Nude modeling, an Excellent Thérapy?
[There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection – that is the true essence of beauty.] Steve Maraboli
As part of my reflections on sensuality, one day I happened to see Patrick Weksteen’s website (cf.my introduction article on sensuality and sensualism). He too was born in the north of France (and nearly has the same family name as my mother, with the exception of one letter): NudeVISION, La Photo Bien-Etre.
Intrigued by that concept (is nude photography really a source of wellbeing?), I decided to contact him to find out more about it.
Photographer since 1971, Patrick Weksteen began specializing in artistic nudes and the beauty of women in 1995. This was motivated by his ability to make his models feel comfortable, especially when naked. Perfectly at ease with what he’s doing, he likes to photograph people whose work is not modeling. He developed the concept of « PHOTO-THERAPIE® – ou le bien-être par la photographie » (registered trademark, as well as NudeVISION & BELLES inconNUES).
Patrick says that he discovered the ‘phototherapy’ effect thanks to digital technology, which makes it possible to share the images on the spot. It is indeed the spontaneous “Wow, this is me?” reaction which made him realize how radiant his models were after the shooting sessions. He wants to enable these non-professional models to unveil themselves physically and mentally in front of the camera, as freely as possible, without clothes.
For him, a female’s nudity is just a kind of portrait but he admits being challenged at times by the conservative mentality of some people. We have to remember that glamour and nude photography remain a transgressive, even unbearable act to religious extremists or against the moral of certain countries.
Aren’t all women in the world on a quest for the same grail which is inner beauty, reflected by sensuality and femininity going beyond belonging to any particular ethnic group, religion or skin color?
And, if asked whether this search for femininity and sensuality through ‘phototherapy’ could be seen as an act of independence, freedom, or even a fantasy, Patrick Weksteen answers, “This search always aims to the appropriation of the self to confirm her female condition and whatever it bears of femininity and seduction.” To support his statement, he refers to a debate he once had with a student who claimed that the women’s behavior and attractiveness is related to early childhood, while Patrick Weksteen believed that it’s innate and already in the genes.
Like my colleague, I create a style of photography related to the quest for absolute beauty and sensuality. Here in South-East Asia, I come across identical behaviors as those described by Patrick Weksteen regarding his models, that is, a feeling of wellbeing and self-confidence following a photo shooting session. On the other hand, I would tend to support his student’s opinion. I have noticed that a model taking off all her clothes often originated from a need to distinguish herself from her culture, her religion or her close family and friends. It seems to confirm her femininity, her uniqueness, a way to say: “I’m a woman before being an Asian, a Muslim or my husband’s wife…”
In fact, I believe that this drive for self-discovery is due to repressive girls’ education or bad experiences during childhood.
Thus, one of my models once told me that she had accepted to pose nude to revenge men, especially her uncle who had raped her when she was 12 years old. (cf. my last article on normality). Numerous scarifications to her wrists proved her pain and the morbid ideas that crossed her mind. She made it through owing to her basic survival instinct and domination towards those males that she hated. She transformed herself into a real sexy doll (she decided later on to undergo a breast surgery), forcing men to bow to her and controlling them with a single goal, vengeance and humiliation.
Unfortunately, this kind of behavior is not that uncommon. The photographer Ellen Fisher Turk could testify, as she discovered the therapeutic effects of photography on victims of sexual aggressions about thirty years ago. She went on with her study making portraits of incest victims, anorexics, etc. In an article, she explains that her initial idea was that posing nude could be comparable to confronting a phobia; if you’re scared of flying, you go on an airplane.
Anyhow, in western countries, phototherapy is a serious medical topic that is not limited to nude photography. The Canadian website http://phototherapy-centre.com/ lists, for example, the various psychological conditions that can be relieved by photography. On the British website http://phototherapy.org.uk/, I found out that the first experiments on medicine and photography dated back to the middle of the nineteenth century and were conducted by a psychiatrist named Hugh Diamond.
On my part, I recognize of course that not all youth experiences lead to this desire or urge to expose one’s body because each of my models has her own life background and education according to her social class and religion.
I remember in fact, that another of my models once revealed that she posed naked to fill a fantasy. She wanted to see the reaction of a man she doesn’t know in front of her body shape. That certainly implies the photographer’s self-control as well as her own. And what to say about that other model who confided that she felt like a tomboy before posing naked in front of my camera?
Others have decided to pose nude to overcome their shyness, their lack of self-confidence, a hectic love relation, or, to keep a nice youth image, to stop feeling like a little girl or simply to open their eyes on their own self.
Feeling womanly and beautiful after a photo shooting session helps them accept who they are. Posing naked brings them to the next step: focus on the inside after having accepted the outside. For my models, the gain of self-confidence through the exploration of that inner beauty is definitely one of the main motivators. At first, this approach might be more intellectual than artistic but as we go along, the exploration of beauty through the mirror of the camera becomes almost exhilarating. The useful and the joyful join together to create psychological impact.
The above exercise of nudity helps in approaching the notion of sensuality with a pure and honest mindset. It enables the participants to see themselves in a more attractive and comfortable angle.
They feel freer (in many ways) and positive because this work on sensuality and on their body shapes has intensified their sense of femininity. For some of them, it’s the start of a new life!
Briefly, the notion of phototherapy as exposed by Patrick Weeksteen is certainly a universal technique and it seems important that both models and photographers of the world exchange their points of view in order to increase our knowledge on the deep inner self.
Discussions about sensuality for a better understanding of that quest for beauty and why women (all?) need to tame their body and their body shape (is it only for seduction?) are of utmost importance to me. As expressed in a previous article on normality, I strongly believe in a “Sacred Feminine” which leads to the Absolute Truth and Infinite Beauty!