“If you look closely at a tree you’ll notice it is knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll doubtless say it again, but the best thing about this blog is the friends I’ve made as a result of it. I love how many people want to whip off their clothes for a virtual stranger! But those who do are always good company with interesting views and people I can chat easily to and learn from. And it was no different when I rocked up to Richmond station to meet @lovelustlondon at 8.30 on a Saturday morning.
What followed was 12k of walking and four hours of chat with a few photo stops along the way. Oh, and a few near misses with dog walkers and runners! In no other part of my life would I be walking around a park with someone I’ve only known for a couple of hours talking about relationships, dating, kinks, vulnerabilities, cock size, inverted nipples, big bellies. And concerns looking good enough for sex parties. That last one was me not him. “Well, you’ve just seen me naked and I go to them.” “But you look great!” “And loads of people who look at your photos think you look great too!”.
Just another example of this community helps each other realise that what you might see as imperfection is what other people see as beautiful. I was very happy to find the above quote; it fits so perfectly with both this photograph and our conversations. And talking of beauty, how amazing does he look here?!
I tweeted yesterday about an online shopping fail. I thought I’d ordered five; five bunches arrived. “Do a monkey business Sinful Sunday and cover yourself in bananas,” messaged Jedi Hamster. OK…
One of my favourite things about Easter is all the yellow. Such a happy colour. When I walked into my Dad’s house yesterday and saw these roses in the hallway I had no doubt I’d use them in a photo. I already knew yellow roses were a symbol of friendship as I bought a yellow rose bush for a good friend’s 40th birthday a couple of years ago, but looking at a site about flowers earlier I also discovered that in many Eastern cultures yellow represents joy, wisdom and power. Friendship and joy, wisdom and power. Perfect!
It will be of no surprise to any of you who read this blog regularly that I love a bit of outdoor nudity! It’s such a happy joyful thing. It was the awesome Molly Moore who introduced me to that joy. Sure, I had swiftly slipped out of my clothes in a park in Berlin and one in South London for a couple of al fresco photos before my day out with Molly in summer 2015, but I had never relished the feeling of being naked in nature. That day as I sank into a bath not of bubbles in my shiny white bathroom, but of grime and bugs under the dappled light of a canopy of leaves, I truly relaxed. Staring up at the bright July sunlight dancing and twinkling through the thick green leaves was as absorbing as looking at a night sky when you’re in the middle of nowhere.
Later when I was preparing to post the first photo from that day I discovered the Japanese expression shin-rin yoku. Shin-rin yoku translates as forest bathing. It’s a practice that promotes the calming and restorative benefits of spending time in forests and participating in activities that keep you in touch with nature. Oh how I thoroughly endorse that practice! Two of those photos are now framed in my bathroom and they make me smile every time I hop in the shower. The white lie I tell visitors (because everyone asks about them!) who don’t know about this blog trips easily off my tongue now: “Oh, my friend belongs to a photography club and her monthly prompt was nudes and she wanted to do something a bit different.”
Since that day nearly two years ago I have had many more days out naked under the trees and it never gets less joyful. And even more than being the subject I love wielding my camera and being a catalyst for others’ forest bathing experiences. Some of my favourite photos from days out with friends will never make my blog as they compromise people’s anonymity, but are the ones where faces are free of frown lines but crumpled with laughter.
Tabitha with her arms aloft and her face tipped up to the sun, laughing like a sun goddess in her element; Chiaroscuro flicking two fingers at me and roaring into the camera as I laugh at him trying to climb a tree naked (updated on his instruction to include the shot of him telling me to fuck off!); Maria with an almost beatific smile on her face as I photograph her in a cemetery that nature is reclaiming; Haiku and I giggling like out of control school girls as we reach the other side of the bridge and both look over our shoulders at Jedi Hamster. Whatever personal reasons people have for taking part in Exposing 40 I love that they have so much fun doing it.
And of course there’s the faintly ridiculous. A dog and a fox crashing mine and Maria’s peaceful spot with their vicious-sounding fight. Exhibit A telling me to ‘get back down, I haven’t taken it yet’ during this shoot, not knowing that from my position prone across the path I could see someone walking towards me; small talk with walkers asking about some ruins as we grin and silently will them to move on so we can get our kit off again! Oh yes. Getting naked in nature really is the most uplifting freeing fun thing to do.
Here are a few of my favourite photos from those days out, including two completely new ones from recent shoots with Maria and Honey.
The Dandelion’s pallid tube
Astonishes the Grass,
And Winter instantly becomes
An infinite Alas —
The tube uplifts a signal Bud
And then a shouting Flower, —
The Proclamation of the Suns
That sepulture is o’er.
How glorious is it when you feel the sun on your naked skin for the first time after the long cold dark months? Today I snoozed, leafed through the papers and played with dandelions. It’s still only spring, but today it felt like summer came calling to remind us what joy there is to come…
A somber song, but a photo that makes me happy. The definition in his back makes my own spine tingle.