In the 1970s, I photographed stripper Blaze Starr in her dressing room at a burlesque theater in St. Louis.
She was nearing 50 and wore pasties and a g-string. Nothing else. The photos were taken for a story in a local magazine. The photo caused an outcry by some who thought the photo was “dirty.” They were also upset because she was the former mistress of Earl Long in Louisiana.
A year earlier, I photographed a model from Southern Illinois who wanted to be considered as Playmate of the Month material for Playboy magazine. She paid me for the photos, both clothed and nude, and she sent them in. Playboy didn’t select her for Playmate but she did get some appearances in other pictorials in the magazine. In addition to the fee the model paid me for the photos, Playboy also gave me a “finder’s fee.”
As a photographer, I have always considered the human form a source of art and beauty. I have photographed women and men, clothed and unclothed, over the years. My first nude photograph was shot in 1963 of a young Floyd County woman skinny dipping in a stream near the Blue Ridge Parkway. She is walking away from the camera and her face is not visible.
A copy of that photo hung in my studio in The Jacksonville Center a few years ago. The original print still hangs in the house of the woman, who is now in her 70s.
From time to time, I am called a “sinner” because of photos I have taken of nudes or of women in racy attire. If admiring the beauty of the human form is a sin in some people’s eyes, then so be it. I don’t apologize for admiring the human form or for photographing it.
Two rules apply whenever I photograph anyone nude or partially clothed. One, they have to be 18 or older and, two, my wife is always present during the photo shoot. Amy is a retired actress who also modeled. She knows a lot about makeup and posing. Her presence is also important to answer those who might raise questions about what happens at such a photo shoot.
Are such photos pornographic? That depends on the feelings of the person who views the images. Some people feel that any depiction that displays a naked breast or a full-frontal nude shot of a man or woman is pornographic. If so, then many works of arts over the centuries, including religious illustrations, are pornography.
Beauty, it is said, is in the eye of the beholder. So, sadly, is those who scream “pornography!”
A few years ago, I had a shot of a young nude woman, attired only in knee high boots, silhouetted in a partially open barn door of the farm she shared with her significant other.
Some who saw the photo in the window of the office I had for a while at The Village Green called it “disgusting.” It now hangs in the home of a Floyd Countian who purchased it just before we closed the office.
The purchaser called it “beautiful.” So did the young lady in the photo who asked me to shoot her that way.
To paraphrase an old saying of what I do for a living, I shoot all the nudes that fit to print.
And I’m damn proud of each and every one of them.