Great nude photography and art goes beyond the aesthetics and captures a moment. It’s a form of artwork that many people have a particularly strong reaction to, perhaps because the subjects are exposed, the artist is able to capture something about the essence of the model.
There’s no denying that the bold statement a nude s hot provides is also highly desired by those looking to buy art; these pieces create a real connection with the owner.And with the truly iconic nude photographs, there is very often a story or dare we say a great legend behind the image itself. In some cases it’s the model, in others the photographer, or perhaps how the two were united in the creation of the piece.
Norma Jean Baker and Tom Kelley
In this genre of art, icons don’t get much greater than Marilyn Monroe, or Norma Jean Baker as she was known when Tom Kelly photographed her in 1949. Kelley took what is now one of the most infamous images of Marilyn Monroe, but at the time, Monroe was unknown as an actress and the shoot was simply something she had agreed to in order to “pay the rent”.
Tom Kelley sold the shots to be published in a glamour girl pin-up calendar and for a few years that was the end of the story. But in 1953, Hugh Hefner launched a new magazine, Playboy. Hefner purchased one of Kelley’s prints from the original calendar shoot and featured it in the very first is sue of the magazine, which sold over 50,000 copies.
The renowned early shot of Monroe doubtless played a significant role in Playboy’s success and is now part of the Playboy Legacy Collection, a small selection of infamous shots of some of the most beautiful women to ever grace the pages of the magazine.
Ursula Andress, star of the fantastic James Bond Dr No scene in which the actress emerges from the ocean in a white bikini, is another member of this exclusive Playboy club in the image she is Ursula Andress. A 1965 portrait taken by John Derek, her then husband, sees Andress reclining against a waterfall and is a stunning portrayal of her confident sexuality.
When asked why she had agreed to the shoot, Andress replied: “Because I’m beautiful.” Her response is in stark contrast to Monroe’s claims that she needed the money from her early calendars for rent, but each gives the images themselves a backstory, adding the women’s identities to the images along with their physical sexuality.
Fine Art Nudes
Away from the glossy shots of Playboy is an area of nudes more influenced by artistic form and representation. Renowned artists like Barry Lategan and Sanders Nicolson may work with the nude form in their piece s, but it’s their adaptation and playful inspiration which makes their shots iconic; these artists provide an interpretation of the female form as opposed to simply capturing the form which they find before them.
Barry Lategan’s work has taken him from working with fashion royalty like Twiggy, who he is credited with having discovered, to shooting political figures including Margaret Thatcher. But it is some of his personal work that is most striking in its originality.
Body in Satin, for example, or Bum & Plum are both playful shots, highlighting his own focus on the female form and allowing the viewer to take an alternative look at the human body away from the forms we’ve become accustomed to.
Sanders Nicolson is another photographer who, while he enjoys a successful advertising career, has always been passionate about fine art and creating something under his own brief and influence. Nicolson’s work has created some striking imagery that creates a very erotic but equally emotional connection between his subjects and the viewer.
As with all art, buying the right nude image is about personal choice. But one thing to keep in mind is the diversity of this genre, it portrays sexuality in its many different guises as well as touching on new interpretations of the human form. On top of this of course, is the simple fact that this genre features shots of some of the most beautiful women in the world.