Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

I've got nudes for you, life modelling is a serious matter

Last Friday's front page
Last Friday's front page

Last Friday's front page was attention-grabbing. Not least because it featured a lady with no clothes on. Now before some of you rush to Google it, or leaf through your old back issues, let me explain.

The main image was a woman, photographed from behind, upper body only. The headline read: 'I make a living taking off my clothes'.

The 'teaser' was directing the reader to the front cover of our Life features section.

This told the story of Clare Broom, who makes a living as a nude model for artists. 'Life modelling', as it's known in the trade. Now, it would be fair to say there's a snigger value to nude art. A woman, or man, gets their kit off in a chilly classroom, or wherever, while a bunch of budding artists dab and smear paint on to a canvas. For many people, it's either funny, or embarrassing.

But there's more to it than that. Nude art is a serious business, a recognised genre every bit as much as landscapes, still life or portraits.

It's obviously not a modern phenomenon, either. We may recall David by Michelangelo (1504), or Modigliani's more modern Red Nude (1917), or even more recently (and controversially) Benefits Supervisor Sleeping by Lucien Freud in 1995.

The point is, nakedness and the study of the human form is a serious artistic subject, requiring a high level of skill from practitioners.

However, one reader – and only one, as far as I can tell – wrote in to express outrage, saying it was "unacceptable for a family newspaper like yours to have a picture of a naked woman, even if it is a view of her back, on your front page, or indeed on any page".

He added: "It is degrading for the woman, whether she believes it or not, and it is not suitable for young readers to see a respectable, established newspaper like yours give credence to 'soft porn' under the guise of so-called art." I understand the strength of his feeling, but I can't agree.

While not disputing that there is an element of 'sex sells', particularly about its positioning on the front page, I don't think it appropriate for a newspaper to be overly prudish in these matters, either.

The subject matter was apt and the writer treated the issue with appropriate seriousness. The pictorial treatment, while undoubtedly somewhat racy, was within acceptable boundaries.

The Editor points out that he takes matters of taste very seriously and assures readers that he judges each issue on its own merits.

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