that nudist photos would help to share the amazing experience of living a life of a nudist.

But what if these photos evoke some unwanted emotions and feelings in a viewer? The viewer’s reaction is often impossible to predict. In Zapisovatelé otcovský lásky, a Czech novel written by Michal Viewegh, one fictitious character is getting sexually excited when he sees a bathroom sink. Does it mean that images of bathroom sinks should be prohibited in his world?

 

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