Since basically my entire family is firmly ensconced in the kaleidoscopic world of photography, I quite often see myself in the midst of it. This past week, after my sister produced yet another shoot, she came home winded and exhausted, yet still somehow mustered up the energy to head back up the Met to check out the Naked Before the Camera exhibition. Again, quite a buzz among the fashion photographers, creative directors, designers, and stylists alike.
As the title of the exhibition quite obviously suggests, the images on display showcases the human body through the eyes of various photographers. Walking through the Met, we see the human body being examined and artistically depicted in every way, shape, and form. Some literal, some abstract, yet all quite intriguing with a little bit of thought and time. And reading the caption helps. (haha).
“Tapping veins of mythology, carnal desire, hero worship, and aesthetic pleasure, depictions of the nude have also triggered impassioned discussions of sin and sexuality, cultural identity, and canons of beauty. Controversies are often aroused even more intensely when the artist’s chosen medium is photography, with its accuracy and specificity—when a real person stood naked before the camera—rather than traditional media where more generalized and idealized forms prevail” according to the Met. Perfectly put.
Back when photography was not the renowned art that it is considered now, it was considered a cheap and easy substitiute for a live model. They were often used by sculptors, painters, sketchers if I may call them that to develop their piece of art. So, a prong on the ladder to the finale, which has in its own right, become the finale. However, often times, these nude photographs were aptly and conspicuously titled “artists study”, even if they were actually used as a form of, lets call it, prehistoric pornography. Not always the case, but at times, it served as a way to throw off the government. Other then artistic and erotic endeavors, these images were also used to enable the study of anatomy, movement, forensics, and ethnography.
“In twentieth-century art, the body became a vehicle for surreal and modernist manipulation and for intimate odes to beauty or poems to a muse. Beginning with the sexual revolution of the 1960s, nudity and its representation took on new meanings—as declarations of freedom from societal strictures, as assertions of individual identity, as explorations of sexuality and gender roles, and as responses to AIDS” reads the Met. It is quite animating to see the change in the way women are photographed as the date moves forward. From the more timid photographs of the past, sprinkled with some extremely sexual for the forward thinking, the photographs showcase the change in not only the art of photography, but also the human acceptance and understanding of the nude form.
Naked before the Camera is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC through September 9th, 2012