“The Naked Truth and More Besides Nude Photography around 1900” brings together hundreds of nude photos from an era we normally associate with old-fashioned prudery. In fact, nude photos were incredibly popular at that time. They had existed since the earliest days of the medium, and by the 1880s it was getting much cheaper to reproduce photographs. This led to a boom in the distribution of all photos, nudes included.
Soon nudity could be seen in magazines, advertising, postcards, collectible cards found in cigarette packs and large-format posters. The exhibition looks at a range of different styles and purposes of nudes, ranging from artistic studies to the blatantly pornographic. Rural images and scenes from Classical myths were also popular, as were photos of the nudist movement, which was seeing its first wave of popularity at this time.
%Gallery-187444%The explosion in nudes led to society questioning their traditional assumptions. The marks that corsets left on the flesh made some question whether they should be worn. Homoerotica became more widespread and the first homoerotic magazine, Der Eigene, started in 1896 and published many male nudes.
People who wanted to buy or sell nude photos had to skirt the law. By dubbing the images “for artistic purposes only,” they could claim their interest wasn’t prurient, a bit like how head shops nowadays label bongs “for tobacco use only.” The police did make frequent busts, and one of the largest collections of nude photos from this era is housed at the Police Museum of Lower Saxony, which supplied many of the more risqué photos for this exhibition.
Then as now, there was a continuous debate over what was or was not obscene. Simple nudes were generally considered acceptable, especially if they were artistic studies or images of “primitive” peoples. Surprisingly, images of nude children were also more acceptable than today since they were considered images of innocence. While some child nudes are on display at the museum, none appear in this article.
“The Naked Truth and More Besides Nude Photography around 1900” runs until August 25.
In tough economic times, some hotels and resorts are ready to try just about anything to revive their sagging fortunes. On May 1, The Fawlty Towers Motel in Cocoa Beach rebranded itself as a “clothing-optional resort” in a bid to revive its sagging fortunes, and according to David Broad, 54, a Welsh national who manages the resort, business is picking up.
But not everyone in Cocoa Beach is thrilled with the new naturist business model. According to Florida Today, a bid by prudish local residents to shut the place down fizzled after local authorities determined that Fawlty Towers had the legal right to go nude.
David Broad spoke to Gadling and gave us the low down on nude resort rules and etiquette, the efforts to sanction Fawlty Towers and other clothing optional resorts, and why the resort allows nudism but not provocative clothing or swinging.How did the place transform from a regular motel into a clothing optional resort?
My best friend who owns the place bought it in 1988. It’s a small mom and pop motel with 32 rooms and over the last few years they’ve been building bigger hotels and they have higher advertising budgets, so business slowed down and we decided to try this.
And business has picked up?
We’ve definitely been busier on the weekends. Weekdays are picking up too now that more and more people are hearing about it. Room rates start at just $79 so it’s quite affordable as well.
On your website, the people pictured are wearing clothes. What’s up with that?
No, it’s just for the photographs; people don’t want to be photographed with their clothes off. It can compromise you, depending on what your job is.
Tell me about the nudist demographic?
We had a gentleman here the other day from Australia who read about the place. Quite a few people from Germany, Switzerland, Canada, everywhere really. It’s all ages. It’s 21 and over only though actually. The average age on the weekend is probably 50-60, but we have some younger people as young as 23 or 24.
That tracks with what I noticed on nude beaches in Greece this summer. Do you think older people are just more comfortable with their bodies and less self-conscious?
I think so. It doesn’t matter if you’re 200 pounds or 500 pounds, no one cares.
Americans are generally a bit more prudish about nudity than in other parts of the world, but tell me about some of the backlash you’ve encountered from the more conservative members of your community?
There’s been some negative comments in the papers here. The city was a little bit up in arms about us in the beginning but they’ve eased off because there’s been no trouble here. Even the police have noticed, there’s been no trouble here. Most of our customers are in their 50s or 60s and they’re in bed by 10 o’clock. The city admitted in the end that we were operating legally and there’s nothing they can do about us.
You have a list of rules on your website and I wanted to ask you about a few of these. The first rule says that the atmosphere must remain non-threatening and non-sexual at all times.
When people are nude they aren’t allowed to do any petting around the pool. You know, touching each other, kissing, nothing like that.
And then it says that swingers and swinging is prohibited. Why is that?
In the privacy of their rooms, they can do what they want. But if they’re out there trying to recruit people we stop that straightaway. We don’t want it to be a swingers resort. We do background checks on everyone before they can come here. It’s to make sure the person has no criminal history so everyone is kept safe.
It also says on your website that provocative clothing is prohibited. Why is that?
We don’t want people parading around in stockings and stuff like that. It’s a proper naturist place. Proper naturists don’t walk around in see-through negligées and things like that.
So it’s OK to be naked but you can’t wear a see-through negligée or a thong?
It’s a hard one to explain. It’s like drawing attention to yourself, whereas if everyone is nude then no one is drawing attention to themselves.
I see that you have a gym as well. Do people work out nude?
No, the gym is half mile away and you have to wear clothes there. The clothing optional part is just the hotel, the tiki bar and the pool area. It’s all very private and secluded, no one can see in here at all.
Do you get some first timers who are unaware of nude resort etiquette?
Oh yes, but everyone is comfortable. Some start apprehensive, but everyone is friendly and welcoming. We limit cellphone use and cameras to make sure people aren’t taking photos at the pool.
When you get very attractive women there, are the men able to contain themselves?
Everyone behaves themselves. No one is judged.
Does the staff go nude as well?
No, no, we have to be dressed according to the state law, unfortunately. Otherwise, they classify us adult entertainment.
What do you want America to know about your resort and other clothing-optional places?
It’s very private. No one gets exposed to this if they don’t want to be. We don’t drag people in here. People come on their own free will and it’s not thrown in anyone’s face. We don’t have a sign outside reading “Nudist Hotel” or anything like that.
The local government says it has received numerous complaints about bathers baring all at the eight-mile-long beach. The spot is a favorite for families and attracts more than a million visitors a year, most of who wear bathing suits. There have been complaints about nudists “approaching” non-nudists, and also reports of inappropriate behavior.
The local government has put up signs forbidding nudity and threatens to prosecute violators. However, nudist organizations have pointed out that being naked in public is not illegal in the UK and that the local council’s ruling is thus illegal.
Nudism is a legal gray area in the UK. While simply getting naked isn’t a criminal offense, nudists have been prosecuted for using their nudity “to harass, alarm or distress others.” This rule is vague enough to be applied to a wide range of cases and of course depends on the sensitivity of the person making the complaint.
Nudism seems to cause controversy every year in the UK. One nudist hiker in Scotland has been jailed repeatedly, with his latest sentence being for 21 months. A nudist B&B in Staffordshire, England, has caused many neighbors to complain.
What do you think of nudism in public places? Should it be allowed? Would you go to a nude beach? Tell us what you think in the comments section!
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons. This photo actually shows Haulover Beach, an official nudist beach in Florida.
Last year we reported on a major victory for nudist hiking in Switzerland. A hiker in the conservative Swiss canton of Appenzell got fined for baring all, appealed, and won.
Now that victory has turned into defeat. The BBC reports that Switzerland’s highest court has ruled that local authorities can fine people for hiking in the buff. Naked hiking isn’t illegal per se, but but public indecency is, and if the local authorities decide naked hiking is indecent, well, then you can’t do it. And since this came from the nation’s highest court, it applies to all of Switzerland.
The court stated its ruling was only a “marginal” infringement on personal liberty. Much more marginal than, say, forbidding women to vote, which is what Appenzell did until 1990. This makes me the local authorities aren’t so much concerned with individual rights as they are with a buttoned-up conservatism.
But individual rights are an issue here. In a truly free country, shouldn’t a person have the right to get an all-body tan while hiking? In a truly free country, shouldn’t people who are offended by the sight of naked strangers be able to have a picnic in peace?
Nudist activist Steven Gough has been given 657 days in a Scottish prison only a minute after finishing his previous sentence.
The BBC reports that the naked hiker has served numerous terms in jail for public nudity and appearing in court nude. He insists it’s his right to bare all wherever and whenever he wants. His refusal to wear clothes has led to an epic fight with the legal system in which neither side will back down. Every time he’s released from prison in Perth, Scotland, he walks out naked, straight into the arms of waiting policemen. Gough has spent much of the past ten years behind bars.
Gough once walked from Land’s End to John O’Groats in the nude. That’s the longest hike in the British Isles, going from the southwest to northeast tips, a distance of about 1,200 miles.
As an avid hiker and a big fan of Scotland’s and England’s trails, I have to say I’m impressed by anyone who has done this route, with or without clothes. Hiking in the nude is a legal gray area in the UK. Gough is generally arrested for disturbing the peace or contempt of court. While personally I don’t want to see Gough’s man berries while enjoying a view of the Highlands, I have to ask just who is he hurting? At a time when many thugs from the recent riots are getting lighter sentences, the persecution of Steven Gough seems a spiteful response from a legal system that doesn’t like to be laughed at.