Photographic genres: artistic nude photography

Credit: Guido Fuà

Artistic nude photography is a fine art genre that depicts a nude human subject with great emphasis on composition and form. This photographic genre can be seen as an extension of portrait photography used for different purposes: artistic, commercial and educational. The nude has always generated controversy among creative people and is an art form that if done properly and used in the right context, can lead to satisfying results.

But nude photography is not just about portraying a nude model or model, it’s more about highlighting and emphasizing the shapes and geometries of the human figure. Although this genre can often be difficult to deal with due to the taboo that still represents nudity in our culture, analyzing it under an artistic lens is helpful in taking a neutral approach to it.

Many photographers see this genre as a true sensual experience, both for the model and the viewer, and a way above all to strip away all the conventions and prejudices of the dominant culture.

History and origins:

Since the dawn of art we can see the nude as a preferred form of expression used by painters and sculptors. The human body has been represented in its purest form by the various artists of past eras: in fact, we have traces of some representations of the human body as far back as prehistoric times, and then again in Greek and Roman times. But if in ancient times mainly male nudes prevailed, the trend has now changed and the female body becomes the muse par excellence of artists.

The first nude photograph was taken in 1840, by Hippolyte Bayard, a pioneer of photography who invented a mechanism that triggers the shutter without the help of hands.

Thanks to this innovative technique, he was able to take The Drowning, a self-portrait of his own body without clothes.

Credit: Hippolyte Bayard

During these years we have traces of anonymous daguerreotypes showing naked or scantily clad women who were likely to become the protagonists of paintings. These early photographs were carefully kept hidden, to avoid attracting scandal from the inquisitive eyes of the time or for fear of censorship. Beginning in 1850, daguerreotypes would begin a veritable black market of early pornography in London.

As photography evolved, the relationship with the painting became closer and closer. Between 1890 and 1914 the pictorialism movement will try to bring photography among the so-called “fine arts“.

Thanks to the miniaturization of cameras, photography will reach a wider audience of people, allowing photography to follow a more varied aesthetic and less bound by the rules of institutions.

During the twentieth century, the nude is no longer presented as something obscene, but is exalted as an art of depth. This era will mark the birth of the real artistic nude, finally recognized by society.

It is with surrealism that the nude will be reinvented knowing new styles and techniques, becoming one of the fundamental pillars of the works that will be made during the following years.

Credit: Man Ray

The realization of nude photography

In nude photography it is appropriate to make a distinction between partial nude and integral nude. With integral nude we mean that kind of photography where the model is completely naked. Full nude photography can be very explicit, with the exhibition of sexual organs or parts of them, or it can be less obvious, in case intimate parts are covered in a mischievous way or in case the subject is shot from behind. In the case of partial photography, however, usually only certain parts of the body are shown.

In nude photography, black and white triumphs, which is added in post-production. Black and white, on an artistic level, is used extensively because it outlines shapes and highlights them, filling them with meaning. Black and white allows you to focus on the shape of the body and the play of light and shadow that is formed on the skin.

The settings of nude photography are soft and very sensual, with a prevalence of black and white even in the studio. The poses instead must be simple and not artificial.

The key to the realization of nude photography is one: develop your own personal style.

Mariachiara Proietti Di Fulvio

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