There is a perceptual difference when it comes to paintings that feature a nude human and photographs that do the same. The mind, somehow, separates the two media giving paintings more legitimacy. Why is that?
Painting is hard work. Few people go around posting selfies created using oils, watercolours or pastels. Even fewer take the time to carve a selfie out of wood or marble. A nude in art evokes something deeper, something fuller. Photography can, and sometimes does, evoke the same depth and fullness. Yet, too often, it is negatively viewed by our communities. Why is that?
In my opinion, it has to do with the ease with which photos are taken. The shift to digital photography and the inclusion of a digital camera in every cell phone, tablet, and other techie toys has removed barriers that used to severely limit the numbers of photos taken. In my own case, for example, I have been taking photos for more than forty years. Developing my own film and working in a darkroom to produce prints when I began a serious approach to photography meant that I took more photos than others who used their snapshot cameras to record family events. And yet, I didn’t really take all that many photos. I printed significantly less photos than I took, focusing on the purpose of each photo, selecting from the possibilities for an image that would best approach my intended communication, for that is what it was all about – each photo had to communicate.
But today, with the ability to story tens and hundreds of thousands of photos on digital media, the ability to snap images without thinking, basically on impulse; and the ease with which those impulsively taken images can be shared, has overwhelmed our world with images, especially images that have nudity. Yet, in spite of the banality of the images, the typically poor quality of those images, they all communicate something about the photographer and the subject(s). Impulsively taken photos tell us something about the unconscious, shadow world – what is seen, what is not seen – that lies in the banality.
Images are powerful things. And, as many are learning the hard way, that power can turn abusive on the self and upon the others in the orbit around that self. Teenagers in the social media world are finding out about that power as they suffer from posting impulsively taken nude photos of themselves and/or others. Adults are also finding out about that power as jobs, promotions, relationships and much more suffer because of their impulsive posting of nude images.
Because of the power of images, one needs to be conscious of those images being posted. Why is the image being posted? What does the image communicate, both on the surface and subliminally? What is likely to be the fallout from posting the image? Of course, not all of the answers will ever be complete or full. However, taking the time to navigate these questions will reduce the number of images posted, improve the quality of the images, and communicate better the intention of the posting of the image.