So yeah, the first time I meet someone’s boyfriend? I ask him to pose naked for my blog. Totally appropriate.
In my own defense, he had offered ahead of time. And it wasn’t my fault that the weather turned cold, that temperatures had slid down into the 50s. Or maybe it was the 40s. I don’t have a thermometer, but I do know that I was wearing several layers of clothing when I took the picture. Well, there’s no reason for the photographer to suffer.
I’d expressed my concerns about the weather the night before, right after I checked the forecast and saw that we might be getting snow. But Practically Kin, who like a true friend had volunteered his partner for my project, brushed my worries aside. “This guy’s got Finnish blood,” he said. Clearly, Finnish ancestry makes a person impervious to the cold. That probably explains why I was already wearing winter clothing. I’m half-Italian.
Practically Kin and Finnish Blood stopped by my house in the early morning. They arrived with a whole pan of homemade goodies – sticky buns, apple betty, some kind of apple coffeecake – pretty much any kind of tasty treat you can make with apples. Some people in upstate New York get sick of all the apple-related desserts that surface every October, but I’m not one of them. I put the teakettle on right away, so I could start eating everything.
I liked Finnish Blood right away. He’d heard about my naked blog project, since Practically Kin had posed over the summer, and we jumped right into a discussion about nudity while we drank our tea. “Little kids are comfortable running around naked,” he said. “But then at some point these cultural taboos take hold.”
I told him about an incident that happened back when my kids were little, and I had a bunch of women over for a playgroup in my backyard. It was an unexpectedly warm day in spring, and the kids, all under the age of five, began taking off their clothes to run around in the sun. We get long winters in upstate New York, so that first feeling of sun on your skin is wonderful. But one of the women made her toddler put his clothes back on, saying that it was important to teach him modesty. I remember feeling sorry for the kid as he sat down on the edge of the sandbox, properly dressed, while the other kids ran around the yard in carefree abandon.
I know that both men and women are subject to cultural taboos about the body, and the presence of a female photographer can sometimes make men feel uncomfortable. When I take pictures of naked men, I’m usually careful to do what I can to make the man feel comfortable. While he’s getting undressed, I usually busy myself adjusting my camera settings so that he won’t feel like I’m staring. I don’t really get what the big deal is, to be honest, since in my experience, men all look pretty much alike without their clothes on. (Sorry, guys, but it's true. There really isn’t much variation.)
Of course, in this case, I needn't have bothered with discretion. Finnish Blood seems to have shed any cultural taboos about his body, and he was perfectly comfortable stripping off his clothes inside my warm house and then running outside into the backyard, where I’d have natural light for the photo. I called out ideas: “Try stretching! Or dancing! Or maybe you should jump!”
The barberry bushes had turned a bright red, the last brilliant color of the season, which led to my next bright idea: “Get closer to the bushes! Stand near the – WATCH OUT, THEY HAVE THORNS!”
With the exception of the icy temperatures and prickly bushes, the photo shoot went fine. “Totally relaxing,” Finnish Blood assured me. Then we went back into the house to warm up with hot tea and apple coffee cake.
You can read more about the history of the naked blogging project and check out the gallery of photos.