Sunday, July 19, 2009

Nudist Men

It's cloudy and chilly this July morning in Ohio. We were hoping to make it up to Green Valley this weekend, but being at a nudist resort and having to wear clothes to keep warm doesn't make much sense. So here I am looking for something to write about, so let's see where this goes.

I'm not sure why I started the blog Nudist Men. I'm heterosexual, so it's not about physical attraction. If forced to come up with a reason, I suppose I just felt that nude photos of men are underrepresented in the nudist world. Then I stumbled upon the website of photographer Laurie Toby Edison, and her Familiar Men project, which contains the following description:
Opportunities to see nude portraits of anyone who is not conventionally attractive are disturbingly rare. By revealing men as they are — old and young, fat and thin, varied in race, class and ethnicity — Edison provides a new kind of permission for all men to accept themselves as attractive, sensual beings. By providing beautiful and powerful images of diverse men, Edison expands the definition of beauty. The models for the book include college professors, performance artists, radio personalities, warehouse workers, publishers, carpenters and more.
Edison's nudes are stark and ordinary, but you can tell that she is appreciative of her subjects, not only for their bodies as works of art, but for their willingness to allow the camera to capture them without shame, as they truly are.

One does not often think of men as being so willing to strip off for the camera. Since I began turning the camera on my own nude body in the 1970s, I thought that doing so was unusual, something that people typically did not do. Perhaps that was true in the film age, but now that cameras have gone digital and no lab processing is necessary, both woman and men are turning their cameras on themselves in staggering numbers. Having grown up in a world where privacy, modesty and shame were the cardinal rules governing the body, it's still a bit shocking for me to see how many people are willing to show themselves on the Internet, fully nude, fully recognizable, and often engaging in explicit sexual acts.

So why so many nude self-portraits? I'm sure for some it's exhibitionism, but many are so ordinary, so average, so unexceptional, that there has to be something else at work here. I know when I look at my own nude self-portraits, I see myself as I really, truly am. These nudism men photos are not taken for any magazine covers, or for titillation, they are taken as a sort of catharsis, to strip away all the phoniness and societal baggage, and to get back to some sort of sense of reality in a world filled with fantasies.

I found this article online at Vanguard, about the human eyes and how we are "trained from birth to judge, to disparage, to select, appreciate of condemn" that which we see.
For some reason a misconception has become the way of life, ever since Adam and Eve’s misadventure with the apple we all tend to wear a garment of shame, some more so than others. Being self conscious is one of the greatest vices of man, because our eyes have judged particular traits in ourselves and others to be beautiful or ugly, we all live in denial of what truly is.
I like the phrase "misconception has become the way of life" because it so accurately sums up today's society, which Photoshops images of the human body, packaging and marketing an unattainable perfection that has poisoned our minds so that when we look in the mirror, we despise the very differences that should really be unique, and beautiful.

Nudists and naturists learn quickly that real people don't look like magazine covers. At first the sight of ordinary bodies can be a bit disconcerting, but the mind's eye eventually adjusts to this reality.

Online photos of nudists were instrumental to me in coming to terms with my own nudism, and gave me the courage to actually "come out" to my wife, my daughter and some friends, and eventually attend nudist events. After nearly four years, nudism plays an inportant role in our lives, to the point where planning vacations and day trips always includes visits to nudist resorts.

So that is why I post photos on Nudist Men, on Adam and Eve, and on Nudist Photo of the Day, hoping to show people that it's OK to be ordinary, it's OK to be nude, it's OK to be proud of your body, and it's OK to be a nudist.

My latest self-portrait is here.

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