The tradition of posting naked photos of women on my blog began about four years ago, when I shared a conference hotel room with Ecowoman. We decided to pretend that the bathtub in the hotel room was a lovely hot tub, and she posed with a glass of ginger ale that we decided would look like champagne. We didn’t fool anyone – it looked like a hotel bathroom – but that photo began the naked blogging tradition. Naturally, on this trip, when Ecowoman and I actually were in a hot tub with a bunch of naked women, I had to climb out and snap a photo.
We’d all been talking about my naked photo project, which has taken on a life of its own. Wherever I go now, people I’ve just met want to talk about the naked photos, and women begin telling stories about their bodies. I feel bonded with the women I’ve taken photos of. There’s an intimacy about it: we talk as she takes off her clothes, and I give helpful pointers like, “Shake your hair back. You have such gorgeous hair,” or “Move to your right. It looks like that tree is growing out of your head.”
Then I put the photos on my computer (my eyes are not good enough to look at anything in the back of the camera) and we look at them together, with the woman getting veto power over the photos. This process can be less serious than you might think. The camera can play odd tricks. “Oh, yeah,” said Lilting Voice when she looked at one picture. “I just love the way the lupines frame my butt crack. Very artistic.” (No, that photo will not be appearing on my blog. Like I said, every woman gets veto power over the shots.)
Usually, as we look at the photos, the woman will point out things she likes about her body. And give the history of her scars, both visible and not. Other women will gather around to help make the final selection and chime in. It’s affirming somehow to see a photo of yourself, and have a bunch of women pointing out how beautiful you are.
When Rock Climber volunteered to have her photo taken (well, volunteer might be too strong of a word), I decided it was time for an action shot. I’d noticed that on our hikes, she was always eager to keep moving. “Let’s just see what’s around the next bend,” she kept saying. So I wanted a photo in which she was moving.
We found the swing that has hung from the tree since Lilting Voice’s childhood; Rock Climber stripped off her clothes and swung back and forth in the afternoon mix of sun and shade. “This is cool,” she said, looking up into the canopy. “I don’t think I’ve ever swung naked before.” The peaceful shot I took was just before she asked me to give her a push and the swing started careening wildly, almost crashing her naked against the rough bark of the tree. Eh, what’s a photo shoot without a little danger?
The nine friends on this retreat ranged in age from early 30s to early 60s, and I think we older women ended up being good role models for the younger ones. That is, even Delightful, the youngest woman of the group, eventually consented to stripping off her clothes and posing on a rock in the sunshine. What’s funny is how much she and Lilting Voice look alike in the photos: swaying with lupines suits them both.
As one of my readers pointed out in the comments on the last post, there’s something healthy about seeing the naked bodies of normal women, different ages and different shapes, beautiful with stretch marks, wrinkles, and scars. Taking the photos outdoors on this trip added an element, as we were all talking about our connections to the landscapes we love, just as we were falling in love with the mountains we were hiking through every day.
I of course always assure my friends that the photos are top secret, their anonymity carefully guarded. But Yoga Woman told us the story about her grown daughter, who is part of a group of mothers who write poetry. They were talking about a fundraising calendar of naked women photos and were looking at the photos on my blog as an example of tasteful nude pictures. Her daughter was admiring a photo of a naked woman in a yoga position when suddenly she recognized the hair, the bracelets. “Oh, MY GOD! That’s my mother!”