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Naked Before the Camera: A Selection of Vintage Nudes [NSFW]

Why do models pose in the nude? Why take it all off to stand, shimmy, or pretend to throw a punch in front of a photographer’s immortalizing lens? The Naked before the Camera exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art surveys nude photography from 1850s to the 1950s and beyond. Flip through the rabbit eared nude studies for Parisian artists and the tattered American “fitness magazine” pages of men flexing in loincloths. Check out Brassaï’s recreation of a brothel and Félix-Jacques-Antoine Moulin’s softer nudes before he was arrested in 1851 for works “so obscene that even to pronounce the titles would be to commit an indecency.” Peek into the finger-print smudged world of Lady Ottoline Morrell, an Edwardian-era rebel whose estate parties featured D. H. Lawrence, T. S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and young girls frolicking naked in the garden with innocent pagan glee. The Met’s collection features a few classics from Man Ray, Larry Clark, and Robert Mapplethorpe, but it’s these vintage bits that really catch our attention. 


Photo credit: Female Nude with Mask. Unknown Artist, French. ca. 1870. Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005

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