Bert

Bert – USA

I grew up in a household that was very open, and clothes weren’t necessarily required.

We saw each other naked, not every day, but it just wasn’t a big deal.  If somebody went down the hall without their clothes, that was ok.  This was in the 1930s.  My father was very Victorian, but it was not unusual to see him or my mother or sister nude in the house.  Because of that I’m probably more comfortable without clothes than most people.  I was lucky.  I grew up in the Great Depression.  I was a teenager in WWII.  I was 12 at the time of Pearl Harbor.

I’m a very open person to start with, on almost any subject.  I don’t recall that I’ve never had nude photos taken before.  I’ve had a lot of one-on-one nudity but never in public.  It just wasn’t my generation.  I’d like to have the body I had when I was 40 or 30, but bodies don’t get better through the ages, they generally get a little more out of shape, a little more broken here or there.  Your belly falls a little and your breasts fall a little and your tummy falls a little…gravity works on all of us every day.

Bodies are a complex issue that keeps arising through life.  It’s shaped by parents, by contemporaries and school, and by ten years old it begins to be shaped by television, television, television.  America is greatly hung up on beauty and youth.  At 84 I’m probably less critical and less involved with the height, width, size, and shape of bodies.  I see the personality and the soul and not just the housing.  Take care of your body, it houses the soul.

I’ve had a very active adult life.  Lots of exploring and adventures.  I pretty much steer my own course.  I think it was Mark Twain who said,  “I was born excited.”  I’ve taken a hard run at life for a long time.  And I’m not done yet!

Aaron & Asher

Aaron + Asher – USA

Aaron

Dismantling Wrongness

 

my son is perfection

this is clear to me

as it is with all parents with eyes to see

our children, born naked

mirror our own divine beauty

our innate goodness

 

as i dance with my son

on this journey of parenting

he teaches me where i have forgotten

to love myself

to play, to celebrate being alive

in a body, perfectly suited for me

 

i see also

as i teach him how to be in this world

the broken eyes of society

that live in me too

that find wrongness, cast judgements

that have lost sight of the goodness of being naked

 

my son and i
we say to you
live your lives free
break whatever chains inside you
that hold you back from you own glorious radiance

love yourself unconditionally

because it’s more fun that way

because it’s how it was meant to be

because it helps us love ourselves too

 

and when the sun rises in the morning

wherever you are

laying there within you, within us all

is our naked truth,

the kindest thing:

the grace of god

________________________________________________________________________

 

Asher

 

if everyone didn’t care they would just walk out the door naked and i would too.

they would just get out of bed, eat breakfast, and just walk out the door without even putting clothes on.

it would be good. really good.

Bri

Bri – USA

I grew up in a small town in western Tennessee with quite an untraditional family of mostly women. In fact, my father was the only male in the house until I got a male cat during my college years. From my childhood onward, as long as dad wasn’t at home, my mother, sister, and I had no issue with roaming around the house naked. This isn’t to say that we were nudists, or that we would become naked for no reason at all, but if one of us were getting out of the shower or trying on clothes there was no qualm against being nude for extended periods of time in each other’s presence.

At the same time, having grown up in a small, rural town in the Deep South, I was taught that a lady doesn’t do such a thing in a public setting. A respectable female covers the important bits (and then some) so that something is left for the imagination. Who is going to want to buy the cow when you can get the milk for free, right?

I was never the skinniest (too much delicious southern food) or the prettiest (as I saw it) girl in the room when I was younger. From an early age, I remember looking at images of beautiful women and wishing with all that I had that I could look like them one day. This desire intensified as I hit puberty. These women were slender, with rounded breasts, perfect skin, and luscious, thick hair of all shades, and 13-year-old me, with pointed, small breasts, a plump frame, and thin, strawberry blond hair, wanted nothing more than to trade places with them. I wanted to be that girl who, when I walked into a room, people noticed and didn’t forget after two seconds. I found myself soon after with an eating disorder, trying to make my hair more blonde, and changing what I wore to fit a certain demographic.

It wasn’t until I was fifteen or sixteen that I realized something was wrong with this. I walked into a modeling agency with long, straight hair; weighing 135 lbs. and wearing a size 5-7, which is a little under average for my 5’9” frame. The woman at the desk, after perusing some of the photos I brought, looked me up and down, and with a sugary sweet voice informed me that I would probably never be able to do modeling for the kind of fashion I wanted to do. With my size, I would only be able to do a little commercial work, and then, only as a plus sized model. This was my first big wake up call. I walked out, never to return, and I remember thinking things like, “Who are you to tell me, albeit indirectly, that I’m too large to be in high fashion?” and “Why am I doing this to myself?”. From that night forward, I decided that I would let my body take the shape it wanted, and I would spend more time worrying about making myself beautiful on the inside. This is about the time that I started heavily playing guitar and poking my nose into even more books. If I couldn’t be the prettiest, I was going to be one of the smartest and most interesting.

So here I find myself today, having waged countless wars with myself, being my own worst enemy most of the time, and I can honestly say that I’m happy with who I’ve become. That isn’t to say I don’t have the same issues with my body; I do. There are still plenty of ways I could think of changing it. I just know that a lot of these changes are unrealistic and unnecessary.  I’m currently a size 6, with small, pointed breasts, and straight, thin auburn hair. I still look in the mirror on a daily basis and feel a pang of unease that it isn’t what I see throughout the media. The difference between my mindset now and what it used to be is that now, I understand that I can feel beautiful regardless of my weight, shape, size, or appearance. I have realized that I don’t need to look like the women in magazines, and I most definitely don’t need the approval of everyone around me to feel beautiful. If I can’t love my body for what it is, and love myself inside and out, why should I expect other people to love it?

This question is what led me to take the vulnerability of nakedness even further for this project. I could be comfortable enough naked if I was hiding behind the mask that make-up provides. I don’t usually wear a lot of it, but I do feel prettier after I’ve covered the imperfections and added a little color to my lids and lashes. I don’t ever leave the house without at least a sweep of powder and some mascara on my face. Strange as it may seem, I feel more naked without makeup than I do when I’m actually unclothed.  Even in the interview before the shoot, I might as well have been nude, the way I felt. Add this to how uncomfortable I am as the focus of a camera lens, and you have the recipe for a “deer in the headlights” kind of feeling. I did find that during the shoot, I encountered waves of comfort and unease at being photographed naked, but after the initial few photos, I completely forgot that my face was bare. At the end of the shoot, I remember touching my face as I normally would to fix my eyeliner, and realizing it wasn’t necessary. Not only that, my face felt smooth and clean. It felt so natural, and I even became comfortable with the idea that many people might see me in such an open, vulnerable state.

All of this is why I chose to do this project, and it took me awhile to realize it. I found myself attracted to the idea behind it, and I instantly wanted to be a part of the movement that I saw in it, but I couldn’t put my finger on why for the longest time. Then it hit me. I’m lucky enough to have done a lot of self examination from a fairly early age, and through it, I’ve become (mostly) comfortable in my own skin. As I said, I still have confidence issues, but in general, I’m comfortable being who I am, in whatever physical form that takes. That’s what I want for everyone— comfort with whatever body they have. I wanted to be an example for whoever this project reached, to show them that everyone has these issues, but you don’t have to allow them to control you. It is easy to appreciate beauty in others, but there is true beauty in every part of nature, and everyone is a part of that. You can learn to love the body you have in all its perfection and imperfection: every inch of you is something beautiful because it is part of human existence and the broad spectrum of beauty that comprises it.

Matthew

Matthew – USA

To be naked is to be alive.

Unzip and step out.

Shed that invention of a shield, that expression of suppression of should be’s.

Bold, naked beautiful me.

The soft vulnerability that gets pushed out while pubic hairs push in.

Neon blazing billboards of conformity rush like fiery lava into the eyes of America only to curl up upon our souls like venomous snakes ready to strike at our naked flesh.

The Rolexed man whispers in the young girl’s ear. Boob job, tummy tuck, a little lip for Christmas darling?

Shattered masses marching with tick-tock submissions praying 5 times a day to the Gods on Entertainment Weekly.

15,000,000 cosmetic surgeries a year. A nation living in fear of being seen.

Commandments leap from the Gucci, Versace, Prada pom-poms, pull out perfume creases, be like she, look at me, deny the ancient truth of We.

Touched up postproduction starlets sashay the silver screens spilling out of white limousines. Photographers saying YES! You are the one that our culture will fold around, taking notes, spending lives learning how to forget themselves.

Naked and pure we were sucking milk from the tribal mother. You are still with us. You will never leave us.

What will it take for our people to remember you?

Could it be time to Embody that which is rightfully ours. Time to steal back the naked truths that show up only in whispers on moonlight nights and cricket groves?

Unsheathed, unshoed, raw and primal, pumping vitality into the wilted petals of the soul.

Wake up my brothers and sisters. Return to your naked essence. Your delicate and fertile truth. And we will rise up in tribal remembrance to all that which is divinely ours.