The Ringling's new Exposure: Naked Before the Lens, on display through Sept. 25,  celebrates the human body through a series of nude photographs. Although many photographers have used their medium to approach the tradition of the classical nude, others have used photography to explore desire, intimacy, even vulnerability—or what we might define as “nakedness.” Exposure: Naked Before the Lens presents the many ways in which 20th- and 21st-century photographers have presented the undressed human body in their work.  

"Many of these images draw on long-standing traditions and tropes in the history of Western art. Yet there is always something of an extra 'charge' when looking at photographs of the nude body as opposed to drawings or paintings—the model can often feel much more present or immediate to us than in other media," says Chris Jones, The Ringling's associate exhibitions curator. "In curating Exposure, I tried to keep [the relationship between the photographer and the subject] in mind when selecting and researching photographs to be shown. In many instances, I relayed information about the models we see, and their relationship to the photographer and the creation of the image. In others, I tried to provoke conversations between images to encourage the viewer to think about 'nakedness' and its implications or social meanings within different contexts."

Jones also says it was important to him to explore gender relationships between photographer and model in the history of photo over the last century. 

"For most of the 20th century, the most socially acceptable nudes were female bodies presented by male photographers," he explains. "In the United States, images of male nudes were absent from even fine art galleries, as they were deemed homoerotic and therefore illicit and without artistic merit in a culture that suppressed and criminalized homosexuality. Images of nude males taken by women were just as taboo. All of these attitudes began to change during the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, and we have some wonderful pioneering work by some female and gay photographers that fought against convention and for the right to have their work respected in the art world. In the end, I am really pleased that Exposure is able to represent such a wide range of perspectives on the naked human form."

Exposure: Naked Before the Lens runs through Sept. 25. For more information, visit ringling.org

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