I once had a Brazilian flatmate in Dublin who had just arrived in Ireland. In one of our first conversations he told me about the “prostitutes” in the bohemian neighbourhood called Temple Bar. I was surprised because after couple of years living near Temple Bar I have never seen a sex worker. During the conversation I realized the women he was referring to, as sex workers, were just women wearing mini-skirt – which is a very common women outfit in Ireland and UK even during winter. For the new comer from Brazil women showing more legs than he was used to see in public had an automatic association to prostitution.
In my first couple of weeks in Freiburg – Germany -, when I was looking for a place to live, I was eating in a bar with my mother when a group of 5 men joined our big table. During the conversation they learned we are Brazilians and told us with a big enthusiasm they were going to spend their holidays, in the following month, in Brazil. After a while I asked one of them, who didn’t share the same enthusiasm than the others, if he was going to spend his holidays in Brazil as well. He answered with a gesture of showing his wedding ring on his finger. I suddenly thought he was suggesting that his friends were going to Brazil with sexual intentions, specially because sex tourism in Brazil is very common and many people in Sough Germany have the image of Brazilian women as being easy to take to bed – Since Brazilians are often very attracted to foreigners. Maybe I misinterpreted his gesture, maybe he was just saying that he is not as free to travel as his friends who are single, because of family responsibilities, but I could not help thinking about sex tourism through his silent message.
I think it is interesting the fact that among Brazil, Ireland and Germany the first is the more conservative and moralist when the subject is nudity, which is a false morality to protect them from their own dirty minds. Different from Germany with many parks and saunas where people can spend their time - on their own, with friends or with their families - completely naked . During German’s summer toddlers are running and playing completely nude in their gardens while in Brazil parents are concerned about their toddlers private parts, or even underwear, being exposed in public. In Brazil there are some isolated beaches with nude areas but in general nudity is not tolerated or allowed - not even topless regarding women. In Brazil nudity is automatically associated with sexual provocation. Ireland and the UK don’t have the open air or sauna nude culture as in the Nordic countries but nobody minds women showing their skin. Once a naked woman, walking in the streets in the UK, was stopped by a policeman, not to reprimand her but, to inform her about the law saying that her being nude in public is not an offense, but if somebody complains for feeling offended then it becomes an offense.
Any bath place is supposed to be a place where people don’t need to wear clothes. In South France, where it used to be common for people to be nude in the beaches, people, and specially women, feel less comfortable with nudity because of the new generation of young men who automatic associate nude women as a sign of “available to sex”. Women, then, became more frequent victims of harassment.
When I started with photography, in Ireland, it was always easy to find people to photograph, especially women. Soon I had my first boudoir photo shoot which for my surprise ended as nude photo shoot. It was a woman who contacted me looking for sensual photos but during the photo shoot she felt comfortable enough to just take out her clothes and continuous the shooting naked. Thanks to her I had photos for my portfolio which brought me more women wanting nude photos, especially after I developed a classic visual language with film negative photos that people became attracted to. Most people associate nude photography with pornography - anything can be turned into pornography in fact, it only requires the viewer imagination and intention – but it is not how I see my work. As a man I am naturally interested in women's beauty and women's bodies but it doesn’t mean I have the sexual view about people I photograph for being naked but the opposite; I have a big respect for people who trust me and my work since most of my photo shoots are just me and the model.
Some people, especially in Brazil, quickly ask me if I sleep with the models I photograph because they can’t help associating nudity to sexual activity. Nudity, instead, gives people a sense of freedom. I only photographed a couple of nude men and it was more evident from them their enthusiasm for being naked - and for having a creative image of their body's expression. I first released it when I was photographing a woman who the body seemed stuck during my posing direction. I told her that she doesn’t look comfortable and that I could not get good body composition from her. She then asked me if I could see her private parts, to which I replied saying that I am too focused on the body composition, lighting, camera setting, framing , focus and the image narrative that looking at her private parts never crossed my mind. It seemed to me her worries came from the fact I was photographing her with an old manual film camera, with a slow focus ring in the lens; Because of the system it takes me a little extra time to find the focus before I press the camera shutter release. I tried to explain about the camera to her but she was satisfied with my first explanation; She didn’t want to hear about my camera but go on with the photo shoot, this time feeling completely free with no worries about what in her body may be exposed, even if it appears in the photo. It is through people's eyes where we confirm who we are .
We fear people's judgement which makes us feel self-conscious. When we are self-conscious, we feel uncomfortable, dissociated from the place and people around us, alien to our surroundings, causing us to cover who we are looking for privacy. Being naked and being accepted as we are without clothes means self-confirmation and so self-acceptance. It gives people more confidence about their body and so about themselves, because they can do whatever they are doing and forget about themselves, feeling more connected to whatever they are doing, enjoying the moment completely and so feeling free. Many people ask me how I convince people to take their clothes off or how I convince women to have certain poses when naked. I never needed to convince anybody to do anything, it was all their decision in the first place, their self-disclosure, to the joy of appearing in the world and deed without equivocation and without self-reflection that are inherent in action.
In Germany it is much more difficult to have people who want nude photo shoots. Instead of paying me they want to be paid. Often it has to do with the fact that Germans are more cynic for feeling suspicious about people's intentions, especially those who they don’t know. German introversion makes them feel more alienated from people and so more self-conscious, which explains the awkwardness that often Germans have. But this cynicism and uneasy feeling among strangers is not the main reason, it seems. I believe the main reason is because they are more used and so comfortable enough with their naked body in public. Instead of photo shoots, for the creative expression of their body freedom, they rather go to saunas and nude public parks where they can enjoy the freedom of their body without the need of interaction with another person, but on their own or with their family in their introverted manner.
The ancient Greek had the Polis, the public space where people could interact and become equal to others, which separate them from their private life where people had their own individuality. This public space was for Theseus what enabled ordinary man to bear life’s burden, for providing the safe space for public interaction, but it was also where people hide their individuality in order to become equals and so respect each other . The medieval Christianity thinking and social tradition had no Polis separating the public and the private. People became equal to each other not through a political space designated for political interaction but through every individual, where God becomes ubiquitous in every person's eyes, turning their presence public and their action as action towards God itself . Consequently, people had to hide more of themselves in order to preserve their individuality. I feel Germans keep something of this separation of public and private tradition, with their closed friend circle as their Polis where they can interact and express themselves to each other as equal, while outside it they can be “naked”, with no need to hide their individuality in order to preserve it; Or as Germans like to say, “being direct”. The Irish, maintaining a more medieval Christian tradition, have the public space on every individual eyes who they can interact and express themselves with, in order to bear life burden, but hiding their individuality in order to preserve it. The photo shooting seems to be for the Irish the private sphere where people can be free from the public “burden” but, at the same time, they can appear to the public by showing their individual expression through the photo results, since it is only through others’ eyes we can confirm ourselves. It also seems to be the reason the so-called “German directness” is interpreted as rudeness for most westerns. Politeness is in fact against directness; Hiding our true thinking and wish to act, our individuality, to respect those through whom we see ourselves as in the eyes of the public arena – God ubiquitous. Germans feel free to not hide their true feelings because what the Irish see as public for the Germans is seen as private, the space where people can have their individuality, action without the public “burden”. The German introversion seems to be a preservation of their individuality on what for the Irish is supposed to be public.
In today’s society there is no such thing as private space other than our own home . The patriarchal family was supposed to be the private kingship where one can have our individuality freedom apart from the public, the reason the Greeks, originally a matriarchal society, created the Polis as contrast to the private patriarchal kingdom . God ubiquitous came to replace the Polis during Medieval times. The Equality among people is what is replacing God ubiquitous in today’s society. Universal equality invades even the patriarchal family – the private kingdom – in order to assure people’s basic equality rights.
Different cultures find their way to appear and to hide. In order to keep prolific with nude photography, after moving to Germany, I started photographing myself; this time with pinhole cameras which work with long exposure photography. I never felt completely comfortable being nude in public - especially coming from a judging and mocking culture that is strong in Brazil, where the public and the private are merged and confused as attempt to find their individual expression and, at the same time, afraid of losing both all together – but doing my creative work that now included my own body expression made me feel very good and more comfortable in my own body. Like a work of art, which we create from our own expression, the body then becomes a work of art – or it has always been - through which we find our individuality in our nudity and, at the same time, our public expression through the image result. The public where we confirm our own self narrative, which without we have no identity.
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