Laurie Toby Edison

Photographer

Live Nude Zombies

Writer and fat activist Hanne Blank pointed people to this site, featuring a different take on nude women by French photographer Reynald Drouhin, whose work we were not familiar with.

Here’s what Hanne has to say:

… very illuminating about what real women’s bodies actually look like and what a difference clothing really does make. … What I think is really cool about it is that there really is quite a lot of variety in the bodies that are shown, even though it is a relatively limited demographic (all appear able-bodied, no major surgery or pregnancy evidence, almost all of the women are white Europeans who look to be between the ages of about 18 and 30, and all of them are pretty much what the personal ads call ‘height-weight proportionate’). Skinny, muscly, square-shouldered, soft-shouldered, bony, hippy, busty, wasp-waisted, thick-waisted, long-waisted, short-legged, long-legged, you name it.

First of all, when you click the link, play around some with the cursor. The speed at which the line-up goes by can be changed, and if you click on an individual woman, you get her naked backside, as well as her naked front.

Hanne is, of course, right. Despite the lack of variety of the bodies, there is real variety here, and since we rarely get to see real women’s bodies, this is a good thing. That being said, however, other things spring immediately to our minds.

The neutral facial expressions and identical poses make the women all look like zombies, until you start working with the cursor, at which point they somehow become much more human. This is clearly the photographer’s choice because of the unwavering consistency of the expressions. While some people get this expression in front of a camera, it’s certainly not the case that most of us do. Perhaps more to the point, this is not something we see on people who are interacting with each other in the world. The effect is to strip as much individuality as possible from the women, which works much better when the information contained in their clothing choices is removed.

The similarity to a police line-up is unavoidable. This is a classic technique to disempower people, putting us in the hands of an authority which is consciously undermining and ignoring anything unique about us, making us interchangeable.

This removal of individuality is what makes the women in these pictures feel like zombies, and what empowers the false interaction of speeding up and slowing down the line-up, as well as turning individual women around. Without knowing his intent, we inevitably feel that he has found another way to turn bodies into meat–not sexualized this time, but severely limited in character and history nonetheless.

3 Responses to “Live Nude Zombies”

  1. Lynne Murray Says:

    I finally got this link to work, and I had a different perception than Hanne’s. I am one of those dreadfully conventional people (my friend uses the word prudish, but that’s her description and I don’t see it that way) who would head for the exit–and I have–in settings where communal nudity was an unexpected event. I also have to look long and hard to puzzle out clothing statements–possibly due to post-traumatic stress syndrome from early years of trauma in department store fitting rooms. In any event the clothed/nude/clothed/nude sequences were hard for me decode either for the nude or clothed women. SO I looked at the women’s faces and discovered that for many of them, their clothed and nude expressions subtly different. There was a purposeful effort to exclude “seductive” body language or expression, but if you look at the faces you’ll see that some of the women put on their “social face” with their clothing. Or at least so it seemed to me. Some were the same either way, but not most.

  2. Laurie Says:

    You’re right, there are distinctly different expressions on many of the women between clothed and nude. I think that “social face” is a good explanation.

    I found the movement of the strip of photographs frustrated my
    desire to figure this out further. Something interesting is definitely going on and my “photographer” wanted to stop the images and do a careful comparison.

  3. Mike Says:

    I was thinking of a project similar to this one when I discovered on this site someone had already had a similar idea , but with the same result.

    What I see from this sequence is the true appearance of human females compared with there culturally programmed ways of decorating themseleves for societal and individual acceptance.

    I believe Reynald Drouhin did an excellent job of portraying these women in a perverted state of being and then in a natural one , and with the natural state not having the mere appearance of having sex on the mind because of the lack of decorative covering(i’m sorry “dress”) . And I applaud these women as well for their objective participation in this reality-check project and the photographer for removing any shame from or embarrassement from reality. ove

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