Photographic inspiration comes from many sources

December 23, 2015 Tim

As I look back over this ever-so-quickly disappearing year, I am reminded of how my creativity was sparked earlier in the year by a group of shadows on my dining room wall. Inspiration can come from many sources, a thought, a vision, the way the wind plays with a branch, a full moon coming from behind a cloud. You know them. You have seen them and more.

If you are a figure photographer, like me, sometimes inspiration can seem to disappear. What do you do then? How can you rekindle the flames of creativity? One of the ways I do it is to go to my library and pick out a book that just might serve as a hard-back muse.

One such book I recently pulled out from that dusty shelf was NAKED: The Nude in America (right), by Bram Dijkstra (Rizzoli USA, $45 2010), and I have to tell you, even though I have turned its pages many times this book is a treasure trove of inspiration! Covering sculpture, painting, photography, caricature, cartoons, and even a handful of visual extremists, and other forms of portraying the nude in American art.

The author is a cultural historian, rather than an art critic, refusing to separate “high” and “low” art, charting instead such momentous historical events such as the discovery of pubic hair, the invasion of the pin-up queens, “the inexorable rise of the breast” during the 1950s, and the puzzling fluctuations of American prudery. (from cover end flap)

With more than 420 illustrations this is an incredibly wide-ranging representation and survey of the male and female nude throughout American history. The back cover photograph is the iconic picture by Judy Dater of Imogen Cunningham preparing to photograph Twinka (1974, courtesy of the Scott Nichols Gallery). On the Title Page, Arthur Tress has a photograph of Twinka at Age 45. This is a good precursor to illustrate the importance photography has had in defining the nude in art.

Granted, American art has nowhere near the history of longevity as does European art, but what we do have is second to none, as far as art is concerned over the last several hundred years. As a photographer of the nude, I sat the book on on my desk, and about three hours later I turned the last page. While my collection of books about the nude numbers more than a hundred, Naked: The Nude in America, has quickly become a favorite.

What photographer of the female nude could not be inspired by the three images (left to right: Indian Maiden at a Spring, George Platt Lynes, Elizabeth Gibbons with Umbrella and Mask, William Robinson Leigh, Indian Maiden at a Spring; Abraham Leon Kroll, Nude Back; Benjamin Rutherford Fitz, The Reflection) below:

This is a genuine coffee table book. At 10×11.5-inches, and with illustrations in excess of 420, you are not going to be able to slide this one into your pocket. Be advised, once you put this book on your “must-have” list carve out some time that you can spend slowly turning its 476 pages. Buy Naked, here.

Do you have a book that you have, or are currently using for inspiration? I shared mine… it’s your turn. Let me know what inspires you to a much greater level of inspiration and success.

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Tim Anderson

Tim Anderson


Tim Anderson is a writer/artist/photographer. You can help support his creative efforts by joining Medium: