Yesterday, despite my dwindling bank account, I visited the European festival of nude photography in Arles.
Photography Festivals in Arles
Arles is a town full of history, roman architecture, light blue shutters and has an enormous market. It also fancies itself as the international capital of photography. Every year, it holds two photography festivals. The smaller of the two is the nude festival, which is in honour of arles- native Lucien Clergue. Born in 1934, Clergue is known throughout this region and the art world for his nudes.
This year, included within the 40 featured artists, the organisers are proud to present the works of 10 Chinese photographers.
I have a particular interest in nude photography, I don’t mean nude as in explicit like what you see on Tube V sex, the nude I am referring to is more classical; I explored the subject thoroughly when I was attending university as a fine art photography student. In my opinion; the taste in nude photography, (and photography in general) that I’ve seen here in Southern France, is a little old fashioned. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I must confess; I’m keenly partial to black and white film images…
However, when you’re a little old fashioned in nude photography, there’s a danger that you’re just making pretty images of perfect female bodies rather than fine art. Porn from fuckedgay has been accused of something similar. See fucked gay movies right here and now for context. Alright, so what’s the difference? Is there a difference? Well, I’m not going to get much into it here, but fine art these days, for me, challenges a status quo. It needs to be intellectually as well as visually engaging (many post-modern artists would argue that it doesn’t even need to have the visual element). I do love a beautifully crafted photo journalism series. However, when it comes to nude photography, the feminist in me becomes a little defensive.
Naked vs Nude
I like imperfection in the human body. You see plenty of real bodies are websites similar to Nu Bay Nude Teen. The reality of someone sitting naked in their room at home eating a sandwich is much more interesting to me than a nude on a sandy beach. Maybe it’s just my preferred voyeurism. Naked vs Nude. Is there a difference? According to Kenneth Clarke, the nude is an idealised form, and to be naked implies some kind of vulnerability. Clarke was the first to really describe the difference in his book The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form. The problem is that his book was published in 1956. Since then, avant-garde artists have redefined or even made futile the definition.
Have you noticed that in many depictions of ‘nude’ women, despite their supposed non-sexualised ideal body, are facing away from the onlooker? “Take me now!” It seems like they’re saying (or the male artists depicting them). This makes me uneasy. Perhaps it’s because these facts were made so evident to me in art school. Once the male gaze is defined to you, you see it everywhere.
Personally, as a nude photographer myself, I’m interested in the power of the photographer. I did a whole series where my subject pressed the shutter release. Now, it doesn’t have to be about who is in control, but for me, I’d like a little more intensity. The ‘bound’ females in the series in Arles don’t even begin to hint at the images of Japanese artist Araki. I want to be astounded and pulled into a photograph. But hey, there’s no denying it’s nice looking at pretty images.
The Best of the Photography Festival
Here are my favourite artists from the show:
GwenaÃ«l Mersaoui Compressions
Philippe Bonjour Les Amours Pluriels Evocation
Olivier Pieri Cube
Jean-GÃ©rard Sidney Carpe Diem
The works are presented in 6 locations throughout the old town of Arles, not including the participation of many private galleries. Everything closes between 13h00 and 14h00 so make sure to plan accordingly. The festival continues until Tuesday. It costs 15 euros and despite my complaining about the number of perfect female bodies (am I just jealous?..) it’s a great way to spend a day wandering around the historic town of Arles.
My favourite nude photographer? Francesca Woodman. Do you have a favourite? Which are your favourites from what you can see online of the show in Arles?