The Frame The Body- Hiding the visible

Concept and styling: Neha Singla, Photography: Ruggero Lupo Mengoni

Skin. Skin. Skin… and more skin. Shedding clothes at the drop of a feather has become a knock-down-drag-out phenomenon.

Increasing displays of skin have prevailed since the sixties, from the miniskirt to the advent of the Monokini, a topless swimsuit that left the female breast exposed. It generated a great deal of controversy back then. Today, it’s nothing but common. We stumble upon NUDITY everyday and twice on Sunday: women and men alike doff their duds for what is sophisticatedly known as “the arts.”

Helmut Newton. Robert Mapplethorpe. Bill Brandt. Boris Mikhailow. How much and however we sugarcoat it, they all portray nudity in a way or another. Over-exposition has blurred the difference in their respective genres of photography and they all look the same.

Breasts. Vaginas. Penises.  [Hidden] organs no longer knock us off our chairs. Nudity in its every form has reached the terminal and jumped on the wagon of vulgarity. Such bodily exhibitions have made us unreceptive to most things naked. We no longer are in awe of the so-called skin show.

They say clothes are the means by which bodies are made social, but the demoralizing hard truth is, we have recklessly exiled fabric adornments from our closets. To what extent and for what purpose do we put up with this fashion? Why has Miley Cyrus become synonym with nudity and transgression when she displays mostly vulgarity? Do her acts give us a tickle in the stomach or are they irking us like never before?

Such outrageous exposures of skin have changed the human psyche: we now seem more attracted to mysterious and hidden ways of seeing the body. Humans always crave to discover what is concealed: desire is born of prohibition. Forbidding sight of body parts that are commonly visible could stimulate an insatiable urge. Middle Eastern women adorned with veils are the perfect example. First, veils create a notion of dual space: space behind the veil and space in front of it. The space behind it is invisible and thus obscure.

Middle Eastern woman adorned in a veil

To think about penetrating this space gives wings to untamed fantasies. It’s a double message: “look-at-me-I don’t- want- to- be- looked- at” playing obsessively with the voyeuristic male gaze, a gaze that always wants access and will not tolerate being denied it.

I have nothing against nudity, for it is our classical legacy. Elegance, integrity, physical and mental autonomy, a connection with our golden past: yes, nudity was once representing all of this, and with a touch of elegance to boot.

Can anything be more seductive than a naked woman barely covered with a white linen sheet? In 1962, Bert Stern photographed a nude Marilyn Monroe with a diaphanous wrap: the photographic series is engaging and sexually alluring.

Marilyn Monroe- Bert Stern Photography 1962- conceptually modified

Jean Paul Gautier had men stripping on the runway to present his Fall/Winter 2014 menswear collection. And yet, they never quite became fully naked: models were undressing only to uncover another layer of clothing, which created a strong urge to see some skin. No wonder that, at the end of the show, even a half naked man was a sight for sore eyes!

Watch the show to experience the curiosity:

That’s the beauty and potency of shielding what is otherwise ubiquitous.On the other hand, when skin is exposed in excess and distastefully, nudity can trespass the boundaries of sensuality and enter the no-man’s land of vulgarity and annoying trash.

Excessive skin show after a certain point can become obnoxious and kill enthusiasm. By revealing too much of our body we are undermining our capacity to provoke desire. On the contrary, showing little opens our mind to mysteries that were always living next to us.

The most ancient, traditional and refined Indian outfit is the sari: a six-yard draping fabric meant to fully wrap the female body and leave just a small portion of midriff bare. The sensuality it exudes is beyond words. Notable people from the west such as Elizabeth Hurley, Madonna, Daniela Kingsley and Naomi Campbell, to name a few, have enthusiastically draped themselves in a sari and they have looked their sensual best. What is so attractive about this fully clad outfit? It momentarily captivates the human ability to imagine what is unknown, unexpected and unseen.

So, dress as you please. But remember: curiosity is not about going to new places all the time: it is looking at the same old things with a new eye.