This Photo Series is Fighting the Harmful Stigma Around Nudity

June 14th 2017

Tiernan Hebron

The concept of nudity is considered so insulting in Western society that it is common practice to picture another person without clothes on when one is feeling intimidated, nervous, or fearful.

Apparently there is no greater way to shame another person into inferiority than by inflicting nakedness upon them.

Artist Sophia Vogel, on the other hand, has a different outcome in mind when it comes to depicting nakedness.

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This German based photographer has taken it upon herself to change the way nudity is perceived through her photo series, With and Without. The project consists of side by side photographs of everyday individuals performing everyday tasks. The only difference between the pair of photos is that in one of them the person is fully clothed and in the other one the person is nude.

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The people featured in the photos vary in age, gender, and ethnicity, but the feeling of intimacy is consistent throughout the series.

One photo features a young woman looking at a record, another shows a couple lounging on a couch together, while another shows an older gentleman in his office. The intimacy does not lie in the nudity, but in the normalcy and relatability of who these people are. They are not sexualized or retouched, they are ordinary and so too is their nudity.

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This was the purpose of the series itself, to represent the naked human body in a way that is rarely shown: as natural and normal. "I want to point out that being naked should feel just as natural as being clothed," Vogel tells Creators, going on to quote German philosopher Heinrich Heine: "If you think of it right, we are all naked underneath our clothes."

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By forcing the viewer to consider nudity from a non-sexual perspective, Vogel’s series sheds light on a glaring issue within our culture: the stigmatization of the naked human body. with and without

So where does this stigma come from? Sex.

As the saying goes, sex sells, and what better way to sell sex than by using the vessel through which the act itself is committed, the human body.

The human body, particularly the female body, is sexualized and used to sell everything from hamburgers to real estate.

This leads people to associate the human body and nudity with sex, promiscuity, and even sin. And so a stigma is born, in which people cannot look at a naked individual without thinking it is inappropriate.

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The consequences of this taboo not only lead to shame, but to actual harassment and violence.

There are countless reports of people being blackmailed and extorted because someone got a hold of their naked photos. Mothers cannot breastfeed their babies in public because nipples, which are solely intended to feed young, are seen as too sexual. And thousands of women are assaulted and raped every year because they were ‘asking for it’ with clothing that was too revealing.

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Vogel's series opens a door to a world in which nudity does not beget fear, shame, or violence, but acceptance.