Of Nude Photography, Body Size and Beauty
Updated: Aug 22, 2020
Photo I shot of a friend of my wife's from the conservative Christian
high school from which they both graduated in the late 1970's (photo circa 2005).
A good friend of mine complained several times that the photos on the Tumlbr blog I ran for over two years showed very few fine art or glamour nudes of “full figured” women.
To that charge I had to plead guilty, but, of implied charge that larger women are inherently unsexy I vehemently rejected.
As far as the reason photos on my blog were disproportionally of fit, thin, younger women the reason is simple. Most photographers shoot that type of women exclusively. This is not too complicated. Our innate attraction is to young healthy sexual partners. Young fit women speak subconsciously a language of fertility, the ability to bear many healthy babies. This is no different than the message that fit and physically powerful men will make better sires and protectors for children. Most photographers use models that are as near to the physical ideal as possible. Pornographers do this to allow the viewer to imagine this idea girl (guy) wants to have sex with the less than ideal viewer. Glamour and fashion photographers use this ideal to make their image or the clothing to look better than it really is. Even most fine art photographers use fit young models as an uncluttered canvas for their art. As a photographer, I will admit, the young fit professional models I have shot make me look good as a photographer.
Larger and/or older models can be used very successfully for glamour, fashion and fine art photography; however, it takes more photographic skill to do so. Most of my clients are over 40 and over size 10. Most commercial photographers are in the business of making money, it makes good sense to shoot models that take the least effort to make an acceptable image. Unlike moving life, still photos magnify the slightest imperfections and make that imperfection the center of the image. Why do you think that the larger women were very popular models during the age realistic painting, but are no longer so? Simple, the painter painted what he saw desirable in the woman. Even very big women in paintings had no cellulite or stretch marks. Within one generation of the advent of photography as the primary medium of pin-up, the size of models shrank considerably. One need only compare the erotic photos of the 1890’s to those of the 1920’s.
Because of this, photos of less than fit male or female models are usually relegated to two categories, portraiture and fetish. For the fetish photographer, the point is to accentuate the size of the model as this is what arouses the fetish viewer. That leaves the photographing of the “normal” sized woman almost exclusively to the portraitist. For me, there is more artistic satisfaction in shooting a 45 year old housewife in a way that brings her inner beauty and sexuality than in shooting a 20 year old professional model to evoke beauty and sexuality. And, for the house wife, I know the images I make will be treasured for decades and that brings its own satisfaction.
The average size woman in the US has been noted to be anywhere from size 12 to size 16. That means for every woman who is an 8, 6, 4, 2, or 0 there is an equal number of women who are sized 17, 18, 20 or larger. Do only the smallest 20% of women want to look attractive? Do only size 4 women want a sexy photo of themselves for their lover? Of course not. I can tell you that I have yet to have one of these “normal” sized women not love the photos I shoot of them. However, if you just stand the same woman against a wall naked and shoot a photo they will likely hate it. How many times have I had a potential client tell me that all of her nude photos are terrible, to which I respond “It’s not that you can’t take great photos, it’s just you haven’t had the right photographer.” What I am paid for is my skill at using poses, angles and lighting to emphasize what I want to emphasize and de-emphasize what I wish to de-emphasize. Then, like the painters of old, I use post production methods (read Photoshop) to further conform the image to what I saw in my mind’s eye while we were shooting the photos. I don’t claim my photos are “real life” but rather they are my vision of what I see the client to be.
I once had a couple from France want glamorous and erotic photos of both her solo and of the two of them making love (I’ve done this a good deal). The challenge was while the husband was very pale and perhaps 5’ 6” and 110 lbs., the wife, who was of Haitian heritage, was very dark complicated and 5’10” and over 300 lbs. The couple was clearly in love and it was my task to give them finished images that reflected their love and passion for one another. I used my skills of designing poses and camera angles and my studio lighting to narrow the differences in their sizes and to bring the focus to their faces, both in the nude portraits and of their love making. In post-production, I unapologetically smoothed over stretch marks and other skin issues; while I also adjusted his skin tone darker and hers to a rich coco brown. The photos were still very much “them”, but I moved the focus from their visual differences to their united love and passion. They loved the photos.
But… does that mean they would signed off so I can use their photos in advertising or on my blog?
All of my clients may love their photos, and a few are in a position that they can let me use their photos; however, most of my larger clients are afraid of the cruel things others might say. So it is the rare size 16 woman, no matter how attractive, that gives me permission to use their images. In this women are no different than men. How many nude photos do you see of the 15% of men with noticeably very small penises? Not many, it’s not that these people don’t exist, but they are unwilling to let their photos be used.
So that is why you don’t see many large women in glamour photography or fine art blogs and websites.