Fotografiska’s latest exhibition celebrates the nude through the female gaze

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Featuring 30 female-identifying photographers of 20 nationalities, the collection reframes the representation of nude bodies in art

Opening this week at Fotografiska New York, NUDE is really a group exhibition reframing the representation of nude bodies in art. A celebration of the human form through a female lens, it spans the work of 30 female-identifying photographers of 20 nationalities, focusing on the subversive and the experimental; the progressive and the personal.  

The concept for the show began, says curator Johan Vikner, with a discussion around the traditional treatment of nudes in art and an idea to disrupt that narrative in favour of something more inclusive, consensual and empowering by today’s standards.  

“There’s an honesty to any or all the works presented in NUDE, ” adds the exhibition’s organiser Amanda Hajjar. “The female perspective of the naked body is one that has been historically overlooked, so this exhibition celebrates the female gaze, what your body means in relation to that perspective, and how it can be reframed. I think there’s a consensus that nudity shouldn’t and doesn’t always need to be sensationalised or objectified, but rather normalised, from everyone’s perspective. ”

In lots of the images included, different lived experiences take centre stage. Japanese artist Momo Okabe captures the sweetness in trans and gender non-confirming identities for instance, while American photographer Dana Scruggs holds space for the Black male body.  

Some images, like those by Swedish artist Arvida Byström, speak to the glossy, subversive and hyper-feminine aesthetic of young female photographers that emerged in the 2010s, while others, such as Bettina Pittaluga’s portraits take a straightforward and intimate documentary approach. Elsewhere, Lina Scheynius’ photographs show us what it means to obsessively photograph one’s own body for years at any given time.

There are other key thematic connections the show has highlighted too, including that of the relationship between the human body and nature in contemporary photography. This can be seen in such projects as Men in Water by Denisse Ariana Pérez, which sees men photographed in waterfalls and lakes from Scandinavia to Senegal.  

This relationship is displayed by Slovakian artist Viki Kollerova too. “The body in nature is an art historical trope – in Cezanne’s Blue Nude, for example , he famously adapted the landscape around the portrait, with hills curving and accentuating around his sitter’s body, ” says Hajjar. “In Kollerova’s contemporary portrayal she is doing the opposite – the body is fully immersed and integrated into the natural world, so as to not disrupt the landscape around her. ”

Ultimately, says Vikner, “we searched for artists from various areas, genres and walks of life, who worked actively with the nude body as a motif and language to tell their stories”. From subjects including pornography and ageing to breast augmentation, NUDE offers a collective vision of modern human life, as seen through female eyes.

Joanna Cresswell

Joanna L. Cresswell is a writer and editor based in Brighton. She has written on photography and culture for over 40 international magazines and journals, and held positions as editor for organisations including The Photographers’ Gallery, Unseen Amsterdam and Self Publish, Be Happy. She recently completed an MA in comparative literature and criticism at Goldsmiths College, University of London

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