The Process Behind “Born Bare”

What does it take to create a series of nude images? How does one find a model? How does one initiate the start of the shoot on the day? While this will look different for every artist, here is the approach that I took.

Dividing the Process

What draws me to the practice of photography is the reliance on both of our brain’s hemispheres. For the sake of simplicity & relevance, I’ll call them the ‘emotional’ hemisphere and the ‘mechanical’ hemisphere. 

I’ll begin by summarising the emotional process first,

because the most important part of this collection was not photography, but human connection.

"Origin"

The Emotional Hemisphere

The Models: Communication & Trust

I knew from the start that communication would be the most important aspect of this entire endeavour, along with trust. It had to be. Why am I taking photos of naked humans, most of whom are women? What is my intention with this? How am I doing it? What will the shoots be like? 

I answered all of these questions in a concise document that I sent out to prospective models. These were either people I’d shot with in the past or friends of mine. This, combined with word of mouth, eventually lead to over a dozen participants.

From that point onwards, right up until and beyond the shoot, I’d personally & personably communicate with each model. This was especially important with the people that I didn’t know. 

Establishing trust was crucial, firstly for creating as safe a space as possible during the shoot, and secondly to have models be relaxed in their poses. Stiff bodies just wouldn’t do.

The Shoot: Setting a Container

Establishing a safe & comfortable environment was more important to me than the negligible technicalities of duvet covers. Would the model feel comfortable getting undressed here? How could I make the experience more comfortable? 

I won’t go into depth regarding the flow of the shoot, but the 1-2 hours mostly looked like this:

  1. Tea & chat
  2. Music & incense
  3. Awkward first 3 minutes of shooting
  4. Amazing remainder of shooting
  5. More tea
  6. Done

The reason why being thoughtful about creating a safe container was important was so that anything that arose could do so fully & comfortably. From the laughter during tea, to the discomfort during the first few shots, to the embodiment of utter confidence as the shoot progressed, to the debriefing and winding down afterwards — it all had to be done smoothly and comfortably. 

"Gravity"

The Mechanical Hemisphere

The Numbers

The end goal of every shoot was to have at least three “usable” images per model. These would be final candidates for the collection. This may sound like an easy task to meet, but the truth is that I didn’t achieve this with every shoot. Some models I shot with unfortunately aren’t featured in Born Bare for one of two reasons:

  1. I didn’t capture them at a level that was good enough for my own expectations, or
  2. The resulting images weren’t cohesive with the aesthetic or feel of the collection

On average, I took 200 photos during every shoot. From there, I sifted through them multiple times until I had around ten photos. This is where I left it for every shoot until most of the shoots were completed. Towards the end of the shoots, I combed through everything again, model after model, until I had three or four images per shoot. 

"Magma"

Here is where it got tricky. It always gets tricky here. From dozens of really beautiful & enticing photos, I now needed to condense them into a collection of around 20. The reason for doing this is to have a tight & cohesive body of work without allowing the amount of images to overwhelm viewers & collectors.

I consulted certain people around me when choosing the final collection. These peers were my most trusted friends, as well as other professional creators. I wanted to make sure to represent this subject matter as responsibly as possible.

Eventually, the final assembly was chosen.

The Setup

Being at the beginning of my career and not having done much studio work before, my gear was limited. I had to make the shoots work with what I had: a single consumer flash light and two large pieces of fabric from a local fabric store. Professional flash kits & backdrops were out of the question, budget-wise, so this had to do. 

Luckily, my time as a film student taught me how to do cool things on a budget. Who would have guessed that a white duvet cover could become an impromptu backdrop AND lighting source? Set it up on light stands, chuck the light behind it, and boom: two birds, one duvet.

"Surge"

Writing this makes me nervous — I’m keenly aware of the value associated with fine art. But does a $20 bed sheet versus a $200 backdrop make any difference to the final outcome? Not one bit.

Reflection

While “Born Bare” was a technical puzzle for me to solve, it was the holding of space for these experiences that was the most delicate responsibility for me as the photographer & confidant. I say ‘confidant’ because there was a high level of trust gifted to me by these brave humans. I’m keenly aware of how much inner work it takes for someone to get to the point where they can be naked in front of someone other than their partner. All the tears & insecurities, the dark thoughts, the effort to be at their best.

To then have a lens pointed at them when they’re at their most vulnerable? “Bravery” is an understatement. These opportunities are precious and I can’t be fiddling with camera settings and forever adjusting the light. I can’t lose connection & presence with the model.

Making these shoots as natural, comfortable, and positive as possible is what I owed these models. I did my best and sincerely hope that the efforts paid off.

"Sequoia"
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