History of Nude Photography
The art of nude photography arose in the 19th century around the time the camera itself was invented. Western photographers wanted to establish the medium as fine art and chose subjects, like female nudes, that were already traditional in other practices. Early photographers used nudes to allude to allegorical and classical figures including nymphs, goddesses, warriors, and gods. As the practice evolved, more experimental methods and subjects developed. Avant-garde nude photography depicted the naked body in its own right, freed from the confines of classical allusions. However, these photographs still emphasized the aesthetic value of the body, differentiating them from erotic art photography, which emphasizes the sexual nature of these compositions. Later nude photographs exhibited more personal and intimate scenes.
Nude Photography Techniques
Early photographers used soft focus, hand retouching, and vignetting techniques to minimize the initial shock factor of the genre. Nude photographers also tend to use soft lighting and pose their models in ways that highlight the features they are interested in emphasizing. Surrealist nude photographers were known for manipulating their photographs with techniques like solarization and brulage. They also placed mirrors near their subjects to create distortions and double images of their avant-garde experiments. Black and white nude photography is a common practice, allowing photographers to play with contrasting light and shadow. Photographers may also choose to crop and zoom in to accentuate certain features of the human body.
Artists Known For Nude Photography
In the mid-1800s, French nude photographer Jean Louis Marie Eugene Durieu and painter Eugene Delacroix created a collaborative nude series in which Delacroix created painting counterparts for Durieu’s nude works. Alfred Stieglitz is known for taking intimate nude photographs of his wife Georgia O’Keeffe in works like “Georgia O’Keeffe, Hands and Breasts” (1919). Recognized Surrealist nude photographs include Man Ray’s “Untitled” (1924) and “Le Violon d’Ingres” (1924) as well as Brassai’s “Nude” (1931-34). Robert Mapplethorpe is known for his nude portraits. His images of male nudes in his “The Black Book” sparked controversy for bordering the line between fine art and voyeuristic erotic photography. Other artists known for their nude photography include Rudolf Koppitz, Edmund Teske, Charles Swedlund, Hans Bellmer, Andrew Kertesz, Edward Weston, Bill Brandt, Felix-Jacques Antoine Moulin, Jean-Christophe Destailleur, Judy Dater, and Irving Penn.