Why I Take a Nude Self-Portrait Each Birthday and Send To My Closest Friends

Nude photography isn’t just about nakedness; it’s about raw emotion, authenticity, and, sometimes, a touch of controversy. It is one of the art world’s oldest and most debated genres, and it holds a unique position in the tapestry of visual arts. When clothes come off, stories come out. The best nude photographs have a knack for capturing the human form in ways that make us think, feel, and sometimes blush!

The human body is a scientific marvel. It is also a beautiful, versatile, and endlessly fascinating subject for photos and artwork. Some of my favorite nude photographers are Helmut Newton, German photographer Stefan Soell, and Robert Mapplethorpe.

Why Nude Photography?

1) Nude photography is a thought-provoking genre. We must ask ourselves what about the naked human body captivates us. What do I want to capture in my photographs, and why? 

Nude pictures don’t have to be erotic or sexualized. They can be anatomical. Primal. Raw. Emotive. Documentative (what I look like as each year passes). And most certainly artistic.

Nudity is not something new. Nudes have regularly featured in sculpture and painting since ancient times. The Venus of Willendorf is thought to be around 25,000 years old. There’s also Michelangelo’s David, Titian’s Venus of Urbino, and Manet’s Olympia, to name only a few.

Michelangelo said, “What spirit is so empty and blind that it cannot recognize that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed?” 

2) Nude photography strips all else away. We are reduced to natural lines, curves, and textures without clothing. But even more noteworthy, we are stripped of the cultural and identity markers that fashion provides. We have nothing to hide behind. In this sense, nude subjects are at our most vulnerable but also, hopefully, our most authentic.

It means the artist and the viewer can focus on pure emotion or pure form without the distraction of clothing and accessories.

3) It can be used as empowerment. As Australian photographer Natalia Naa says, “There’s much joy to be found in creating intimate moments of people, not just with others but with their selves.”

I want to capture the beauty and virtues of myself—my masculinity, femininity, strengths, dignity, weaknesses, and aging—by utilizing this most empowering and beautiful art form. 

4) It can be used as a pathway to healing. Over the years, my nude self-photographs have helped me combat the shame that permeated my body due to my ultra-conservative religious upbringing. Taking my clothes off in front of the camera or on the beach is a way to acknowledge my body as beautiful, no matter what age, size, or wrinkles. And for me, this is incredibly healing.

So, next Wednesday, when I turn sixty-six years old, I will again share my (uncensored) nude photo shoot (this year, instead of one photograph, I have done multiple poses—I’m not getting any younger) with my closest friends. If you don’t get a text, and you consider yourself my friend, give me a shout. Who knows?

Also, this week, I plan to go to La Playa del Mar, one of our nude beaches here in Barcelona, take off my clothes, and relish the freedom and the wind on my skin because I can. Because I’m free. I’m grateful. 

Nude Self-Portrait (censored) Age 54