Vintage Nude Photos On Display In Berlin’s Photography Museum

The Museum of Photography in Berlin has just opened an exhibition of nude photos from the turn of the last century.

“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.

[Photo copyright Heinrich Kühn, copyright Estate of the Artist / Galerie Kicken Berlin]

Inside The Fawlty Towers Nudist Resort

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.

A Prude Bares It All On A Nude Beach In Crete

Who wants to read a story about a nude beach from a Catholic prude who won’t even take their clothes off? A month ago, I wrote a piece about a nude beach in Patmos that generated some hate mail, both from strangers and friends. I’m not a naturist and the fact that I took a few cheap shots at the age and appearance of many of the nudists I’ve encountered in Greece and elsewhere rubbed some the wrong way.

But a few of my friends also gave me a hard time for being “uptight” and “close minded.” When in Rome, one reminded me, do as the Romans do. Another friend that works as an editor at a magazine I contribute to wrote that she was “disappointed” in Gadling’s editor for “not insisting that” I “go native in the name of journalism,” and concluded that the least I “could have done was take it off on a nude beach.”I took all of this in but resolved to do nothing about it. My distaste for public nudity dates back to at least high school, when we were forced to shower in a dirty, open shower room after gym class. I’m sure that some guys enjoy that kind of male bonding, but I’m not one of them, thank you very much.

Still, despite my misgivings and hang-ups about public nudity, I couldn’t help but reconsider my position on nude beaches after spending four nights in Plakias, a quiet little beach town on Crete’s south coast a couple weeks ago. Our apartment was directly across the street from a beach that had a very lively nude section at the end of it and I couldn’t help but notice how much fun the nudists seemed to be having.

We didn’t sit amongst them, but they were close enough that I could see what was going on, and my sons and I played the role of nude beach voyeurs a few times, taking slow strolls and swims near their turf. The average age on this beach was about 55 or 60. But I feel compelled to admit that there were some younger, more attractive nude couples on this beach as well, so my earlier insinuation that nude beaches are the stomping ground of creepy, obese seniors is obviously well off the mark.

Over the course of a few days, I saw a few attractive women in their 20s and 30s casually strolling about and frolicking on the beach in the buff, yet attracting no real attention, and it reminded me of a revelatory moment on my first visit to Germany at the age of 23.

On my first night in the country, I went down to use the sauna and spa in my hotel in the historic eastern city of Erfurt and saw what I thought was a mirage: two absolutely lovely young women taking a shower outside the sauna with no curtain or door to impede anyone’s view.

I stopped dead in my tracks at the sight of them. I knew it wasn’t socially acceptable to get a very good look but I couldn’t immediately leave before making sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me. Call me a pervert, if you like, but I’m an American, and in my country, beautiful women do not take showers in public.

Inside the sauna, there were even more attractive women completely naked and I decided on the spot that Germany was a wonderful country indeed. But I couldn’t help but conclude that such a scene would have been impossible in the U.S.A. If word got out that gorgeous women were showering and lounging about nude somewhere in the 50 states, there would be pandemonium and the clubs would have to hire security to protect the naked women.

But Germany, Greece and other countries are different – attractive women can flaunt it on the beach in the buff and no one seems to notice. Or perhaps everyone notices but does an awfully good job of pretending that they aren’t noticing. In any event, I took note of the fact that the Plakias beach had a few good looking young people having fun going nude but still saw no reason to take part.

That is, until our last morning in Plakias. My wife came into the living room, where I was writing, and said, “Can you watch the kids for a while? I think I want to do something crazy.”

“Something crazy?” I asked. “Like what?”

“I’m going skinny-dipping on the nude beach,” she said. “We’re leaving town and this is the perfect time.”

I should mention here that my wife is not the kind of freethinking radical who would have danced naked at Woodstock. No. She was raised in a small town in the Midwest, and is a God-fearing, modest, thoroughly American lass. But on this day, she wanted to take a nude swim just for the hell of it. An hour later, she returned, looking quite content.

“Were you really gallivanting around naked on the nude beach?” I asked.

“I wasn’t gallivanting,” she protested. “I just took a quick swim and then came right back out and got dressed, but it was fun, you should try it.”

Not to be outdone, I thought, what the hell, and headed across the street for a skinny-dip of my own. I made my way down the textile section of the beach towards the nude section, which is right beneath a huge rocky cliff popular with rock climbers, and saw an attractive, nude young woman with disproportionately large breasts playing paddle tennis with a nude male companion.

Their body parts were flying all over the beach as they lunged and dove for shots in a spirited contest that, bizarrely, seemed to be attracting no attention whatsoever on the crowded beach. Again, I was sure that a scene like this one would inspire mayhem in the U.S.

Scenes like this one are both a best and worst case scenario for men. I won’t get into all the practical considerations of being a novice on a nude beach- men will know what I’m referring to here- but suffice it to say that guys don’t want their hearts beating too fast while in the buff.

There was a lounge chair available right next to the nude paddle tennis couple but I felt a little shady taking that one, so I walked further on towards an open sun bed a safe distance away but very close to the shoreline, bathing suit still on.

Happily, most of the other nude sunbathers were either asleep, getting (nude) massages from two Asian women who worked the beach, or were absorbed in books. If no one is looking at a woman with quintuple D cups playing paddle tennis, surely no one will notice me taking a quick nude swim, I thought.

I was safely in the cool, clean Libyan Sea, naked, within about 30 seconds of nervously shedding my suit about as hastily as one might flee a burning building. I didn’t run into the water, but you can call it a quick trot. As soon as I was submerged, I felt cool, free and relaxed. Why had I never done this before?

After a few minutes in the water, another attractive nude woman, who was snorkeling, came floating right by me. Maybe she was in pursuit of some colorful fish, I don’t know, but I was struck by how cavalierly she was floating around, bare butt in the air, totally unconcerned about swimming right near other bathers like me.

After about a half hour, I swam back to the shore, and purposely exited right in front of my chair. Somehow, on the way out of the water, I felt more self-conscious, probably because I was dripping wet and knew I looked ridiculous. It was probably only 15 steps but I had nightmare visions of bumping into people I knew – a priest, a former teacher, a colleague from work, who knows – even though I lived thousands of miles away.

That didn’t happen, but in my rush to get my suit back on, I struggled to get the second leg in the proper hole and nearly keeled over. I must have looked ridiculous. I enjoyed the nude swim but I still draw the line at lounging about naked on the beach, at least until they invent a 100 SPF sun block specifically designed for genitalia.

But I have to admit, I dug the nude beach in Plakias. Maybe next time I won’t be in such a hurry. Who knows, maybe at some point, I’ll become so European that the sight of beautiful naked women won’t even arouse my attention. But I doubt it.

(Images via Wolfgang Straudt, and Dave Seminara)

Coral Castle: Testament To A Broken Heart

Almost a hundred years ago in southern Florida, a heartbroken man accomplished something incredible.

Edward Leedskalnin was an immigrant from Latvia. He moved to Florida in 1918 hoping to cure his tuberculosis. But it wasn’t only his lungs that were sick; his heart was sick too. When he was 26 back in Latvia, so the story goes, he had been engaged to Agnes Scuffs, ten years his junior. His “Sweet Sixteen” jilted him the day before the wedding and poor Ed never recovered. He immigrated first to Canada, then the United States, working various jobs before making it to Florida. He never got over his lost love and never married.

That heartbreak led to an obsession.

Over the course of 28 years, he excavated more than 1,000 tons of bedrock and constructed a weird fantasyland of towers, sculptures and furniture out of massive stone blocks. The result was Coral Castle. Hints of his lost love can been found all over, such as the heart-shaped table and the stone cradle that’s so well balanced it can rock. There are stranger objects too, like an elaborate sundial and a tube through which you can see the North Star.

%Gallery-159645%Leedskalnin usually worked at night and didn’t let people watch him. This created an air of mystery around it and led to claims that he used magical forces to build the castle. After all, people asked, how could a 5-foot-tall tubercular man move such massive stones? Actually Leedskalnin came from a family of stone masons and used this knowledge to make his amazing creations. A few photographs show him using devices such as a block and tackle to move the stones.

Coral Castle isn’t a castle and it isn’t made of coral. In fact it’s made of oolitic limestone, but that doesn’t sound nearly as romantic. Not that it matters, the whole place is romantic. While the object of Leedskalnin’s love never came to Coral Castle despite many invitations, countless other people have visited and been inspired. Billy Idol wrote his song “Sweet Sixteen” about the story and exploitation director Doris Wishman filmed her bizarre “Nude on the Moon” there. Hit the link to see the trailer for this 1961 nudie cutie, but be warned it’s not work safe.

Coral Castle is in Homestead, Florida, and is open every day of the week. Check out the gallery to see some of the amazing monuments Leedskalnin made to his lost love. Also check out our article on Mystery Hill, an equally strange place in New Hampshire.

Nudists Cause Controversy On Welsh Beach

Cefn Sidan beach in Pembrey, Wales, is the latest flashpoint in an ongoing controversy over nudists in the UK.

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.