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Nudity in the Modeling Industry

Nudity is a prevalent theme in the modeling industry, especially for high-end fashion editorials. These days, it seems that nudity is something that models are expected to be ok with and almost mandatory if they want to “make it” in the industry.

Photo by Neal Troester

As a model, it is so important to be comfortable with your body, but that doesn’t mean you have to be comfortable posing nude or semi-nude in front of a camera. While nude photography can be absolutely beautiful, it’s not for everyone, and that’s ok. When deciding if you’re comfortable being nude in photographs, there are many things you have to first consider.

In the modeling world there is are many different types of print modeling jobs. From high fashion editorials in big name magazines all the way to photographic art on display in an art gallery.

An important assumption regarding artistic modeling, as well as high-fashion and even some commercial modeling, is that the model should be aware that the nudity probability is very high. If your agent or a photographer asks if you’re interested in doing an artistic modelling assignment, you should clarify what extent of artistic modelling they are wanting, and if it’s no nudity, implied or partial nudity, or full nudity. It is imperative to set the expectations before the shoot so you don’t feel pressured to do something you’re not comfortable with when you arrive on set. I should also take a second to mention that artistic nude modeling is VERY different than pornographic modeling, so be sure to set those boundaries as well.

Being photographed nude is a lifelong commitment that isn’t easily erased, especially with how easily accessible the internet is. Once a photo is out there, if you regret it or it’s causing problems for you professionally or personally, the likelihood of you being able to get it fully removed is next to zero. It can have lasting effects on your current and future professional and personal life whether it’s in the name of art, in a men’s magazine, or on a website that is considered pornographic. Many models have jobs outside of modeling who may run the risk of being fired if their photos are discovered. For others, it may be family or religious reasons that make them hesitate or refuse to shoot nude. Regardless of the reason, nudity just isn’t an option for some models.

“Does she have to get naked to be a model?” is usually one of the first questions that most parents ask when their child is interested in being a model. If they are under age 18, obviously it’s illegal, but there’s that grey area when it comes to whether their teenager will be made to look older and more provocative, or wear garments that may be considered revealing and imply nudity. Unfortunately (generally speaking), the modelling industry isn’t known for its consideration regarding the model’s morals.

Does a model have to get nude to “make it”? Not at all. But will they lose jobs if they don’t? Definitely. Setting boundaries is often seen as a negative in the modeling industry because it sets “limitations” on a model. Even if the job doesn’t initially require any nudity, sometimes the creative direction of the shoot just naturally ends up with some implied or partial nudity. If a client knows up front that a model refuses to do any kind of nudity, they’ll pass them up for a model that is open to it in case that is where the shoot ends up. They don’t want to be limited creatively, so they don’t want a model that’s ‘limited’ in what they will or won’t do. They don’t care about the reasoning behind why a model won’t do something, they’ll just find a model that will do it.

Many models I know have said that they have felt pressured to strip down while on the job on more than one occasion, even when the booking didn’t initially call for any type of nudity. I myself have been put in that situation a number of times. Sometimes I’m ok with it, and sometimes I’m not. The more experience you get, you quickly learn how to gage the situation and if you should or shouldn’t do as they ask. In some situations and for some photographers, I’m comfortable doing implied or partial nudity, while other times I won’t even pose in a bikini or lingerie for them. It’s all about the atheistic of the shoot and how you will be portrayed in the final image. Have I ever posed fully nude? Yes. But do I do it for just anyone for any reason? No. It fully depends on the project and photographer.

Unfortunately, when it comes to models feeling pressure to shoot nude on the job, the photographer often gets the brunt of the blame. However, not all photographers are complete creeps- most are just doing their job.

Fashion photography is all about selling a product, but fashion photographers have to add a creative side to the shoot to make the photograph stand out. It is the pressure from designers and brands looking to set themselves apart from competitors and captivate the consumer to get more sales. The demands that society puts on the industry to produce edgy and provocative ad campaigns that grab people’s attention are the driving forces behind the pressures of nudity in fashion. Fashion is a business, and sex sells.

Unfortunately though, with every professional photographer, you have about 10 more that fall under the gross, borderline predatory photographer, and this is why shooting nude is such a fine line to walk. There are those photographers out there who will pressure models into stripping down for them, and put them in compromising poses or take unflattering shots of them while they’re changing poses. Then they’ll use these photos either for their own personal use and/or sell them online to websites a model may not want to be featured on. Luckily, models are becoming more and more outspoken on the issue of exploitation that some photographers are guilty of, but many others continue to timidly do as they are asked, in fear of being black-listed by some of the biggest names in the business. This is why it’s SO important to set your boundaries, whatever they may be, and really think before you get caught up in the moment or feel pressured to just go with what a photographer asks you to do.

Don’t be a fool thinking that this type of situation will never happen to you. Instead, have a plan for how you will handle it when it does happen. Whatever you choose, you shouldn’t feel bad for saying no if that’s not what you want to do. It’s important to set your standards and stick to your guns on what images you’re comfortable with having out there for people to see. At the end of the day, your family/friends/bosses may not approve, some may never know, while others may not care. But these are all things you must contemplate before stepping in front of the camera. Just because you’re a model doesn’t mean you can’t have morals or standards for yourself.


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