by Eleanor Goldfield
I've only done a handful of nude shoots as a photographer. I've probably done upwards of 200 nude shoots as a model.
It started as a way to get some extra money (nude shoots always pay more than clothed ones because of our hilariously twisted relationship with the human body) but quickly evolved into an exploration of myself both physically and mentally.
A modeling agent once told me that the most important advice he could give a model is to be self aware but never self conscious. This is great advice to be sure, and like a lot of great advice, it's damn difficult to act upon. Because from a very early age we're taught to be self conscious about ourselves - body, mind and soul. As it pertains to our nude bodies: it's inappropriate to be naked, and if for some reason you are naked, you should be so quickly and quietly. As girls and women, we are told that our bodies are instruments of pleasure - not our own but men's, and should therefore look and feel like this. But don't go showing too much because then you're just a whore. These tired arguments are likely tired to you as well, dear reader, so I'll skip ahead to the main point here: reclaiming our bodies as instruments of pleasure for ourselves, both sexually and non-sexually, is an act of defiance.
There's quite a bit of writing and discussion on the reclamation of our bodies as sexual beings, and for this I am very grateful and glad. However, there needs to be more discussion and writing on the non-sexual reclamation - the self-love that is care, respect, grace, patience, and gratitude. A deep and intimate friendship with our bodies that is not in aid of or in subservience to sexualness but pedestaled for its own sake, for the sake of our bodies and our minds.
For a sapiosexual like myself this can of course feel like a mess of blurred edges and an attempt to separate entwined connections to ourselves as sexual and intellectual beings. I think of it rather as a recognition of the ingredients - I'm not trying to deconstruct the delicious cakes that we are, I'm just trying to figure out the various ingredients that make us our whole delectable selves. And to me this necessitates getting naked and being naked without the intention of having sex or being sexualized.
Yes, nudity is power, and is often conflated only with the sexual power of womanhood which in turn is demonized under the grim gaze of patriarchy. But nudity is also power for our intellectually radical and resilient evolution.
The first time I did a nude shoot, I was on a high for days. The photographer I worked with was an old hippie in Santa Barbara, CA whose home was a cozy blend of photo studio, 60s lounge, and Japanese spa. He was welcoming and warm, and made me feel at home not only in his space, but more importantly in my own. What started out as me doing hacky let-me-try-to-cover-myself poses progressed quickly into a celebration of myself and the art of nude photography. We had a blast! I went on to do several more nude shoots with him before moving to LA and will always be grateful to him for being the person who introduced me to the multifaceted concept of nude photography. And while not every nude shoot has been such a triumph, I've been lucky enough that every one has been safe and open.
Through these shoots I have learned to love myself as an embodied mind and soul. I have learned to look at myself with wonder and gratitude, to be excited by our collaborative abilities. In this way, nude shoots have led me to be a more radical person within a patriarchal capitalist system; they have in other words been a form of activism.
That's not to say that I don't still struggle with body image (I mean hell, not only was I a girl in today's world but I also grew up with a brother who was a male model), but when I do, I have somewhere I can go to remind myself of the bullshittery of those thoughts that is more than the logical arguments that often don't move us emotionally. I can go to the feeling of a nude shoot - I can go to the space where my body is beautiful not because it is this or that way but because it exists, because it is here, in the spotlight, unashamed and unabashed. It is a merging of magical ancestry and brilliant science. It is the stuff of stars and the stuff of sundays on the couch. It is high and humble, rough and tumble, silk and jagged and all of the spectrum of my reality for it houses my reality! I mean how fucking cool is that!?
This is the fucking cool power that I now seek to share with those I photograph, and with those who see those photographs. These images you see below are an invitation to all (regardless of gender because of course men also suffer with body image issues), perhaps a challenge as well. True love is not easy to give to ourselves. Radical relations are tricky in the best of times. But a nude shoot now and then will make it easier. Hats and all off to that.
All images shared here are shared with the model's permission. Please do not share without my permission. If you're interested in doing a nude shoot with me, please reach out!