Him: “What a joy to play with people who like to capture the moment.”
Her: “What a joy to play with people who make every moment worth capturing.”
This was an exchange in a group chat the morning after I had introduced a regular partner to a good friend of mine and oh, what a lot of joy we had captured.
As I sat down to write this post, I started to think about my Venn diagram of sex and photography and I realised it’s actually a circle. Well, at least if you only consider the period since I started Exposing40 five years ago. I didn’t set out to create an artistic project that was a gateway to capture sex scenes, moments of quiet intimacy or celebratory studies of my partners’ bodies, but that is somehow what I have ended up doing. Every sexual partner I have had in the last five years has either been photographed by me or been the photographer and in many cases both. From the person who I spent just one afternoon with to the relationship that lasted nearly seven years, countless moments have been captured.
So why has nude photography become a red thread in my relationships? I think there are many reasons.
The main one, of course, is that I just love photographing naked bodies. Anyone who knows my work knows I photograph many many friends so nude photography is not an explicitly sexual thing for me. I love the topography of the human body—I love how different we all are and I particularly love how the naked body looks when shot in nature. There are few people, however body confident, who are completely devoid of hang-ups but I have yet to photograph anyone in the wild who hasn’t had a look of joy spread across their face when they see the results. The endorphins that rush through you as you feel the fresh air on your naked body is liberating and it’s a great privilege to be the person capturing those carefree happy moments.
For me there is trust and intimacy in photographing someone naked that can feel more significant than sex, so when you love photographing naked bodies as much as I do it’s almost inevitable that you’ll end up shooting the people you are having sex with. You already relish their body, love to gaze on it, touch it and commit it to memory for the times when you’re not together, so why not also photograph it? When you’re deep in a moment, or even just hanging out with a partner, you might not notice the way their hair sits on a certain part of their body, an unusual scar or the way they cup their cock when they’re relaxing. I love to absorb the little details of someone that you only pick up while looking at a photograph.
My absolute favourite moments to capture are those after sex, where you are just hanging out. It’s those images that I find myself looking at more often than I do the blurred ones we may have captured 15 minutes earlier. There are a couple of quiet moments from this summer that I look at often. A lover lying back, clearly deep in thought, absentmindedly stroking my knee. Another where he’s just said “we look so good together” and I raised the camera above my head to take an aerial shot of us cuddling.
And while I love the quiet moments, I love the blurred moments being captured too! My absolute favourite sexual thing to photograph is a man masturbating for my camera. That will literally never get old. At the moment I keep returning to a recent photo of me sucking cock—I knew I loved sucking cock but I hadn’t ever realised just how happy I look in that moment. From the evening I mentioned at the top of this piece there are shots of him sucking her strap-on right after she’s fucked me, and ones of me fucking him, him gripping my waist, me gripping his thigh—a literal white knuckle ride. When you have these visual records you see things you didn’t notice at the time and relive amazing moments. Why wouldn’t you want to take them? If I can while away time looking at holiday photos and family snaps I sure as hell can reflect on hot happy sexy memories.
I don’t know if photographing partners has more meaning for me because of the kind of relationships I have but it’s definitely a way of feeling closer to them when we are not together. I am a solo living solo poly person with zero interest in the relationship escalator or in ever living with anyone. I tend to see partners every two or three weeks, depending on how our diaries look and that’s enough for me. I virtually never talk to them between dates. But just because it never occurs to me to call it doesn’t mean I am not thinking about them. I will often ping a photo back to someone to share a hot memory from previous times together or I’ll send a nude photo I have seen with a note saying ‘you’d look so hot in this’ or ‘please can we try this shot next time you’re here?’ For me the measure of affection and/or lust I feel for someone is not me plotting holidays, asking to meet family or religiously saying good morning and goodnight, it’s the WhatsApps with ‘I have this idea…’ and the time I spend musing on and planning photo adventures.
That use of nude photography to stay close to people took on a life of its own during lockdown when I embarked on my daily photo project, sending a daily nude to three partners every single day for 122 days. At times it was a right pain in the arse, but ultimately it kept be tapped into a part of myself and people who matter to me when I could very easily have just turned that part of myself off. As we approach winter and more periods of isolation, I am sure nude photography will feature heavily in my distraction techniques again. I don’t plan on restarting my photo a day project but I am starting a new project. Scenes on Screens will see me using video chat to photograph friends and lovers in their own home from my own. I will always find a way to bring my camera and beautiful naked people together.
Quick tips on photographing your lover nude
Take lots of photos then choose your faves! It’s not like we can run out film anymore.
Make sure everyone is comfortable both spiritually and physically.
Make sure you have their consent before you snap—no grabbing the camera in the heat of the moment.
Keep the nude photos between you unless otherwise agreed.
Don’t worry about lighting or posing or anything—just have fun.
Have a laugh and most of all, embrace the joys of photographing your lover!