In my experience and that of others I have talked to, for an artist or a photographer who is genuinely interested in the pictures he is making, there's no talk about getting aroused in a session. Making good pictures or drawings is an intense and complex mental activity which takes a lot of concentration, and it just does not allow for baser instincts to let themselves be heard, and this even tends to include things like hunger and sleepiness, which sometimes let themselves be felt only later.
When I was a young art student the world was a very different place as far as attitudes to nudity go. It was a little before the time of Playboy and other above ground publications that feature unclothed images. When my college dorm mates found out that I actually had studio classes where we drew from naked females I became a center of interest and questions. What was it like? Did I get aroused? Could I smuggle in a camera?
I gave up trying to explain that it was part of learning the craft of the artist, that it was fairly clinical, and that many of the models were not exactly perfect specimens. I also felt somehow secretly privileged compared to my contemporaries because I was allowed into that world of the female nude which many of them could only imagine at the time.
To continue my studies in painting and the graphic arts I sometimes worked as a model myself. Being somewhat shy, I went to the local art school for employment, rather than in my own university. They were always happy to have "fresh meat" so they hired me for portrait, costume, figure, and even anatomy! This last category included having the instructor draw muscles on my limbs and torso, but it had the advantage that the positions or poses were somewhat more relaxed.
In the figure classes it was still customary for males to wear some sort of sac or jock strap because total nudity was reserved for the women -- "no embarrassing appendages". The female models at the time though that this was unfair discrimination, and they were right, but consider the time.
When I later moved to New York I attended drawing sessions with models held in various artists&Mac226; studios. Dates and schedules were usually posted on local bulletin boards, so, for a small fee one could pick a session according to length of poses and even body type of model. There was a real atmosphere of seriousness and concentration in these sessions because the people were there to work and learn. Which finally gets me to the point of this letter. I dated a young, aspiring actress who was learning her craft, and, in the process, having trouble with her stage appearance.
Her directors and instructors told her that she did not seem to be comfortable on stage or in front of an audience. The acting techniques that she tried did not seem to help. She was about ready to give up and abandon the profession of acting. I tried to think her through the problem and I came up with an idea. I suggested that she apply as a model at a local art school, as I had done years before. My thought was that if she could train herself to reveal her body and its intimate secrets, standing before an audience as a clothed actress would be simple and natural.
Her immediate reaction was that she couldn't possible disrobe before a mixed class. My argument was that she only had to concentrate on the idea that it was not a sexual experience, that in a classroom situation her body was meant to be a source of inspiration and not arousement. I did have to give her some practical advice about contending with the occasional male who might approach with other ideas.
The end result was that she took on a modeling job. After a period of adjustment she got used to showing her trim, lovely figure, and she even began to enjoy seeing the results of the students' work. She became more comfortable in her own body, her acting improved and she continued her studies.
It was a time of rather different attitudes and it has been interesting to see the changes that have occurred over the years in the appreciation of the nude.
W. H. Peck
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