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Nude Photography

In the 1830s, Nièpce discovered how to print images onto metal plates. When he died in 1833, Louis Daguerre, followed by Francois Arago continued to develop his research, resulting in the invention of the daguerreotype which consisted of an image printed onto a silver plate when exposed to the light. Together they had invented photography.

Unlike paintings of nudes, which had long been considered an artistic discipline, nude photography was first used for scientific or educational purposes. Art schools often provided anatomy courses and photography became an increasingly popular means of representing the human body. In Orsay, photographs of nudes were found with squares traced onto the bodies in order to more carefully study their proportions and make them easier to reproduce through drawing.

At the beginning of the 20th century, magazines began to publish photographs of nudes. L'Etude Académique, for example, published nude photographs aimed at replacing life models in painting. When it first appeared, photography was not considered an art form; it remained anonymous and was thought of as a tool for artists to represent the human body. However, less scientific uses had been explored and a few years earlier, many erotic magazines had been published despite censorship.

The male nude, less widespread than the female nude, first appeared in photographs by Albert Londe, Thomas Eakins and Vincenzo Galdi, taken outdoors and capturing men as representations of young ephebes. In the 1930s and 1940s, photographers of the time, including Man Ray, Jean Ferrero and Gregor Arax, created more virile and sophisticated images.

Contemporary nudes take on many forms. One might expect them to be exclusively erotic but in reality, photographers approach the human body in a number of different ways. True to his style, Jeff Koons, chooses sexual provocation, creating pornographic scenes. Spencer Tunick brings together hundreds of naked participants to create striking images. As for Peter Joel Witkin, he explores the nude using the horrific and the bizarre. Among the masters of nude photography are Nan Goldin and her decadent photographs, Araki, specialising in black and white, Anders Petersen and his images of intimate scenes, as well as Robert Mapplethorpe with his minimalist and distinctive staging and composition.

In 1970, nude photography was fully accepted and there were even magazines specialised in the subject. Artsper features photographs by Bert Stern, Ren Hang, Eric Ceccarini, Maurice Renoma, Dani Olivier and Laetitia Lesaffre.

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