Tag Archives: nude photography

Across from Picasso

Laurie says:

I have posted before about my photographs in the exhibition “No Museum No Life?” at the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.  (The work was chosen from the collections of five Japanese National Museums of  Art.)  Having four photographs from Women En Large and Familiar Men included is really an honor.

I’ve been told by my friend Becky, who visited the exhibition, that my photographs are hung next to Edward Weston and across from Picasso.  And I understand that two quotes from Women En Large and Familiar Men, one from Debbie and one from Jonathan Katz, are used to context the Nude/Naked theme.

I’ll be able to see for myself next month, when I fly to Japan to visit the museum, and see people I’ve worked with and photographed in Tokyo, the Kansai and Okinawa.

A little while ago, I received a copy of the show’s catalog.  The curators wrote essays about the concepts around which the show is organized.  My work is in the “Naked/Nude” section of the exhibition.  The curator Masuda Tomohiro wrote this in the catalogue about the art.  I have rarely received a more thoughtful or perceptive appreciation of my photographs.


The term “nude” embodies an ideal of well-balanced physical beauty based on an ancient Greek concept that rose to prominence in the Renaissance period. In Europe and modern and contemporary Japan, which was influenced by European values, depictions of nudes remained a central part of art for many years. In order to convey this fact, we have taken as many nudes as we could from the collections and displayed them in this room. Our real bodies, however, are very different from the statuesque forms depicted during the Renaissance. If the idealized nude was, as it were, a fictitious body, its opposite is our real naked bodies. You might say that the history of modern art is a history of rehabilitating the nude. Gustave Courbet’s Sleeping Nude is a suitable work to express this tendency. Though the composition itself is reminiscent of Renaissance painting, the picture shows a woman sleeping in a room in a slovenly position. The window in the background suggests that someone might be peeping at her. Here, the repressed desire to look at a nude is clearly expressed.

Since the people who painted nudes were often men and the people who were being painted were often women, these works frequently have been subjected to criticism on the grounds of gender bias. With this in mind, let us consider some nudes by the female artists Ogura Yuki and Laurie Toby Edison. The latter in particular extols the beauty of exposed bodies in a way that was never attempted in the past. When the beauty of a body is captured in its natural form, it becomes difficult to differentiate between naked and nude. The difference is based on complicity between the artist’s desire and the viewer’s desire to look and share aesthetic values with each other.

I’m really excited to be going to see it!

Body: My Photograph Juror’s Choice in Budapest Exhibition

Laurie says:

I was delighted when I heard that my photograph Debbie Notkin and Tracy Blackstone from Women En Large was the juror’s choice in Body, an international photography exhibition at the PH1 Gallery in Budapest, curated by Zsolt Bátori.  One of the reasons in that the overall quality of the exhibition is thoughtful and excellent.

From PH21:

It is always inspiring to see how photographers approach an exhibition theme from different creative angles. Photographic depictions of the human body range from the aesthetic through the documentary to mystic uncertainty, renewing, commenting on or criticizing received modes of expression…

The human body has been the central subject of various photographic genres. From documentary, event and street photography to fashion photography and the nude, photographers have always found ways of constructing images in which the specific portrayal of the human body gains significance. That significance may stem from the rich layers of meanings emerging from specific socio-cultural contexts, the visual interaction of the human body with the surrounding physical space, or the intriguing compositional possibilities offered by the body itself. Some explore movements, study expressive gestures and postures, some concentrate on the anatomical beauty, some narrate whole lives through the depiction of the human body. Others may offer stern visual criticism of our normative conceptions of the human body and the ways it is portrayed in mainstream Western media.

I read the juror’s critique of my photograph this evening and it’s one of the most sensitive and perceptive commentaries I’ve received on a photograph.

Laurie Toby Edison’s Debbie Notkin & Tracy Blackstone is the juror’s choice of this exhibition. This complex image incorporates several layers of photographic meaning. Our initial reaction to the calm composition might be to contemplate the symmetry of the image and the captivating texture of the curtain that takes up a significant portion of the photograph, providing an excellent nonfigurative background for the shapes of the two women on the couch. The lighter inner part of the two sides of the curtain lead our eyes down to the two figures emerging from the darker shades of the blanket on the couch. As we are drawn to the faces, it might even take some time to realize that the two bodies are in the nude. Indeed, it is one of the most powerful aspects of this image that nudity is portrayed in such a “natural” and subdued manner that it goes without saying – almost even without registering on our perception. It may take some extra effort to understand why the nudity of the figures is not more salient, despite also being an identifying thematic and visual feature of the photograph. The secret might lie in the bright serenity in the look of the two women. Their expressions are filled with such joy and peacefulness that the image simply washes all received – and often oppressively reinforced – social conceptions of the human body light years away. Social criticism is delivered in a serious, beautifully composed but at the same time effortlessly cheerful photograph.