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Peter Adams - Nude Photography:
Nude photography has always been a controversial issue, and with Sydney photographic artist Peter Adams’ coming down to Kynton in September to work on his new book "Under the Skin", The Express thought it was time to explore the world of bare skin and backsides.
Getting the right exposure
By John Clark
The Express caught up with Peter to discuss the secret of what makes a good nude picture and some of the sexist attitudes that still attach themselves to nude photography.
JOHN: What inspires your interest in nude photography?
PETER: A good nude photograph is a "celebration" of the woman - of course, the picture has to show the woman in the best light and it must be tactile and well composed and so forth - but you can't photograph a woman's body successfully if you are thinking like an average male.
Good nude photography is inordinately difficult to do.
If I didn’t leave my male attitudes behind when making a nude image of a woman, my pictures would become Penthouse images. NONE of my pictures are in that vein - it’s an area of photography that just doesn't interest me.
JOHN: Some people would claim that nude photography is an exploitation of women.
PETER: I’ve heard that claimed many times before. It's rubbish! Good nude photography isn’t something you can force any woman to be involved with unless SHE WANTS to be involved. Successful nude photography is collaboration between the artist and the model.
JOHN: You refer to yourself as an artist?
PETER: In the sense that I am creating something, not copying, yes.
JOHN: Do you always work with models?
PETER: I never work with professional models! All my subjects are extra-ordinary people - in most cases who have never posed nude before. Models get paid. I never don't these people for their time - but, of course, they get a collection of free prints after the shoot - which is worth about $300.
JOHN: What are you doing down here in Kynton?
PETER: I’m collecting material for my forthcoming book called "Under the Skin" - it’s a long term project and I’m always looking for new subjects – if anyone is interested, they can always contact me on my web site – www.peteradams.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m looking for women of all shapes and ages.
JOHN: Do you only photograph women? Do you shoot men too?
PETER: Interesting question! I have tried to photograph men, but I find photographing men even harder than photographing women. I think you have to have a interest in men's bodies before you can make successful nude pictures of men. Perhaps this is why so many great male nudes are photographed by women and gay photographers.
For me, a man's body must have muscle definition and be in reasonable shape before they look good in front of the camera. Yet, for some strange reason, a woman's body doesn't need to be perfect in order for it to look great in a photograph.
JOHN: I must admit, I can't understand why anyone would pose naked for a total stranger!
PETER: Charm I guess! Well, many women want to record their bodies before they think it’s too late - and everything heads south! Most subjects approach me - usually as a result of word of mouth - sometimes because they have seen a few of my images in an exhibition or published somewhere.
Many have already considered being photographed nude - but were unsure who to trust, or how to find a photographer who will make the best of them.
When a woman is happy within herself, only then will a good photograph eventuate. Women are usually very critical of their bodies. I want to show their beauty without showing their imperfections - freckles, scars and so forth.
JOHN: So, what does one say to a total stranger when you want them to take all their clothes off in front of a camera?
PETER: I’m just honest. I usually give them one of my business cards and show them some pictures, or ask them to visit my web site. If they like what they see, I ask them to call me. I never take it further without that first call from them. Then we meet on neutral ground - like a café
JOHN: Where do you get inspiration for your work?
PETER: My inspiration always comes from the woman herself. All women are interesting - you just need to listen. Most photographers talk too much. They should spend more time listening. A good nude photograph comes out of listening to the subject and finding out HER needs. HER preferences. HER fantasies - incidentally, this is true of any great portrait - clothed or unclothed.
JOHN: How do you think up the situations to photograph people in?
PETER: It all depends on our conversation. The fantasy and environment is usually the choice of the subject. It's seldom mine.
JOHN: Talk about the quotes you have used alongside your pictures.
PETER: I’m still experimenting with this idea. The quotes are like a ‘window’ into the picture for me - a reminder that in the next room, or outside the walls of that room, another bigger world exists.
No matter how passionate a photographer may be about his work, in reality a photograph is only a tiny piece of life. Other things are happening at the same time. Sometimes these are momentous things - like a baby being born or plane load of innocent people slamming into the side of the World Trade Centre - sometimes insignificant. I hope the quotes encourage the viewer to explore the pictures from a different perspective.
JOHN: How did the shot of the bottom in the bath with feathers come about?
PETER: This is the picture of Suzanne - taken when she was around 33. I often ask a woman what is her favourite way of relaxing. Suzanne was nervous and replied with all the usual cliches: Sun baking on a tropical beach, relaxing with friends over good food, being massaged by a Zulu warrior in his Y - fronts, and so forth. Then, as a joke, she threw in "and if all else fails, a good hot bath or a nice warm bed. Sometimes both." The picture sort of created itself.
Peter Adams can be contacted by e-mail on email@example.com or by phone on 0418-99-44-22