Thursday, May 2, 2013

How I became a nude photographer

Hello!

I'm Alex and I'm a freelance web developer/consultant - a combination of telling people what to do on the internet & actually doing it. But today I'm going to talk to you about how I became a nude photographer.

Over the years I've smeared people with blackberries and stuck pinheads & glowsticks to them. I've made human-sized cat cones and played with fire. There was a brief time when it seemed likely I'd become a professional pornographer. I've watched a friend get her lips sewn shut and then pose in a dank basement with a giant python - that one was her idea. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I've always been interested in photography but it wasn't until my second year of university that my passion ignited. I was trying to impress a lady by teaching her to use a manual SLR. She remained unwooed, but I found a new way to express myself. I wanted to learn as much as possible, so I read voraciously and tried what I could. But one genre seemed out of reach: nudes.

I had no idea where to start. How do you find a model? How do you convince them that you're an artist, not a pervert? How do you find suitable locations? How do you direct them during the shoot? Where do you get your film developed? How do you make an image about tone and form and beauty, not just a random naked person feeling awkward?

One day I was talking about this problem with a friend. She told me she'd done life modelling before; she'd be happy to model. Really? I've never done this before; I'm going to suck. She didn't care. We made plans, did a shoot, and I made some mediocre photos. But it was catalyst enough: friends heard about it and volunteered to model too. My photos and ideas improved. I got better at inviting strangers to model. I'm still baffled and grateful for people's willingness to shed their clothes for art. It's a deeply trusting thing to do, and I never want to abuse that trust.

A lot of people think of nude photography as a sexual thing. Sometimes there's a remnant of eroticism on a shoot, but not often. The best metaphor I have: have you ever made someone a sandwich when you're not hungry? You'll still find your mouth watering a little; it's Pavlovian. Now imagine it's a *really* complicated sandwich, and everyone will judge you on it. You've got to position the ingredients perfectly. The colour of the lettuce must complement the tomatoes. The condiments are trusting you, you're considering better meats to use as you work, and you've got to reassure the bread without seeming creepy... this metaphor's got a bit weird. But the point is there's a lot of factors at play and nobody's there for sex, so you don't have the brain cycles free to get distracted. Or at least I don't.

Photography's all theatre. Photography's a magic trick. It's about making constructed situations seem natural. The viewer shouldn't see the hours of planning and setup and props and lighting that went into it. The viewer should see the end result, fully formed, and have no idea how it was done. There was nothing, then suddenly: an image. That's as true for nudes as for any other genre. That's what I'm aiming for.


You can follow me on twitter at @acreature, or see my photos on my website. I'm not allowed to include a link but I'm easy to Google. And if you'd like to model: email me.

Alex Pounds
London, the United Kingdom
@acreature
alex+listserve[AT]alexpounds.com

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