Nude Photography Gets a New Look
Photos courtesy of Andrew Grace
Andrew Grace’s work is redefining nude photography. While his work spans more than a decade, his newest fascination is exploring the "wondrousness" of the nude body. The Los Angeles-based filmmaker and photographer’s ongoing Second Mirror series consists of stunning black and white images that explore the body in unexpected ways. The photographs have the ability to intrigue and astound because of their artful abstraction. Grace's penchant for the combination of nudity and abstraction was inspired by his grandfather, a painter whose work involved the two genres. Of course, many photographers, like Bruce Weber and Herb Ritts, are famous for black and white nude photography. Yet Grace's nudes are truly his own, as evidenced by his innovative approach and aesthetic result.
Grace captures bodies in wondrous detail, creating striking and thought-provoking images. His camera turns skin, muscles, and folds into deserts, boulders, and hills. Often, the bodily members in each photo are difficult to identify right away. By playing with bodily features in this manner, Grace forces viewers' brains to shift and contemplate each photo. This effect directly contrasts today’s popular media that revolves around instant gratification. With the Second Mirror series, ambiguous and unconventional bodyscapes challenge viewers by provoking them to actively think. Grace says, “I like that people have to stop and process this new data...and I love for my work to create that interruption [of the brain],” admitting that he too loves getting perplexed by the bodies in each photo from time to time.
Second Mirror's unique aesthetic causes some viewers to have complex and visceral reactions. At his showing in late September, one man was ‘discomforted’ by a photo of a full-bodied woman with prominent breasts. Grace was surprised at the end of the night when the man returned to say he had grown to appreciate the same photo. In addition, some viewers may perceive sexuality in Second Mirror, but Grace draws a separation in his work: “In this series, [sexuality] shouldn’t be explicit or overt. I think sometimes, at least in the culture I grew up in, nudity and sexuality are together…when they are vastly different things.”
Much of the series appreciates parts of the body that are otherwise overlooked, hidden or ‘shameful.’ Stretch marks and cellulite become architectural and grandiose. Skin blemishes serve as interesting points of reference. Perhaps Grace captures bodies in such new light because his taste is outside of societal preferences: “I prefer [to capture] older and larger bodies—they’re more exciting. I’m after something dramatically different.”
Second Mirror reveals the richness in the bodies of several heavyset women who look just as proud and fascinating as the well-muscled physiques right next to them. But the series goes beyond the recent cultural push for body acceptance; Grace's vision and artistic drive function at a deeper level. He explores the infinite multiplicity of bodies, discovering, in his own words, “who we are as wondrous things, these inscrutable beings that we are. That’s beautiful—embracing the wondrousness of the human body.”