01 May, 2008

Naked Thoughts

My "daily nudes" photography project has been going really well so far. I definitely feel like I've gotten into the groove of taking pictures every single day. Some days are easier and others are harder, but I guess that's how it goes. At least I have plenty of time and privacy to do it on a daily basis. The tripod I have is getting a little worn - one of the three legs is loosening up. It's still usable, though, and despite all its flaws, it's been more than worth the 10 dollar price tag. I'm considering getting a better tripod; there's one I've seen at Walmart that's not too expensive, and looks like it'd be worth a try. It's also larger and looks more substantial (i.e., professional). The downside to that, though, is that a larger tripod takes up more room. And right now, I'm using an old video rack (tall thin type) which is about elbow height, as a stand. It's pretty portable, so I can move it around, and it lets me take pictures from a reasonable height, rather than having to place the camera on the floor/ground or look for places that already exist within the environment. But because the rack/stand is so small, the camera only sits atop it if the small tripod's legs aren't extended. If I get anything bigger, it won't fit on top of the rack, and I'd have to come up with a different solution. Still, I like the idea of getting a better tripod. I'd also like better lighting, a better studio, and a better camera, but that's a bit much right now (except for the better camera that's supposedly coming my way in the near? future).

Flickr's been good so far. My photos are getting seen, which is good, but I'm still a little uncertain about the quality/quantity of my audience. Ideally, I'd like to connect with more people like myself, who have some of the same ideas about nudity and photography and exposure and life and whatnot. But the trouble with that is, I think most of my "fans" so far are guys. Nothing wrong with that, but I'm just not looking to connect with guys. Ideally, I'd like to find girls that have some of the same ideas about nudity and photography and exposure and life and whatnot. That's just where my interest lies. At any rate, it seems that there are some people that are at least interested in the art and ideas behind my photos, rather than just the titillation they might undoubtedly be able to extract. I've seen some nude photos of other people on Flickr who are either very modest or very clean cut, and they're all like "no rude comments", "follow these rules before adding me as a contact", etc., and I can understand their concern, but the difference is that I understand the darker side of life, and while I have little interest in relating with the more committed perverts (though a little perversion is good for anybody), on the other hand, I'm not concerned with alienating them either, because they're people, too, just like the rest of us - they just have different values and interests.

Anyway, I've been thinking lately about what it would be like to have some of my tamer photos rated in such a way that more people could see them (the possible ratings on Flickr are "safe", "moderate", and "restricted"). So far, I've rated all of my nude project-related photos (even the tamer ones) as "restricted". The benefits of this approach are two-fold. Firstly, I can be sure that I'm not violating Flickr's collective moral code, so I don't have to worry about getting punished by a conservative Flickr mod. Secondly, only people who are expecting or used to seeing restricted photos will even know that my nude photos exist. That way, no conservative Flickr members get outraged at my morals and have me reported to the authorities. Furthermore, if an innocent person - particularly one who knew me in person (worst case scenario, a family member) - happened to stumble across my Flickr account, I don't think I necessarily want them to know about my decidedly liberal and alternative hobby. For a while now I've wanted to put something in my profile on the site describing my intentions behind the project, but I've refrained from it because it kills the cover.

This brings me to an important dilemma. If I had a random, anonymous account, I could be more open with less worry about people who know me finding out about what I do. And while on the surface, this seems like a great plan, ultimately, it goes against the whole "this is who I am and I'm not gonna hide from it any longer" approach that I've been trying hard to adopt. Ideally, I want people to know my feelings about nudity and other liberal topics, but that doesn't make it easy to admit it to them. I still fear "being found out". And yet, not having to hide is what I desire most. So it is indeed a dilemma.

There'd have to be some advantages to having less restricted photos, else I wouldn't even bother considering it. And there are. I'm kind of jealous because other people do these projects and sometimes their pictures get rather popular. There's this thing called "Explore" which I believe has something to do with the "interestingness" rating Flickr uses. It's basically a popularity contest within Flickr, and I usually don't concern myself with those sorts of things, but on the other hand, I feel kind of bad being holed up in a corner of the site, due to the nature of my art, as most people pass me by without notice. Of course, I fear popularity, but it's another one of those paradoxes within me. I want attention and admiration, even though I'm afraid of it.

Additionally, as far as my love of organization is concerned, it seems like it would be fun to rate my photos in terms of just how risque they are. Perhaps I could entice some more reserved people into admiring my artistry and wanting to see a little bit more - thus opening their minds to my liberalism, even if just a little bit. It's actually a more attractive approach to me than pandering to the people who are already open to anything and everything. I consider myself a middle ground on this issue (as on many others). I think more people should show more skin and be more open about this sort of thing, but on the other hand, I don't agree that getting naked and opening up to an audience means becoming a sex-crazed animal. It can be about having fun, but it doesn't have to be about losing yourself. Quite the contrary, it should be about finding yourself. Your true, inner self.

One clear problem with the approach of relaxing the content rating on some of my photos is the vague (read: lack of) definition of morals and standards on Flickr. Of course, it's basically impossible to come up with a clear definition of what is "safe", what is "moderate", and what should be "restricted", as people's own ideas vary wildly on this count. So, pretty much all the guidance Flickr offers is as such: safe material should be "suitable for a global, public audience"; and restricted material is the stuff "you probably wouldn't show to your mum, and definitely shouldn't be seen by kids"; while moderate material is more or less the grey area in between.

So where does that leave me? If I think something is safe, how can I be sure that I won't suffer for that judgement? I like to go through Flickr searching for nudes with the safety content on, just to see what kind of stuff other people think is safe. You might be surprised at what you'll find. Granted, not everybody filters their content responsibly, and any one of those photos that are safe today might cause a problem and end up restricted tomorrow. At any rate, I think I could get away with making some of my stuff moderate. But I really would like to have at least a few safe photos here and there to attract attention - not bad attention, I mean, but good attention. Of course then I come back to the issue of hiding my hobby behind a smokescreen...

Looking through my photos, one thing that concerns me about trying to rate them on a sliding scale, is the disconnect between exposure and context. Is a perfectly innocent and meaningful photo, like that of Envy, which happens to show full frontal nudity, more or less acceptable than an arguably sexually-charged photo that shows far less? Different people are offended by different things.


  1. One thing I would say, is that I think full frontal nudity, no matter what context, is a total no-no for any conservative "is this safe"-deciding audience. They don't tend to be very intelligent people, they base things on zero tolerance concepts rather than basing anything on logic or consideration.

    I don't think there are very many girls who are interested in that kind of thing, in all seriousness. I don't know why, and it pisses me off.

  2. I know this doesn't work for everyone, but I try to be the same online as I am in person. I might be selective about where and how I share certain information, but if I'm comfortable posting something where the entire world can access it, then I'm probably comfortable sharing that with anyone and everyone to their face. The question is which direction you want to bend; that is, do you adapt your online presence to what you're like in real life, or do you let your virtual presence embolden your physical presence?

  3. You know, it's pretty interesting going back and having an excuse to read these old blog posts, and see how things have changed (or not) in the last...eight years. Even now, I'm struggling with trying to balance my straightforward approach to depicting the human body, with a desire to create more accessible works. I still believe in transparency online, too. But in my case, social anxiety makes me a lot more open sitting in front of a computer screen than in front of another person. Still, I like the way I can use computers to communicate to people and express myself, in ways that I'm not capable of in person. Deep down I want people to know me and understand me, even if it's the thing that sometimes I'm most scared of.