Sunday, January 26, 2020


By Heinz Richter

Historically, the human form has fascinated artists probably more than any other subject. Therefore it should come as no surprise that the same fascination has extended to photography as well.  I am no exception in this regard, as a matter of fact, I just received an email that stated:

"… In addition, this man is very impressed by your studio photographs of women.
He says that it is amazing how with a minimalist and very classic approach, without complex lights, you are able to draw the beauty essence and the most significant personality traits of these women in black and white, and he also says something that I also said to you some months ago: it is not easy to get the confidence of so pretty women.
As a matter of fact, he states that your black and white pictures of women are one of the main highlights of Barnack Berek Blog.”

I have been contemplating about a book with the best of my nude work and this email convinced me that maybe it is time to begin work on that.  Therefore I consider this article as one of the first steps to this goal.

While photography has generally been accepted as a valid art form, photography of the nude to this day is struggling with that recognition.  In the view of many, it is still looked upon as sleazy and objectionable, even harmful.  No such objections exist when it comes to paintings and sculptures.  People regularly visit art galleries.  No objections are generally voiced to see nude art there.  Public spaces often display nude sculptures, no objections there either.  Yet nude photographic art is still widely rejected.  Why?

I must emphasize that the key word here is art.  Many of the great photographers have produced fine art nudes like Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Edward Weston, Man Ray, Helmut Newton, Diane Arbus, Annie Leibovitz,…,  just to mention a few.  Of course, just as with other art forms, some like Robert Mapplethorpe or Jeff Koonz, for instance, have pushed the envelope by producing images that are questionable to some, but such work should not be generalized and held against other serious photographers.

I often discuss this with my sister who is a successful professional photographer in Germany.  She is often in disbelief of how much more restricted photography of this type is in the US.  Before retiring, she had three different display windows for her work at her studio, one of which was usually dedicated to fine art nude photography.  That is simply unthinkable in the US.

That brings up the question of what constitutes fine art nude photography.  During my 13 years of teaching photography that question regularly came up during class discussions.  Of course the definition of art in general is in the eye of the beholder.  There are no clear cut instructions to be had.

When it comes to fine art nude photography, it is quite easy to take a photograph of a person without any clothes.  That, however, is not art and should not be attempted to be presented as such.  Instead the emphasis should not be so much on nudity but on shape, form, lighting, design and composition.

That adds a considerable amount of difficulty which is further emphasized that in most cases, a similar approach with similar results most likely has been done before.

In an interview, Kim Weston, grandson of Edward Weston, when asked about his photography in comparison to that of his grandfather, said that he generally does not think about him.  He went on to say whatever kind of photograph he might attempt, “Edward has done it.”  He virtually cannot photograph anything without the constant reminder that Edward has done it.

The best approach in my opinion is to carefully plan a fine art nude photography session and then proceed without too much attention to the work of other photographers.  Then careful selection of only the best examples with a healthy dose of self-criticism should give the assurance that the shoot was successful.  And don’t forget, the old adage of practice makes perfect still applies.

Keep in mind that a nude photograph does not necessarily have to show a nude figure.  There are also implied nudes where a model is shown only with the implication of being nude.

Upon close inspection, I have found that many of my nude photographs render almost totally different results when cropped to an implied nude.  This is simply another approach to make any photography session as successful as possible.

Posing and lighting of the model is very important.  For that reason it is advisable to work with experienced models that are able to strike a great variety of poses and do it accurately. I found that it definitely helps for a model to see a sample of what pose I am looking for.  For that reason I always have a number of sample images handy during a shoot.

I have worked with most of the models shown here on several occasions, with some of them even for several years.  That has created a very good working relationship which is also very helpful for this kind of work.

Finally, there is the choice of color or black and white.  For this type of work, I personally much prefer black and white.  I feel it draws the viewer much more to the shape, form and lighting.  Colors can easily become distracting.

Regardless of what approach one chooses to take with these types of photography, none of it will come easy.  Especially for a novice there is a lot to learn and master.  As I said, the adage of ‘practice makes perfect’ definitely applies.

All photographs taken with Leica cameras and lenses.

For other articles on this blog please click on Blog Archive in the column to the right

To comment or to read comments please scroll past the ads below.

All ads present items of interest to Leica owners.


Woman wears brown elk-leather camera strap around her shoulders.        


Buy vintage Leica cameras from 
America's premier Leica specialist 


Click on image to enlarge

Please make payment via PayPal to GMP Photography

Click on image to enlarge
Please make payment via PayPal to GMP Photography

Click on image to enlarge
Please make payment via PayPal to GMP Photography

No comments:

Post a Comment