John Austin: Black and White Photography, Rae Starr: Pinhole, Cyanotype and Textiles


Naked and Nude in C21 Part 1

May 7th, 2024


Preface to a text in progress:

This is a developing text whithin which I intend to explore the place of the naked and the nude in twentry first century photography.  I made several attempts at this about five years ago, but deleted them as none felt right.  It was as if I were writing an apologia for my early work, which I probably was.

In this attempt I aim to reevaluate my previous work through critical appraisal, possible because of the time that has elapsed; my planned future work; current work by other people and the socio-arts-political landscape in which N&N functions in C21.

This attempt will be assembled piecemeal and in addition to my own work I will look at other areas, including serious naked self portraiture and hopefully including statements by current workers.  Also the current “Fine Art Nude” genre and statements and interviews with current models and photographers.

Planned chapters are an assessment of my work to now, Naked Self Portraiture, “Fine Art Nude”, Naked as Politcal Statement and whatever else gets written about.  However, I do not intend to include discussions on porn' or "nude selfies" at this stage as these are beyond the intended scope of this document.

This is a big undertaking, which will require a lot of time, help and co-operation to make it work - and at seventy nine years old time is not in abundance.  Therefore I am loading this to my blog-site in portions as they get written.  These blog posts will be amended and added to as the project develops.

JBA 20240510.

Sue, Royal Crescent, Bath, May 1970
This image is from my first work with a naked friend

INTRODUCTION: The view from Olympus.

I used to have three portfolios of naked portraits on this website, England 1970-1980, Australia 1981-1993 and Southern Forests 1994 on.  I removed these about seven years ago when the deterioration of Wise and Wonderful Web became intolerable.

The deterioration comes from a mixture of image theft, the acceptance of pornography, neo-prudery, “revenge porn” and the emergence of AI, or artificial imagery - I refuse to call it artificial intelligence.

Depiction of naked people has existed since the first Pilbara rock engravings, a minimum of fifteen thousand years ago and probably far longer.

In 1971 John Berger made his famous naked and nude observation in Ways of Seeing.

"To be seen naked is to be [seen for] oneself.
To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognised for oneself . . ."

In 1975 Laura Mulvey wrote her article Visual Pleasure in Narrative Cinema, Screen, Volume 16, Issue 3, Autumn 1975, Pages 6–18.  This ignited the ire of some feminists who, armed with the spear of Male Gaze, sought to control depictions of women in arts.  They limited their attack to arts as advertising and commercial targets were too strongly defended.  The result of Laura Mulvey’s article was to make working with naked women an arts-political minefield, it still is.  (But see Fine Art Nude note below.)

At the time I felt they were denying the biological imperative of sight and freedom of expression, and in regard to their 1980s stance I still hold that view.


A naked portrait should confront, question and challenge the viewer.  It is a portrayal of a human being, therefore to hide the subject behind a veil of nudity is a betrayal of that person, an insult to the subject ’s strength, openness and courage.

With C21 digital universality the world of human depiction has changed drastically.  No one is safe.  It has gone beyond Photoshop, with AI a small group of portrait snaps of someone and a set of typed instructions is all that is needed to create fake images.  The sole light on the horizon is that the almost two hundred year myth of the veracity of a photograph has finally crumbled.

The best defence against a subject being denigrated in public is for that person to say

“This picture is of me and I feel good about it, so . . .”

JBA 20240510.


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