Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fashion Nudity and Censorship

Lara Stone for LOVE Magazine August 2010

There's no easy way to say what I'm about to say. But I'll try to be educational about to quell/dispute the myths, rumors, questions, etc.

First off, I shoot fashion nudity because I like shooting fashion nudity. I also shoot fashion nudity because I can shoot fashion nudity. I don't pay the models. In fact, most of the time I get paid to shoot fashion nudity. Who pays me to shoot fashion nudes? The models themselves pay me to shoot fashion nudes. I have a portfolio full of these images and they want images like those in my portfolio.

What about the agencies? The modeling agencies I work with pay me to shoot their girls in the traditional model portfolio way. Clothed but with fashion edge. Basically, the type of work I did before I started shooting fashion nudes. What kind of agency girls do the agencies send to me for paid tests? All kinds. Agencies will sometimes send girls that are really commercial-looking because those girls don't draw a lot of interest from photographers doing unpaid tests. On the other hand I also amazing round-the-world working models that are so busy that they can't afford to waste any time testing with bad photographers. So their agency sends them to me for paid tests. In neither scenario are fashion nudes requested. Not yet at least. I think that might happen down the line though...

So if the agencies don't request these images, who are they for? We've only scratched the surface. So far we've only talked about the paid tests. To reiterate, models book me to shoot fashion nudes. I'll shoot whatever they want but lately they request to shoot fashion nudes. Yes, I have a wonderful job. I love my life. Now, what about the unpaid tests? The unpaid tests are for me and the model. I currently have no desire or need to shoot more wardrobe for unpaid testing. Those days are long gone. If you want me to shoot a model who isn't willing to shoot fashion nudes, you'll have to pay me. Simple as that. No apologies. I have time for 1 unpaid test a month. Maybe. Sometimes I don't even have that much time. So, I'm not about to do charity work during my free time. There are much better charities out there that I'd like to be a part of. The "clothed-model foundation" is not one of them.

I've said this before in another blog post, I set the expectations way in advance. And I don't ask models to shoot with me. Haven't in years. Models ask me to shoot them. If they ask, I assume they have seen my work. Even then, I ask them very candidly, "Are you comfortable shooting fashion nudes?" No shame. It's just a question. Either yes or no. And most of the time they say yes. After all, my portfolio is chock-full of fashion nudes. Who did you think you were shooting with? If you thought you were coming to shoot fancy wardrobe for free, you missed the boat by about 2 years. So yes, I put it all up front. No beating around the bush (no that's not a pun). It is what it is, I need to qualify you to ensure you're worth my time. And this is after I make sure you've got the right look, the right measurements, agency-represented, easy-going, etc. Don't waste my time and I won't waste yours. It's good for everyone.

Oh and I ask them if they can bring wardrobe and do their own makeup. This has never been a problem to-date.

And trust me. Be upfront about everything. You don't need to be afraid that the model is going to turn you down because of a certain request. Just be honest. If you want to shoot nudes, ask. If she says no. Move on. It's as simple as that.

Then again, I live in LA. I'll be right back, UPS just dropped off 5 models at the front door :)

I don't get hung up about these things because the next bus is coming in about 5 minutes. No rush if we miss this one.

Now if she asks, "Can we also shoot some clothed stuff for my book?" I always say yes, because after all this should be mutually beneficial. Don't be an asshole. Build her book too. Besides, throwing some wardrobe in here and there allows you to mix it up. Almost all of my fashion nude sets start off with wardrobe and end up with fashion nudity. They don't always just start off totally naked. Sometimes they do. But usually it's more fun to have some wardrobe to play with.

So what do the agencies think? I think they're tolerant of implied nudity and maybe topless. But here's the thing. Vagina isn't sexy. Unless you're making some hardcore statements deep in the fashion capitals of the world (NYC, Paris, Milan, etc.), showing "the goods" is going to make some people uncomfortable. And being that agencies are marketing their models to potential clients, it's unnecessary to have full-on fashion nudity in the portfolios. Also being that I'm here in LA, I've got to be careful that I'm not putting vagina on display in my work.

So why shoot it? Because LA isn't my final destination. Because I have made a pretty big push into fashion nudity and I'm not going stop anytime soon. Because I like shooting fashion nudity. Because I can shoot fashion nudity.

If you think about it, it's simply a very natural sequence of events.

1. shoot clothed models (non-agency) for free
2. shoot clothed models (outside of the agency) for free
3. shoot clothed models (from the agency) for free
4. shoot topless models (outside of the agency) for free
5. shoot topless models (from the agency) for free
6. shoot clothed models (outside of agencies) paid
7. shoot clothed models (from the agency) paid
8. shoot full-on nude models (outside the agency) for free
9. shoot full-on nude models (outside the agency) paid
10. shoot ful-on nude models (from the agency) paid

Now this isn't an exact order of operations but for the most part if "makes logical sense". So walk with me here. Most of you are probably somewhere around 1 to 3. Very few of you have ventured into implied nudity much less topless or full-on fashion nudity. But imagine one day you're getting enough paid testing where you maybe want to explore shooting fashion nudes. You start shooting topless. Okay, no big deal. People enjoy the pictures. You get more paid work. Some models request shooting topless with you. Okay, cool. Now you want to shoot full-on fashion nudes so you start with full-on implied fashion nudes. That's fine. No problem. Later on you want to shoot full-on fashion nudes (not implied). This is where you run across the conundrum.

What do you do about the private parts?

The logical answer if you're in my market, you might be better of with some strategically placed censorship. Hence this:

Why shoot it if you're going to censor it? Those purple/pink censoring stripes are lame! Oh, you're absolutely right! So why don't we do this; You keep shooting implied nudes where the models are limited in range of motion, limited in expression, and pose with the fear of being exposed... and I'll keep using my purple/pink censoring stripes for more range of motion, greater expressions, and achieve a comfort level that you don't have with your models.

I think that's fair! Glad you brought this up! Very happy I won't be seeing you copy my work any time soon without totally refuting your previous argument!

Here's the thing. People ask me why the purple censorship stripes? I don't have an answer for why. It just happened. It's just a natural progression of events. A logical one at that. I'm on step 9. I live in LA. I want to continue to shoot fashion nudes without alienating (too much at least) the market I work in. Furthermore, I want my models to be comfortable shooting full-frontal nudity without the fear of retribution that the images will reveal their private parts. So very naturally I used my light leaks as a solution to cover up private parts. It seemed like a better solution than black or white blobs that are obtrusive and annoying. Maybe you find the light leaks annoying. No problem. Go back to what I said 2 paragraphs ago.

All these questions stem from me being on a "less-trodden" path. I'm probably one of the first photographers (if not the first) to use light-leaks as an "elegant vagina censorship solution" ("EVCS" you heard it here first!). People get worked up because the reality is that I'm pushing the envelope. There is no right answer. People are "armchair quarterbacking" as I like say. They get mad because they aren't sure if they're supposed to like it or not. They're confused because they haven't seen this before. So they hate because they don't like change. But I don't give a shit what you're supposed to like or not supposed to like. That's why they call it art. Stop asking other people what you're supposed to think. Think for your own goddamn self and stop running with the flock. You think any of us have any real answers? Nope, we're in the same boat as you. But maybe if you developed more independent thinking you'd have your own sense of your own style. But instead, you only like what you're told you're supposed to like. You only know what you're told to know. And that's why you don't know very much.

And you don't have my problem. You don't have models willing to shoot nudes with you much less pay you to shoot them nude. So don't worry about it. Worry about it when the time comes. You don't need to think about these things now.

Don't like seeing the censorship stripes? Stop surfing my sites. If you hate my work and you've read this far, I can't help you. You've obviously got bigger issues than hating on my pink/purple stripes :)

So there it is, that's the skinny on the issue of fashion nudity, the censorship, and how I do it. You do what you do. I'll do what I do.


  1. Harder for me to get away with this in my market, the Atlanta area. There are still models who want to do edgy work, but not that want to pay me to shoot them nude. Fan of your work. And enjoyed reading your thoughts on the topic.

  2. Your light leak censor marks are a great idea. Being the first you set the mark and now anyone else looking to shoot fashion nudes will either have to copy you or think of another way to censor without it looking horrible.

  3. I like pink strypes :)
    The thing that I am actually asking myself is how in the world do you find the time to write so many blog post? :)

    1. That's a good question! I try and write only when I'm inspired. It's the same way I do most anything else. Doesn't always work out that way, but things go a lot quicker when I'm into what I'm doing. Fortunately I like writing.

      We all have the same 24 hours in a day. The only difference is how we use that time! :) Cheers!

  4. First off, T&A (tits & ass) is T&A. Ain't nothing wrong with it, it can be beautiful and artistic if done the right way. But to charade and sugar coating it calling it fashion nudes (especially after looking through your work), is just a plain lie. You barely have enough legitimate fashion work to call yourself first and foremost a fashion photographer, to back up your work of "fashion nudes".

    Your "Editorial" categories is FULL of T&A, last I checked fashion-editorials or editorials are photo spreads that incorporate "fashion" and "a story" into full page photography. All I see in your editorials is a bunch of random sexy shots of girls with tits out or in the buff, with the "O" face. No story, no concept, no cohesion.

    So you're saying you'll only shoot girls who show you their boobs? Since you don't believe in charity work, and if the girls wanna keep their clothes on they'll have to pay you?

    So it's all about T&A and money for you? Not the art or fashion?

    Bragging about shooting "fashion nudes" with a bunch of ModelMayhem & small time agency models doesn't validate your work. Lots of girls willing to take their clothes off, at the very least, in exchange for some decent pictures they can use for their book or some sexy shots for their personal use to show their boyfriends.

    Your work is decent, but don't misinform and BS people by giving them the wrong ideas about the fashion photographer industry. The job is rewarding in the sense that it's the ability to create moving/captivating visuals within the extent of your own imagination. Not getting paid to shoot T&A all day, might as well shoot soft-core porn right? But wait, you're a fashion-editorial photographer right? ;)

  5. If you're going to say something at least have the balls to say who you are. Hiding behind anonymity is just plain weak. Comon :) Even trolls have names. LOL! :)

    So lemme guess... you have no criteria for your unpaid tests? You just shoot anyone that asks? How about farm animals? I've got a few I'd like new pictures of...

    So it's all just T&A to you right? So pray tell how do you explain the spread in LOVE Magazine as seen above? Just T&A right? That's how they got 8 supermodels to pose for that spread? Why don't you write them and complain that they should just change the name of their magazine to Playboy.

    Here's my latest fashion video video "Lost" since you aren't familiar with my fashion work:

    Please don't confuse *choosing not to shoot concept in my free time* with *inability to shoot concept in my free time*. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. You could murder kittens with your free time. That don't make it a great idea.

    And yes, I'm a fashion-editorial photographer. What are you? Let's see some of your work :)

    1. wow very entertaining thread, so I checked out the video "Lost" you are raving about,
      and lemme tell you "Lucima" that i am very "lost" on the whole premise, I thought it was shallow, hollow, and ultimately very very boring. (i couldn't sit through the first 20seconds of it because it was so damn pointless. and as a "master of video" isn't the whole point to keep your audience enticed and entertained through the last act of your video?
      If you say you're a "master" of video after doing two solo projects i think anonymous is right, you are pretentious.
      when you copy and paste other people's style and repeat it like a shower routine, I think your works are a collection of lies.
      keep writing about haters Charles. They.are.super.entertaining. But not as entertaining as the bullshit you spit out to the public about yourself.
      I feel sorry for your students that attends your workshops, I really do.

  6. It's apparent that you are unable to accept criticism;
    It's probably from all that hype popularity from ModelMayhem, and that your seemingly mad-dash race to see who can shoot the most tits have gotten to your head. It's clear to see that I was pretty accurate about my statements above, judging by your irrelevant excuses.

    To answer your questions :)

    I'm not a photographer, just a girl with appreciation for fashion. It doesn't take an expert to differentiate between good and bad and to see BS for what it is, just like any average movie go-er can differentiate a good movie or bad movie.

    Like I said, I have no problems with T&A if it's done right and artistically. LOVE Magazine, as you keep on referencing above, is not some sad excuse for you to shoot nudes.
    Are you saying you're shooting for LOVE Magazine?
    Are you saying you're shooting with Daria Werbowy, Lara Stone, Naoimi Campell, and Kate Moss?
    Are you comparing yourself to Mert & Marcus?
    Let's see you get your light leak or "fashion nudes" published in LOVE. LOL!

    "Fashion" photography implies well, photographing FASHION, as in clothes. If you shoot all nudes, you're not a fashion photographer, you can't shoot campaigns without a product to sell, and you can't shoot an editorial without a concept/idea/statement. "Fashion nudes" is an oxymoron, there is no fashion when nude... it's like jumbo shrimp and tall dwarves. You might be a contemporary figure photographer at best, but quit spreading around this idea that there's any fashion involved at all in nudes... unless you consider a pair of heels to be fashion LOL!
    You might as well be photographing a naked Barbie in different poses.

    Nice video, am I suppose to be impressed? I can show you fashion channels with thousands of other videos, created by individual artists having more creativity, with less resources, and not as pretentious as you.

    So you're saying "you choose NOT to shoot concept in your free time", and spend your free time shooting T&A?
    Yet you also said in your original post, how you don't have that much free time. "I have time for 1 unpaid test a month. Maybe." Yet from your posting pattern on your blogs, you sure do a lot of free tests in one month. (History and facts don't lie) ;)
    Make up your mind here, or am I smelling a lot of BS? =)

    Lol let's keep the discourse about fashion photography, and not reference ridiculously out of field subjects as livestock portraiture and kitten massacre. You sound random and desperate, like you're grasping at straws. Could it be that I've hit the nail on the head?

    1. That's not true...lot's of fashion mags now do video featuring T&A. Times are changing:

    2. What's not true? =)

  7. The major problem here is the band of photographers within the past few years that have come to the realization of peppering the term "Fashion" into and onto anything they do. It yields them results they wouldn't get otherwise from people willing to work with them and others willing to seek the supposed knowledge and experience they're gaining. The poster above clearly is stating honest truths about what is reflected from your works as well as what you spew in your blog and other social networking sites.

    Charles, you are garnering income from preying on noob photographers with a curiousity in exploring fashion. There isn't anyting wrong with that as long as there are people willing to pay for that knowledge. That line that gets crossed is when you pander yourself off as having vast 'industry' knowledge and start formulating recipes to dictate how fashion is in your eyes to others. You clearly do not have a full understanding of fashion or the concept of art that perpetuates from true fashion work. To label yourself as a 'fashion photographer' and pass off everything you shoot as 'fashion' is a slap in the faces of everyone who has been shooting for over the past decade.

    Simply stating your a photographer who shoots fashion and enjoys personal provactive projects on the side is perfectly acceptable. There isn't any legit working photographer in the real fashion industry that pounds their chest and overtly sprinkles the term 'fashion' into everything. It's pretentious and it clearly shows that you are using that term as a device to drive your marketing. Step away from the social network mob and see things with a clear mind. You have technical talent there but you're letting the social network mob mentality blind you and to an extent make you out to be a fool in the eyes of working professionals.

  8. You must be one of those girls I turned down. I get it now. Still "anonymous". Lots of holes in your arguments, but really I don't have time to argue with anonymity. You keep doing what you're doing and I'll keep doing what I'm doing. I've got videos to work on. Cheers!

  9. You need to quit the shit, you shoot T&A and call yourself a editorial fashion photographer and put together a workshop to teach people how to show T&A right? I don't see any editorial involved in your shoots.. just a tough. And I am a different Anonymous person asking this.

  10. It appears as though Anonymous is less concerned about what Charles shoots, than what Charles CALLS what he shoots. As a matter of semantics I'd say it doesn't really fucking matter. He's a photographer. He produces, to my eye, some of the most consistently engaging, beautiful and visually striking images on the web today. He is a photographer who has carved his own niche in a specific market and manages to earn a living from it. Whether Anonymous thinks this can rightly be called FASHION, or just NUDES, or both, or neither doesn't make any difference to the product or it's monetization potential. I loved his work before I ever saw a nipple, hell even before he could retouch skin properly, and I'll stand by it to the end. Yes there's increasing T&A, but for my money it's some of the most sophisticated and FASHIONABLE T&A going.

    Rock on, Charles :D

  11. Every artist has their own vision.

    You might be "fashion forward" however you might want to brush up on your art history. (which by definition, photography is an art form.)
    The ancient Greek women didn't wear anything over their breasts, paintings of nude women hang in the Louvre and hey, the Italians have penises painted on their ceilings and statues of naked men in their town-squares.

    Michelangelo liked men. Charles likes women. Michelangelo put a fully nude statue of a male, biblical figure right in the middle of town. Charles sensors most of his work online. People travel from all over the world to see Michelangelo's nude Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. People from all over the word follow Lucima. But hey, Michelangelo couldn't have been a great artist because he liked to create images of naked men. Michelangelo probably did not have a signed model release from Adam or David. Charles has the consent from ever single model to share these images. (And I really don't think Charles is in it for the "Tits and Ass" and even if he was, do you think Michelangelo was in it for the A&P? "Ass and Pecks"?

    I am a 20 year old female photographer in Colorado who mostly does weddings and family portraits. I shoot the occasional Boudoir Session with an insecure Army wife or an implied shot with a model here or there. The truth is, I don't shoot nude. I just wouldn't feel comfortable with it.
    And obviously "anonymous" wouldn't be comfortable with it either.

    But there is a difference between you and me "anonymous"... I do not spite photographers.

    You look at a "fashion" spread and what do you see? A handbag? Cute shoes? Sometimes fashion photography does not have to sell anything except for the image itself or the model. Obviously, Charles is doing a fantastic job of selling his images and his models (pretty sure Bekka can attest to that!)... Which brings me to payment.

    Successful photographers DO NOT TRADE WORK OFTEN, and if they do, it is WELL WORTH a spot in their portfolio. Which also means, he gets to be picky. If he is donating his time to your portfolio shoot, you had better come out looking like Kate Moss or Gisele. HE IS A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER. YES, HE WANTS TO BE PAID FOR HIS WORK! Some would pay for a "controversial" couture piece of "FASHION", some people would pay to have a "controversial" piece of art from Charles. Which brings me to your superficial definition of Fashion.

    Here is the definition of Fashion for the girl who claims to be well informed and well versed in the subject:

    noun /ˈfaSHən/ 
    fashions, plural

    1. A popular trend, esp. in styles of dress and ornament or manners of behavior
    2. The production and marketing of new styles of goods, esp. clothing and cosmetics
    3. A manner of doing something

    Photographers can also define fashion, just as muses do, just as designers do, just as publications do. Claiming that photographers have no insight into fashion is just plain naive. Photographers are face to face with the latest trends, they are paid to work with garments that you probably will never be able to afford. Picking up a magazine at the grocery store doesn't make you some expert in fashion. Stocking your closet with garments that will be irrelevant next week doesn't give you the right to tell people what fashion is and isn't. Fashion is in the eye of the beholder. There are people who will never understand the point of wearing a ridiculous flowered hood or dresses that look like tarps on the runway and there are people, like you who will never understand or appreciate the artwork that Charles produces (nude or not).


  12. Cute little fashionistas that buy Alexander McQueen with Daddy's money do not define fashion.... Industry professionals and Artists do.

    Some people hated DiVinci, Monet and Picasso... but some people loved it.

    If I were you, I would spend less time blogging words filled with animosity to photographers that find you irrelevant and find something else to do with your time that actually IS relevant.

    Oh and by the way, you see that little thing above my post? I am not afraid to stand for what I believe, but coming on a professional's business sight and throwing groundless, harsh statements at him is a little bit childish don't you think?

  13. Agree with anon. This isn't her by the way. I mean, it is anonymous, just not the same one heh. Male anon. I might not have written it with the same viciousness. That was a bit harsh.

  14. Dude, I love your work. I want to create the same kind of fashion nude images. I'm glad I stumbled upon this blog post after work, because it answered 90% of all the questions I had about how and why you shoot fashion nudes.

    If there was only one more thing that could help me understand your thoughts and strategy for shooting fashion nudes, it would be this: a 20-30 second video clip of you shooting fashion nude "Magic" with Bekka, complete with the motion light leaks to cover her vagina, to show Bekka's constant, fluid movement and how quickly your lights and shutter are firing. That little clip would reveal so much... Do you have something like that laying around?

    Thanks again dude for sharing your thoughts and your work...