I’m often asked the difference between my experiences in photographing men and women in the nude. In fact, the question came up when Deb and I spoke at NAAFA last Friday.
Mostly it’s very much the same. Almost everyone is nervous about being photographed even if they are not nude. I spend time working with models so that they’ll feel more comfortable, and relax into their own body language. Then I can shoot a portrait with some essential sense of who they are.
Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that they need to be relaxed all the time. They only need to be relaxed in the moments of being photographed. If they’re tense through most of the shoot but I catch a few relaxed moments, that’s enough.
But there is an important difference. Women are accustomed to the idea of the female nude. Even if a woman has never considered posing in the nude herself, she’s still been surrounded all her life by female nude images in media and art.
Men (except for queer men) are completely unaccustomed to the idea of the male nude. No such images surround them, They don’t have a mental or visual space to place male nudes in.
So it’s far more difficult to get most men to relax when I’m photographing them nude. I have to work much harder with them to create the moments of relaxation. But it’s worked out every time.
Then there is the question of how nudity in defined for men and women. But that’s for another time.