The Nude Is Condemned To Never Being Naked
By J.T. Ryder
“No nude, however abstract, should fail to arouse in the spectator some vestige of erotic feeling, even if it be only the faintest shadow – and if it does not do so it is bad art and false morals.”
We revel in the dancing human form as it pirouettes effortlessly across the stage, swirling in the subtlety of spirit, sheltered within the spotlights for the voyeuristic eyes of the audience to feast upon. Pictures of the contorted female form dressed in the clinging clothing of the ballet dancer, a costume that succeeds in closely mimicking nudity, are hung in public places and no one denounces them. We rationalize our lust for the arts while deviling other forms of exotic dance, exhibitory photography and other forms of scintillating imagery, and to what ends? What is the criterion of what is art and what is pornography?
work of art: something giving high aesthetic satisfaction to the viewer or listener.
por·nog·ra·phy: the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.
The definitions given by Merriam-Webster seem to differ only in verbiage and not in essence. A better delineation between art and pornography would be that art works in subtle statements that dwell within the artist’s and the viewer’s imagination, while pornography is the ultimate form of realism, wherein it does not call upon the imagination of the viewer and has no depth other than what is blatantly depicted. That being said, most of the bland, muted-toned abstract paintings that hang above more than a few couches could be defined as pornographic.
Finding something offensive is usually a very personal affair that is derived from your upbringing, experiences and perceptions. Some of the photographs I find most offensive usually arrive in the newspaper and generally depict two or more men in suits shaking hands and smiling as they divide up the world into smaller and smaller pieces.
In dealing with nude photography, the lines become a bit more blurred. I met up with local photographer Kidtee Hello ( HYPERLINK “http://www.modelmayhem.com/4702″ www.modelmayhem.com/4702) as she readied her new studio, a (mostly) abandoned church, for a nude photo shoot.
Taped to one of the walls in her studio space is a list of rules for artists and photographers using the space. At the very bottom is a rule about nudity and nude photography: “There is a difference between art and pornography. If it belongs on “Suicide Girls,” it’s pornography.”
Although nude photography comprises only a small fraction of her photographic repertoire, it is something that she defends intensely. We walked through the hallways, following extension cords as she went from room to room adjusting the lighting and setting up her equipment. As I looked at the rooms that were a little worse for wear, I tried to envision Kidtee’s concept of tonight’s shoot. In my mind’s eye, I saw that the pockmarked, peeling walls and straight lines of the room coupled with the coarsely unfinished bare wooden floor would contrast extremely well with the softly curved flesh of the model.
After the shoot, I was able to sit down with Kidtee. The first question I had was what type of nudes did she do in particular?
“I don’t really do one particular type of nudes. I do some black and white artistic nudes. I do some that are more … I don’t know … I just do artistic nudes.” After a long pause, Kidtee blurted out, “I never think about that I guess. It just depends on whatever seems right. It’s either a concept I had in mind or something I want to shoot, like to be glamorous and sexy at the same time.”
Kidtee’s photographs are phenomenal. They are esoterically stunning in their subtleties as well as their compelling visual impact. It would be hard to think that someone could not see the artistic merit in her work, whether it be nudes or non-nudes.
“I had some photos that I did recently deleted from Facebook that weren’t nudes, but they offended somebody out there. It’s just not right when people feel the need to censor you.”
In a tone of vindication, Kidtee went on to say that, “You know you have reached someone when you put them on edge or you’re making them feel something other than apathy. If you can make someone have an emotion that’s not apathetic, you’ve done something right.”
So what was her take on pornography versus art? “It depends on what the intent of the nude was,” she said. “Is it to tell a story? That’s one thing. Is it to arouse? That’s another thing. If it’s to do both …”
And that is where the argument gets even murkier. People can eroticize anything. Cars. Shoes. If you can think of a fetish, it exists. It also begs the question, ‘If art can be pornographic, can pornography be art?’
“In some ways I think that even some ‘pornography’ is artistic. At the same time, some so-called ‘tasteful’ nudes lack merit … it just depends on the image and the intent.” Clarifying, Kidtee went on to say, “Drawing a line in the sand is part of the problem that we do anyway. Each image has its own completely different judgment call. You can’t lump all black and white nudes together and say, ‘Well, they’re black and white, therefore they must be art.’ That’s more of a joke that people tend to say. I’ve seen some raunchy black and white images.”
“I’ve seen some images that were in pornographic magazines that were supposed to be ‘porn,’ but they have a lot of artistic merit. Like Martin Raphael Class does what some people would call erotic fetish photography and his stuff might seem pornographic to some, but it’s very artistic.”
Kidtee added, “The same thing with Chas ray Krider, who is an Ohio-based photographer who used to shoot for “Hustler” and his “Hustler” images are so artistic that you wouldn’t believe that they would be in a pornographic magazine. So, it’s just like, for me, as long as I feel good about it at the end of the day, then I am fine with it. I don’t really care what everybody else thinks as long as I like it.”
Until the day that we all become amorphous, asexual blobs, people will always going to be drawn towards the erotic. People will always have their heartbeat quicken and their breath catch in their throat as they feel a yearning within them triggered by the sight of the naked form.
“I think that it’s always going to be taboo because humans are always going to be attracted to one another’s forms,” Kidtee opined. “If we are not attracted to the form, we take the image on in a different way. The human body is always going to be interesting in one way or another.”
Kidtee Hello is a Dayton-based photographer. You can view her work at XXX.com.