I had mentioned in my entry on Max Dupain that he had been influenced by the naturist movement in Germany. This influence was carefully unpacked by Isobel Crombie in Body Culture published by the National Gallery of Victoria.

The naturist movement has always provided a challenge to Judeo-Christian attitudes toward nudity. The German naturist movement looked back to Germany’s pagan past when social nudism was acceptable (and ritualised, as with Nordic culture, in the tradition of the sauna). It also borrows heavily from the classical tradition of the naked human form as a thing of beauty.

German naturism has a long history beginning in 1896 and becoming very popular in the 1920’s and 30’s, despite opposition from the Catholics and Lutherans. In 1933 the Nazis banned all naturist organizations. However, some Nazis were naturists and so the party eventually allowed some party based naturist organizations to continue. The war caused a major interruption and despite a conservative post-war government (under pressure from the US) West Germans slowly returned to naturism. East Germany was another story altogether. The socialist government (especially under Hoeneker) embraced naturism as a part of socialist culture and even allowed naturists to have floats in May Day parades. Several former Iron Curtain countries also have a relaxed attitude to public nudity, most notably Hungary and the Czech Republic.

These cultural differences are important. For some reason the Anglophone countries have been particularly resistant to the naturist movement. Whilst there are a great many naturist resorts and beaches in Europe, there are very few in Anglophone countries, where nudity is still associated with sex.

This has had an important impact on the photographing of children in the naturist context. In Anglophone countries photographs of naked children are considered borderline pornographic and there is considerable hysteria over pedophilia. The situation in Europe and Scandinavia is completely different.

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5 Responses to The Naked Child in Art: Naturist Photography

  1. sexhysteria says:

    Very informative. Dispassionate discussion of this controversial topic is needed for society’s benefit. I’m not sure if the traditional naturist strategy is the best one (denying that nuidty is sexual), because it seems to acknowledge that “sex is bad.” But I would agree that the naturist lifestyle is a healthy alternative to traditional body shame.

  2. ab says:

    Indeed, naturism is not sex.

    What I fear is that by saying it intensely that “don’t look at naked children”, we might be actually be suggesting people to look at children in a sexual manner.
    Isn’t it human nature to try and do what they are intensely prevented from doing?

  3. sexhysteria says:

    Good point. But I still think the broader problem is the idea that sex outside marriage is inherently evil. As the U.S. Surgeon General said, sexuality is an important part of what we are throughout our lives, not just during the reproductive years. Here’s a more detailed discussion of this complex topic: http://sexhysteria.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/nudity-and-decency/

  4. RedMane says:

    You know, what’s really sad is the fact that just about all of DuPain’s child photographs had to be pulled from this website by order of the Law. There really is nothing to see here anymore. And even “attempting” to view photographs of nude children is enough to get you at least an entire DECADE in the Federal penitentiary!!!!!!!! I don’t know about you folks, but I think it would be VERY wise to “KNOCK IT THE HELL OFF, PRONTO!!!!!”

    • Ray says:

      What are you talking about. Max Dupain is not known for his photographs of children, nor has any order been made against this website.

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