Why are they hidden?*

"What do I remember about med school?
'This is my air hole (pointing to her nose)
My sound holes (pointing to her ears)
My food hole (pointing to her mouth)
My pee and baby holes (pointing to the front of her pants)
and my poop hole (pointing to her tush)'
All other stuff is related to those holes. " Dr. Sylvia

I got that great quote from one of the physicians I used to work with after asking her a technical medical question.  All the other doctors and nurses in the room laughed as hard as I did.  She pretty much summed up most of internal medicine right there.

 I recently had to train a group of employees about retrieving key information from a drug side-effects database and I came upon two sticking points.  The first was an acronym I didn't know and the second was a medical term for a symptom to multiple potentially dangerous conditions.

I came across the term LMP and had no idea what the acronym represented.  I asked one nurse I work with and he blushed.  I asked his boss, another nurse who is a no-nonsense and just out right said, "LMP - Last Menstrual Period. "  For some dumb reason I blushed.  I knew though I had to get over my blushing since being descriptive is a needed part of medicine.

The second event concerned doing a search on the symptom - "blood present in urine."  I chose this term for a training exercise since it brought up many interesting bits of information from the data base.  One employee warned me that it could be an awkward topic when training fellow global coworkers in certain cultures and locations.  I ended up keeping the term in the class and push through any initial emotional responses from the learners.  In my opinion, its part of our job, get over it.  It wasn't like I was saying the event in crude terms like "blood in your nasty piss".

We all have these body parts.  They all have functions and purposes, yet we are shy about them.   I know some of these body parts have less-than-idyllic functions and purposes.  We still have them though and they are a part of us.  This need to censor our natural bodies goes to all parts of our culture, especially art.

I have an anus.  I also have testes and a penis.  All my nude models I've photographed (so far) have vaginas and anuses**.  We all have the holes (in one form or another) that Dr. Sylvia mentioned.

In my photography, I captured (both intentionally and inadvertently) all of these bits and pieces, however, have you really seen any of these in the photos I've posted before today?  Nope.  In our "fine art" world, many consider them off limits as elements of acceptable art.  Why do we hide these bits of ourselves that make us human, that makes us male or female?  I am guilty of hiding them by putting them into shadow, covering them, etc.  Why?  Why hide them?

Parts of this argument can get into the porn vs. art debate.  Other arguments may include the crassness and baseness of the subject matter pulls the attention away from the art and makes the appearance of these parts the only noticeable element of the piece.  I can see both points.

I have no societal answers to these complex questions on showing our basic parts.  For myself though, I've am evolving my own aesthetic on when to include or occlude/obscure them.  It needs to come down to my intent of the piece.

I am growing more willing to include these items in my "published" art (my photos that are going to live out in the world, beyond the film negatives and my hard drive).  This applies to anuses, vaginas, genital labia, penises, etc.  For me to include them, they have to:
  • be integral to the purpose of the piece
  • not overwhelm the piece, unless there is a purpose for it to overwhelm
  • be acknowledged and/or approved by the model, knowing that this part is being shown.
I think all parts of human body can be beautiful.  I haven't photographed a nude male yet (other than myself), but find all parts of the male anatomy to have a purpose and role in art as well.

I guess much of this has been hashed out in the porn vs. art debate?   Is my intent of showing these bits for profit and exploitation, or is there an artistic reason behind it.  I am hoping for the latter.

* As much as I've enjoyed the deep metaphysical/cosmological/chronological posts of the past few days, sometimes it is important to explore the basic and close-by things in our lives as well.

** Latin scholars may stipulate that plural form of anus would be ani, but after a google search, it appears anuses is the modern accepted term.


  1. I have to be honest. I clicked over here and saw Valya and said WHOA!!!! The image has a little shock art resonance, I think because the finger pointing to the hole adds boldness to the bold. That said, I spent some time admiring the image, both your restraint and artistry as the photographer and Valya's honesty and confidence as a model. I like it.

    You make me want to post some of my seldom-seen works, but I can't recall for sure which I've already shown on the private blog. I'm setting up a series of shoots and was just chatting with one of the photographers. I'm in the mood to push boundaries again.

    Congratulations! This is an incredible work of art. I hope readers Nadja and Howard see your post. You might drop them a note.

    1. Carla, Thank you for your affirming comment. I know we all have different boundaries and want to push them, yet remaining true to ourselves. I look forward to seeing whatever you choose to share.

      I don't have Howard or Nadja's email addresses. I would appreciate any help contacting them.

  2. "Why? Why hide them?"

    This is one of the things I have been trying to figure out since I have been looking at nudes on the web. To me many of the images I see that should have shown the models lower openings are made less of a fine art image by the attempt to make the openings not show or be of less importance. To me it ruins the continuity of the photograph.

    You covered all the reasons it is done and they are all valid for the people that think like that. It takes a bit of courage to not let these reasons influence a photographers personal work.

    I think your three reasons to include a vagina, anus or penis is one of the best I've read. Keep the courage to show what is there if it fits your criteria. I think it will make you a better photographer by being true to yourself and your vision instead of maybe trying to bend your vision to include what others think makes an appropriate fine art photograph.

    D.L. Wood

    1. "To me many of the images I see that should have shown the models lower openings are made less of a fine art image by the attempt to make the openings not show or be of less importance. To me it ruins the continuity of the photograph."
      You summarized this perfectly on why I feel these ares should be shown in photos.

  3. I will send you Howard's e-mail address. For Nadja, I just have her blog. You could leave a comment there.

  4. I've refused to sensor myself every since the second nude model chastised me for it. She made a valid point. Do I shoot the nude or just parts of the nude? And why would I voluntarily censor myself when the whole world will be doing it for me anyway? Just those words alone sent me off in a completely different direction with my art and changed the way I saw myself and what I do. Good post!

    1. Hey T - Thanks for affirming what I am learning. I think we need to acknowledge the human body is a complete being and while all parts are not as idyllic as others in our culture, they are parts of our total whole.


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