The subject of the nude human body has played an esteemed role in the history of Western art for millennia. With its origins in Greco-Roman antiquity, the idealized nude as subject has typically represented the embodiment of divine nature or the humanistic notion of virtue and moral perfectibility. Because of its defining characteristics, photography has had a more complicated relationship to the subject of nudity.
Since the camera is designed to capture minutiae and detail indiscriminately, photographs often connect us more immediately to the specifics of time, place, and the relationship between photographer and model. Although many photographers have used their medium to approach the tradition of the classical nude, others have used photography’s unique qualities to explore aspects of desire, intimacy, or even vulnerability—or what we might define as “nakedness.” Exposure: Naked before the Lens presents the many ways in which twentieth and twenty-first century photographers have presented the undressed human body in their work.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.