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He or she may be accused of all sorts of dubious motives, or displaying every known type of political incorrectness, by critics both informed and uninformed with any one of countless agendas. If the nude is female, as is often the case, and the photographer is male, he may be variously accused of using women, portraying women as objects, chauvinism, seeking mere exposure, exploitation, depersonalization of his models, exploring eroticism, producing distasteful work and so on. There is seemingly no end to the accusations that may be hurled in his direction.

Photographers approach the subject of the nude for countless complex and highly personal reasons. They are driven by almost every conceivable motive, objective and desire. While it is true that work of this type varies widely from vulgar and destructive to exquisitely beautiful, most falls somewhere in between these two extremes. The nude is a particularly challenging subject for a photographer, and even those with the best possible motives must attempt the subject for the first time. Few photographers climb to the artistic heights without failure and the subsequent accumulation of experience. It is a subject with a relatively fine dividing line between the base and the beautiful, and it is all too easy to slip in the wrong direction even when motives are as one might hope.

A principal problem with critical comment is that it is often forthcoming from critics with little or no experience of the subject, or indeed of the nature of photography itself. A critic's agenda may be far removed from informed or constructive comment, and may have more to do with a personal flavour of political correctness. Their comments may consequently tell us more about their own inner struggles and conflicts than the artistic merits of a particular set of images. Critical comment on nude work also has an unfortunate tendency to be negative in nature. The subject is much easier to discuss than master.

Photographers should always remember that critics deal in words which convey ideas and opinions, and probably get well paid for them. Photographers, on the other hand, deal with images and emotions. The natures of the expressions of the two groups are therefore very different and typically address quite different audiences. Critics, regrettably, are often speaking to other critics rather than the world at large or the author or viewers of a photographer's work. Their comments are usually subjective and the the base from which they comment is likely to shift with fashionable opinion. The truth of at least some of this can be revealed, for a male photographer, by adopting a female pseudonym. The nature of received critical comment changes almost immediately.

Truth in the context of photography of the nude has a quite different meaning for the model featured in the images. She, because the vast majority of nude models are female, may have to deal with an uniquely personal interpretation of the truth regarding the physical appearance of her body. When an artist draws or paints a naked model there is a considerable degree of artistic license. Personal vision, idealism, and concealment of various types, may all play their part in the final work and the model may take some comfort from the consequent movement away from "reality". She knows that the work of art does not necessarily portray her truthfully, or precisely as she really appears, and she also knows that those who view her likeness will recognize this fact. However, in the case of a photograph, she may feel less comfortable with the inherent "truth" and inescapable exposure of the image. Even in the era of digital manipulation there is a subtle but very significant difference between images of nudes created with a brush and those that are produced by a camera. The photographic image, perhaps by virtue of its detail and resolution, will inevitably be regarded as much closer to the model's naked reality. This makes posing naked for a photographer a quite different experience from working with a traditional artist.


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