For centuries, artists—and more recently, photographers—have drawn a distinction between two different approaches to depicting the human form. On the one hand, a 'portrait' is a representation of a particular individual, designed (as Roland Barthes observed) to evoke in the viewer the intuitive response that this is the one that they have known. On the other, a 'nude' draws on the conventions and fashions of the era to present an aesthetic or erotic ideal: one in which the personality and idiosyncrasies of the subject are less important than the perfection they are called on to embody. Somewhere between the two sits the 'naked portrait': the absence of clothing calls to mind the thousands of nudes we have seen in books, galleries and magazines, but the intention here is to preserve, rather than efface, the specific identity of the person depicted, while removing the 'façade, persona and signs' that clothing usually provides.
Men Undressed is, then, an exploration of the naked portrait. The guys I have photographed are of various ages and from different walks of life: my concern was not to capture the body beautiful, but to create a space where these men could stand naked before the camera, allowing themselves to be seen for who they are. and thus (again paraphrasing Roland Barthes), as you, the viewer, stand with me behind the camera, the anonymous stranger suddenly becomes intimate; the subject looking through the lens into our eyes, defiant and vulnerable at the same time, provides an open space for our imaginative entry into the frame, the subject made flesh—but never fully, and always mysterious.
Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy Victoria 3065, Australia
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Seven nights after dark