The Naked Truth

In a series featuring a member's work, George Krause talks about his nude photography.

Years ago I was accused by my wife of sleeping with all of the women who posed for me. My photo­graphs suggested to her that I was get­ting more gratification out of photo­graphing these nudes than just the making of images. This is perhaps the most common conception or miscon­ception of voyeurism. I find it all but impossible to mix lovemaking with the act of making a photograph. But there is in fact a certain amount of seduction inherent, and for me necessary, in the making of a nude image, particularly a photographic image.

Since my work often deals with fan­tasy I want to create not only an ideal woman but a mythological woman of my dreams. This requires a talent (un­fortunately one I've not yet fully devel­oped) to transcend reality, which is helped greatly by encouraging in myself a fictional obsession and passion for the subject, The model in turn can respond with a desire to fulfill the artist's at­tempt at transcendence or with a baser, narcissistic love for the attention being paid her, making love more to the camera than the photographer.

My wife's accusations were, of course, not true, but when I thought about it I decided that it should be best if the photographer would photograph the woman (women) he was sleeping (in love) with. The accusation does reveal the artist/model fantasies imag­ined by those outside this collaboration. There is the erotic vulnerability of the undressed model with the dressed photographer (slave/master). At the first photographic session I’m nervous with the responsibility/obligation to the model to create something special, and anxious with the potential fictional pas­sion. In time I realize I can control the situation and the amount of desire needed to create the image I'm after. The very act of peering through a small window to see a naked woman in the camera's view-finder suggests that of a peeping Tom. There is the cowar­dice of distancing through the camera's intervention to change the sexual reality of a nude woman into the context of a work of art. This is an attempt to subli­mate the voyeuristic nature of the nude.

It is possible to increase the degree of distance in viewing a photograph of a nude by including another subject. This could be the photographer or another photographer(s), I am also thinking of the paintings of Susanna and the Elders. We may find it more acceptable to study the nude's genitalia in the photograph when there are others included in the image.

While an image of a nude may no longer evoke that of a fallen woman, a nude model today is perhaps considered a liberated woman envied by some for her freedom in exposing her genitals and suspect by others for her morality or lack of it. This affects the interpreta­tion of the image.

I have shown my photographs of nudes to many art historians and many of them have admitted difficulty in ap­preciating the nude in a photograph in contrast to having no problem with the nude in other mediums {painting, sculp­ture, etc.). This suggests a special quality of voyeurism inherent in the "real* photographic medium.

Almost everyone approaches a photo­graph of a nude voyeuristically. We tend to compare our bodies with those in the photograph. There is the vicar­ious thrill of exposing ourselves in front of a camera. And there is the him of a more intimate relationship between the model and the photographer. Photo­graphers who place themselves in the image play with this reading.

Photographs of nude models in poses that suggest the erotic demand of more immediate sexual interpretation. We are now back to peeking through the key­hole and there is always the danger of the voyeur being caught, especially when there is no eye-contact between model and camera in the image.

Generally, in viewing photographs of nudes we stand where the camera stood. The photographer has gone and we arc left alone with the subject of the image.

In working with the nude we must realize the degree of unnaturalness that takes place. Even in a comfortable en­vironment the camera's presence (and then our own) intrudes upon the nude* and when an awareness of technique (special lighting and camera-effects) are added, along with our unwilling con­cern for props and costume, the intru­sion must be that much greater. This of course can be deadly, or these prob­lems accepted and put to good use. The photographer can guide us as to how we are to react to the genitalia staring at us from the photograph, be it with humor, fear, disgust or even the plea­sures of the voyeur.