I had plans to hang out with one of my girlfriends last night. We were planning on the usual: dinner, a little TV, a little conversation… nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary. I called her to ask what time she’d be home and she said, “By the way, my cousin is taking a photography class and wanted to know if I’d help her out and pose for some artistic nudes for her homework assignment. Do you think you’d mind doing something like that?” Mind? Heck no, I wouldn’t mind. I told her sure thing, I’d be happy to pose. Mind you, I am not the size three hard-body I once was. In fact, I’m not even the size six somewhat-firm-body I once was. Hell, I’m sure if I attempted to try on any new clothes right now I might be disappointed to discover that I’m not even the doughy size eight body I once was. But what the hell, this was for a homework assignment and her cousin is my friend, so sure, why not.
The idea of the assignment was to take photos of body parts as “landscapes,” showcasing curves, interesting shapes, and practicing with light and shadow. So it wasn’t as if we were being photographed in a Playboy kind of way, in fact, our faces would likely not even be shown in the finished, edited shots. Still, shedding your clothes in front of your lover is one thing. Shedding them in front of random doctors and nurses is another, but taking your clothes off, posing, and having the visual of yourself in bizarre positions be photographed for posterity is really pretty outer limits if you’re not real happy with your body. Add to that the idea that you’re photos will be viewed by the photography teacher, the other photography students, critiqued, added to someone’s portfolio, and, in the era of the internet, who knows where they could end up… and you really have a situation where you wonder if you might just be out of your mind?
My friend poured us some wine and although I don’t usually drink it, I gladly accepted the glass and we watched as her cousin set up the backdrop. Dressed in nothing but bathrobes and socks we viewed the photography of Edward Weston on line to get an idea of what the photos should emulate. My friend took the first turn. With warm rays of sunlight on her skin streaming in from the window, she sat on an ottoman and asked how she should be positioned? Her cousin adjusted a hand, here, a strand of hair there, asking her to turn slightly, or tilt her head a certain way. As she snapped pictures from various angles, my friend became less self-conscious and I could see that the photographs were coming out great. I thought she looked beautiful. I have always like artistic nudes and once even created a slide show of pictures I found on the internet and sent it to my then boyfriend as a little feast for the eyes on Valentine’s Day.
When she had taken quite a few pictures of my friend, she said it was now my turn. I shed my robe, and thanks to the wine, got in front of the backdrop and immediately started posing like a tipsy idiot. I figured, what the hell, I wasn’t going to be happy with the shape I was in, the way I looked on camera, or how my body appeared anyway, so the best thing to do was just ignore that and help this photography student get the shots she wanted. We had joked about the fact that I took yoga and was pretty flexible, so I did throw a couple of yoga poses out there and she actually did end up using a couple of them to take some pictures. Each time she showed me a preview of the pictures she’d taken, I felt worse. They were awful. Ok, no, the pictures were great. She was getting exactly what she needed for her assignment… and she’s an extremely talented photographer and has an amazing eye. The photos themselves were gorgeous, but all I could see was fat, cellulite, surgical scars, and sagging breasts. No matter, I thought, eventually she’ll show me a picture and I’ll see a shadow of that beautiful body I once had. The body that stopped traffic. The body that is still there, somewhere, underneath the remaining cheeseburgers and chocolate that I have yet to work off.
Noticing that the daylight was fading, our student photographer’s attention settled on a window behind the sofa where the last of the daylight was still visible. She suggested that I move to the sofa. I gladly obliged, figuring there was only so much time before the sun would set and she’d be out of luck for getting the rest of her assignment finished. As she began clicking away on me at this new location, my friend commented that this looked really nice. A few clicks later and I was finally shown some shots that, I have to say, I really didn’t mind at all. I was a silhouette seated in a window where behind me the sky was all pink and purple. Though it was obvious that I was not the youthful, semi-anorexic model most people are now accustomed to seeing, the photos were pretty, and showed a curvaceous woman seated by a set of sheers looking out pensively at the sunset. I have no idea how that happened, since it was just me, sitting on the back of the sofa trying to be still while pictures were taken from different angles. They came out so good, in fact, that my friend asked to have a few done there as well. Hers came out even better.
Next we were asked to do some together shots. This proved to be somewhat tricky, as we are different sizes and needed to obtain a sense of symmetry to show four arms, or four legs, or two arched backs. Some poses didn’t work at all, and others that did proved to be rather back-pain inducing. But, what the hell, our photos came out looking exactly as she wanted them to, and after all, it was about her homework, and not about us. Still, we’re looking forward to getting copies of our pictures when she’s done editing them. For me, despite my dislike for how my body looks right now, I have to say, I’m glad I did it. And for you out there: if anyone ever asks you to pose nude, go ahead and do it. I guarantee you: you’re a lot more beautiful than you think.