I was looking over my conference schedule to plan a blogger meet-up. I’ve known Beautiful Photographer for years: I’ve read her book, I read her blog, and I’ve admired her photographs. But we’ve never met face to face, so I was looking forward to talking in real life over breakfast.
That’s when a text message chimed in: “Just so you know, I will NOT be getting naked for you.”
It’s possible I’ve given readers the wrong impression. I don’t spend every conference coercing innocent people into taking their clothes off. Honest. Those rumors about bribes and blackmail are completely false. Or at least, wildly exaggerated. That story about me running through the bookfair wearing nothing but a red cape is fiction. I’d never run barefoot on that filthy hotel carpet.
The naked photos happen quite naturally, usually when I meet someone whose been reading my blog for a long time. I’ll be innocently making small talk, chatting about their kids or mine, talking about blogs we both read and which bloggers we’ve met in real life. The woman I’ve just met will go quiet for a second. She’ll look around the room to make sure we’re alone, lean forward to look me in the eyes, and whisper, “I’ll pose for you.”
Honest. Readers volunteer willingly, often before I even ask. And some, like Beautiful Photographer, turn me down before I even ask.
I had suspected, to be honest, that she wouldn’t pose for me. I mean, at least not on our first meeting. I had planned to work up to the naked photo gradually. So when I got her text, I asked, “Did you bring your camera? Want to take a picture of me?”
I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be on the other side of the camera during a naked photo shoot. The last woman I photographed sent me a text saying, “It was a wonderful experience. I hope it was good for you too.” Okay, maybe I’m paraphrasing.
The night before the breakfast meet-up, I stood in front of the mirror to try to figure out a good pose. “I feel a little nervous about this blogger meet-up,” I said to my conference roommate. “Maybe I ought to shave my legs.”
She laughed. “Now you know what it feels like to be on the other side.”
Of course, once I met Beautiful Photographer, my fears disappeared. She was as warm and friendly in person as she was online. We’d had several discussions over the years about our bodies. I knew she’d be gentle.
We didn’t have much time. We both had plans for a 9:30 am session. During breakfast, I sent my roommate a text to make sure she was awake. “I need the room for a photo shoot,” I said. I knew she'd understand. She’s used to coming back to the room to find a naked body sprawled on the bed or balanced on a table.
Morning light was filtering in through the window. Perfect. I stripped off my clothes. Beautiful Photographer climbed up on the bed to get a better angle. “Try sitting on the window ledge,” she called out.
The window ledge was cold against my bare skin. It really wasn’t all that comfortable. I got the idea that I wanted to pose with my journal – although to be honest, the situation was a little artificial. I do write in my journal when I’m naked sometimes, but I’m more likely to be snuggled in bed then sitting on a cold window sill. And of course, I had to hold the journal at arm’s length to accommodate my aging eyes.
“I’m not sure about this angle,” I said, “Let me sit up straight so I don’t look fat.”
“I can’t believe I hear you saying that,” said my roommate. “You hate it when women say they’re fat.”
“But I’m NOT fat,” I said in defense. “I want a photo that shows me as I really am. It’s all about being true to reality.” That's the truth about this project. I always want to take a photo that shows each woman how beautiful she really is.
“Shake your head so I can see your hair,” Beautiful Photographer called. I loved that she wanted to feature my hair, with all its silvery strands.
She snapped quickly. I jumped off the ledge to peer at the photos in her camera, and she loaded them efficiently onto my computer. Another naked photo shoot complete.
To read more about the Naked Photo Project, check out this page — and the gallery of photos. You can click the link under each photo to read the story behind it.