This post contains a few images of barely nude models and real nudity—
(So adhere to your NSFW rules.)
Late last night as I worked on photos, a great article from dropped into my inbox from the Business of Fashion. It details the recent plight of former Vogue editor Grace Coddington, who finally took the plunge and dipped into the waters of Instagram, only to be shut down the very next day because she posted a photo of a sketch she made in which she lounges nude in a beach chair. A sketch. Now, there was obviously a lot of brassy scoffing over this, and Instagram restored her account. But we can safely assume that this only happened when very important phone calls were made. In the “real” world, accounts are banned, or singular photos are removed if your audience is important enough—I imagine there exists some algorithm they use for this—and while I personally know quite a few people who’ve engaged in this issue with Instagram (ahem, Facebook), you could say the results are pretty consistent: exactly 0% of my affected friends and acquaintances have seen their accounts or images restored. Good job, Grace.
Presently though, my thoughts aren’t explicitly with Instagram, but rather the larger issue as it applies to the everyday presentation of fashion and style. Perhaps this is just uniquely American problem, but it seems that fashion is making a firm stand on nudity and American institutions are still steadfastly staving off the crumbling of that wall.
Back in September, fashion great Michelle Harper caused a bit of a stir with photographers when she lanced through the streets in a clear top on the way to runway show during New York Fashion Week. It was a peculiar moment on a few levels, because for one, that sort of mythical wall of clothed icon had been temporarily removed, but on another she was merely being reflective of what was actually being presented at the shows. But Harper was on the street; photographing her was obligatory, but the conflict arose when deciding what to do with the photo. If Instagram caught you, there was no happy ending. If you were sitting at your desk in your office and just happened to be scrolling through the top street style of the day with some nervy, conservative colleague or boss peering in over your shoulder, this image might lead you to having to do some explaining. But Harper was fully clothed. And on the street.
While the issue of photographing nudity isn’t something that ever bothers me, I am always shooting with the idea in mind that it’s really ever worth it to me to capture images that I can display on Lord Ashbury. (That’s not to say that I never go out and take photos that are non-fashion/non-social, but you know, my hard drives deal in heavy loads.) There are obviously many, many times where on the runway a model comes strutting down in something rather revealing, or there have been a fair share of Janet Jackson type wardrobe malfunctions—out comes a nipple and such, I’m staring through my camera thinking, ‘All right, I can take this shot, but I can’t really do anything with it.’ Which reminds me:
Here is Lord Ashbury’s most popular post of all time:
And here is Lord Ashbury’s third most popular post of all time:
By the way, if you look at the entire post of my most popular image, nowhere do I mention that Moira is topless or nude; it’s not in the copy, it’s not in the URL … the crazy thing is that I went out of my way to photograph her in a way that showed no nudity at all, and yet, people continue to find it by the thousands each month. And just for kicks, I checked through Google Analytics for the most popular keyword searches that landed people to my blog since I launched the site: “nude models” is the #5 most popular search term omitting the name of the blog. Is this reflective of what a defining segment of my readers want from Lord Ashbury on a daily basis? No, but there are many editorial fashion websites that are now eschewing the NSFW in favour of high art—that is, the rejection of public or workplace internet etiquette is ceding to the call that fashion wishes to be fashion on its own terms.
I could triple my readership if I photographed more fashionable nudity. But of course, traditional media outlets have a real problem on their hands, because fashion doesn’t consider this their problem.
The images in this post aren’t particularly revealing, though some nudity is there, but I feel like these images are reflective of what is going on on the practical, non-editorial side of fashion. That is, nudity vs revealing as the debatable and normative term, social commentary (models like Anja Rubik have no problem making statements via the t-shirt), and people like Coddington and Harper who are decidedly high street. On the editorial front, you can go to Vogue Italia or a myriad of other fashion sites and not click far to run into some brilliant photography featuring nude models. To that end, social channels like Instagram have a real problem on their hands—which is interesting, considering the app is for one’s personal, private phone. In 2014, it might be time to redefine not only our social definition of nudity but what at what point the parameters deem it distasteful. The idea that a visible nipple still causes waves has now become archaic.