Why Basic Nude Photography Is Boring And Uninspiring
Photography

Why Basic Nude Photography Is Boring And Uninspiring

Avatar of Maria Suarez

By: Maria Suarez

February 22, 2017

Photography Why Basic Nude Photography Is Boring And Uninspiring
Avatar of Maria Suarez

By: Maria Suarez

February 22, 2017


In October of 2015, amidst dwindling sales and subscriptions, Playboy magazine announced it would no longer print nude photography. In a letter to their audience, the brand name of sensual centerfolds claimed this as a step towards evolution and rebranding. This implied not just dialing their racy images down to a PG-13 rating, but also changing their narrative on what eroticism meant to a millennial generation that clearly wasn’t interested in purchasing copies anymore.

Playboy Nude Photography Decision-w636-h600

The shift began in March of 2016 with images presenting a sensual perspective in lieu of full-on nudes. Photographers used soft focus and artistry to create a sensation in the spectator’s mind, rather than simply handing out nudes that would compete with the endless alternatives available, sometimes for free, online. The magazine’s website had already experienced success in 2014 when it was revamped into a safe-for-work site. The plan worked like a charm. Sales and subscriptions went up after the switch.


In September, 2016 Playboy found itself in the middle of a controversial discussion. However, this time the image in question was regarding a woman that was not only fully clothed, but also wearing a hijab.  Journalist Noor Tagouri was interviewed and featured in the Renegade series. Many questioned whether it was appropriate for a Muslim woman to appear on a magazine known for flaunting barely-dressed models. But Tagouri felt that by being part of the magazine she could provide a voice to a community that regular readers might not be as familiar with. It’s not to say that she was speaking for all Muslim American women; it’s more like she presented a real-life example of someone who is breaking a stereotype through her media presence.



Playboy Photography Noor Tagouri

If you’re waiting for the catch, or wondering if this is all too good to be true, you were right to be wary. Last October Hugh Hefner’s son, Cooper Hefner, took over as Chief Creative Officer leading to predictions on whether the company would backtrack on its decision. Hefner had long been a vocal opponent of the new aesthetic choice. On February 6, 2017 his Twitter account began a countdown that featured classic works of art where the nude model was covered up, accompanied by the hashtag #NakedIsNormal. Then on March 13, the cover was revealed with not only an obviously topless woman, but also a headline regarding the whole Free The Nipple movement. The official statement arrived not long after:




Okay, so it’s true. Perhaps the essence of Playboy is to have naked women in an eroticized pose next to an article discussing the US government’s new foreign policy. But is bringing back the nudity actually a step forward? I mean, the magazine will still have to compete with an entire world wide web availability of NSFW images. And, while the overall quality would probably be higher than whatever the average thirteen-year-old can find on a virus-ridden site, there’s another aspect that’s more in regards to innovation and artistic discourse that I myself am actually unsure of: Is nakedness still shocking or avant-garde?

We’re living in a reality where everything is openly sexualized. We’re constantly confronted with images including, or at least hinting at, nudity or sex on a daily basis. The top TV shows have at least two or three love scenes in each episode, and we just shrug or roll our eyes at them. Any worthy Game of Thrones drinking game is sure to include in the rulebook to take a gulp or shot when there are boobs on the screen. We have groups like FEMEN and PETA whose activism is paired with nakedness. The artwork accompanying most graphic novels and manga is racy enough that comic book conventions have had to ask cosplayers not to be too accurate when it comes to sexiness. You go on Tumblr or Instagram and I’m sure you don’t have to scroll too far down hashtags such as #sex or #nude to find something worth your fetish. So do we still need a men’s magazine with pictures of breasts and lips?

Playboy Nude Photography Decision Sarah McDaniel


If you ask me, I think the biggest mistake Playboy has made in the last couple of years –and might be making now– has to do with who they believe their market is. Maybe in the fifties when the publication began, you’d be hard pressed to find a woman who wouldn’t mind being seen buying it at her local newsagents or Walgreen’s. But in the current landscape, women pay for their porn subscription and walk freely into sex shops without feeling like someone is going to call their priest or mom. And before you tell me that women have Playgirl magazine available to them, let me remind you of something: most women would rather go to the Crazy Horse or Bally’s topless show than Chip and Dale’s or whatever From Down Under. Because yes, even straight women are attracted, or at least turned on, by images of other women. I’m not just talking sexually. A beautiful woman, in this case a naked one, can catch our eye through to the aesthetic or artistry with which the image is presented.

Then again, I’m not sure Cooper Hefner, Playboy’s readers, or the magazine itself care about reaching the female audience they’ve relegated. Because for the time being, this revamping looks like it’s business as usual with the original magazine of the fifties: women displayed in a certain aesthetic so that they appeal more to their male audience, which more than likely are also part of a particularly privileged demographic.



What truly makes photography works groundbreaking are artists who chose to use aesthetic and imagery to bring about conversation that challenges the established narrative that we constantly see. Genevieve Gaignard opens the door for us to speak about the ideals imposed on American women and how there's not one right way to be a woman. Michele Abeles also presents a refreshing aesthetic were she uses male models to question the status quo of women in media.













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