I’m always telling my friends that the naked body looks best in “natural light.” And that’s true. Artificial light casts weird shadows and turns flesh odd colours. Flash photography will make skin look really white. That’s great if you’re trying for a zombie, walking-dead look, but most people prefer photos that don’t make them look like corpses. The best naked photos are taken outside. Really.
When I arrived with my friends at the cabin in the mountains last weekend, the first thing I asked was: “Who is going to pose for my blog?” They all turned to look out the window at the pine trees covered with snow, the deck piled with snow, and the frozen lake. Dancing Woman was the first to speak up. “It might be a little cold,” she said. I took that as a yes.
What we should have done was take the photo on the first day we arrived, when temperatures were warm enough that I could actually take my mittens off for a moment to take a photo. Sadly, we didn’t take advantage of the balmy temperatures that hovered somewhere around freezing. By the time we woke up on Saturday, the cheerful guy on the local radio station was announcing a wind chill advisory: “Temperatures are dangerously low.” It’s true that wind off the lake was chilly. When I went for my morning walk, I took my hands out of my mittens a couple of times to take photos, and even though I was fast, my fingers felt painful when I got back to the house and thawed them out.
“Don’t worry,” I told Dancing Woman. “We’ll take the photo close to the house, so you can dash back in.” I didn’t mention that my plan was to take the photo from inside the warm house, fully dressed. One of my rules for Project Naked is that if a subject asks me to strip for the photo, just so that the photographer is as vulnerable as the person posing, I will. On this frigid day, I decided not to mention the rule.
We thought it best to wait until Makes Bread and her twelve-year-old son had left for a walk. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from raising a houseful of boys, it’s that twelve-year-old boys don’t want to see their mother’s middle-aged friends naked.
Despite the icy wind that whipped across the lake, Dancing Woman was surprisingly cheerful about stripping off her clothes: the outer layers, the long underwear, the multiple pairs of socks. Too lazy to shovel off the deck, I found a frozen welcome mat for her to stand on. “It might be a little cold,” I said apologetically.
What amazes me is that Dancing Woman didn’t scream at all as she stepped, naked, out into the frigid winter wind. She moved gracefully, lifting her arms above her head, her hair whipped around by the wind. When I called out, finally, that I was done, she didn’t race inside, but just wrapped her arms against her chest, looked out across the lake, and then down at the mounds of snow that balanced on the deck railing like stone cairns. And so I took one more shot, which is the one she liked the best.
Read more about the history of the naked blogging project and check out the gallery of photos.