Instagram normalized nakedness.
this isn't news.
Google alone has made the lusty magazines of any millennial's youth pretty much obsolete.
most young boys these days won't blink an eye at lingerie, bored by the same booty snaps that gave generations before them instant boners.
because seeing reams of skin roll out with every 1 second scroll holds no shock for us anymore. this is 2021. we're used to naked bodies.
but... are we, really?
as a woman who has now experienced my fair share of photo shoots with predominantly male photographers, the biggest surprise I've seen is -
not what you're probably thinking.
people think we just do these shoots for likes. or fucks.
they find it unimaginable that we genuinely want to create art that lasts,
pictures that pierce through apathy, to make someone pause a bit
and actually feel something
before going back to those blasé double taps.
and i think this is the true sign of our times:
we're suspect of everything.
we already had trust issues from birth, but the internet traumatized them further.
so much so, now we're numb.
that's why the real surprise for me hasn't been about people's reactions to seeing these sensual photos.
it's been about the people taking them.
it's been seeing the stark contrast between two archetypes of male photographers I've encountered while endeavoring to share my barely covered body with the camera.
here's archetype #1:
he is the male photographer who has been so oversaturated by his authoritative role in our media-addicted modern world, that he thinks of himself as a sort of pusherman
for the prolific platforms popular and powerful enough to pervade our daily lives.
as a result of this position, he no longer possesses any real reverence for the body.
he is no longer an artist, he is a machine.
he takes naked photos, perhaps they're even well framed, staged & edited,
but they are forgery ~ and you can feel it ~ all of what he can't feel.
he has forgotten the feeling of that primal poetry
when an imperfect person poses for the camera in their own,
strange kind of power.
here's archetype #2:
he feels like an old friend. one that would protect you. but also, encourage you to be brave. he is respectful. introverted. often, quieter than you expected him to be.
but also, comfortable. confident. kind. for him, every body is unique. like, clay.
not clay to be molded, but a sculpture to be witnessed.
and then & only then ~ captured.
he is not banking on "a banger" shot and he is not there for a bang.
he is humbled to the focus of the moment. he is relaxed. and he can tell when you are, too.
when you clearly aren't, he asks you. in his own honest way.
he is not thinking about Instagram.
because he isn't thinking about where these photos will go or who will see them.
we both already know it's quite possible, he might not show them to anyone.
not because he is hiding them, but because he feels - because he still feels -
that the platforms pushing images at us all day every day might
not even deserve them.
he knows how normal a naked body might seem to the modern world.
but he's also very aware that for every million swipes, there's still so rarely
one image that speaks a thousand words. and even those that do,
usually say so little
about the art of being naked.
fortunately, I haven't worked with archetype #1 in as long as I can remember.
because I made a conscious choice some time ago not to share myself with them.
it's why I reply to every DM that says "let's shoot" by saying "tell me about yourself."
within a few words, i can always tell whether he's an artist or a machine.
this shoot was unplanned. but somehow, also meant to be.
we didn't necessarily feel like Instagram deserved these...
not because the viewers aren't deserving!
(because all of us deserve to see art any & everywhere we can in this life)
but because the culture of Instagram has made us treat beautiful photos of the bare body the same way club culture taught us to use drugs that were ceremonial, special and sacred ~
like a fast & easy means to an end.
we are still intimidated by true intimacy.
Photography by Cherry Black