Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

Life is either a great adventure or nothing.”
~Helen Keller 
Indeed, the truth is that it all began with with The Portrait, but it is The Nude which has sustained me. Faces are what drew me in, captivated my attention, and piqued my interest. The Nude is what made me promise to commit to the art of photography and strive to better my understanding of light and how it falls on the female figure. Then it stretched my imagination on the infinite methods I might employ to capture it.

Like a hunter, my quest begins with the tools I might use to snare my prey… how to choose them and how to use those tools. Camera selection, lens selection, composition, etcetera. I learn to perfect my skill with each pursuit of the light. I think that’s an interesting analogy, but remember the subject in this sense is light, not the model. I’m trying to capture the light to make nude art. Therefore, it is as imperative to understand my relationship with the model as much as it is for me to understand my camera, my quary (light), and also myself. The nude is not about a naked model, it’s about the art she helps create.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley
To capture this light, I need the collaborative effort of a model. We hunt as a pair. She flushes out the light, while I wait for the decisive moment to shoot. Can you feel me? It is all in vain if there is a failure anywhere in that collaboration, be it in the model, myself, or my camera. I’ve had upsets in all 3 areas over the years, but I have gotten better at making adjustments. I can help direct the model and work within her capabilities. I can hone my own skills. And in many cases, where there is a failure in the equipment, I have been able to circumvent and make due to accomplish the goal. And yes, sometimes that means, fix it in post, but I hate that. I want as much as I can get out of the camera. Man! I could tell you stories!

There have been some instances where it was the model who saved the day. Maybe she has a particular means of inspiration, knowledge of a location, or just has the right attitude that helps salvage the project. I’ve experienced all of this and more. The art is what matters. Nothing else. Sure, model safety and comfort are never a second priority to anything. Aside from that, it is the art. She might brave the cold, be willing to get messy, or lend to the art with some other unique talent that adds to and compliments my vision. That’s what a muse does.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

The nude transcends superficial attributes like debates over societal norms and taboos. Some debate over the difference between nude and naked. I like to keep it simple and this is just me. A nude can be naked, but not all that is naked can be a nude… like a Rolls Royce can be a car, but not all cars can be a Rolls. There is a difference with taking a photo of a naked girl. That just means she’s not wearing clothes. To me, the nude is an evolved form of nakedness that has a degree of deeper purpose. If naked is 2 dimensional, the Nude is 3D. You can be naked to take a shower or sunbathe. The nude is about creation. You are creating something that is expected to last and is born of imagination, vision, and will, with the latter being of utmost importance. You can have an idea with your imagination and you vision can help you plan it. But it all comes down to the will to execute that sparks creation. Therein lies your Big Bang.

And it is this phenomenon that has helped me like a therapist over the years which has made me evolve myself and my cameras. My brother’s thing was fishing. I have friends whose lives revolve around sports. Some people out of desperation have a more destructive crutch and become dependent on chemical means of coping. 

All my adult young life was built on violence of action. As an infantryman, a soldier, I trained to be elite. I wanted to be the best, or at least the best I could be. To me, that was becoming a US Army Ranger and I have always been good with shooting guns since my childhood days. I don’t care what it was. If it launched a projectile, I could put it on target and make a mess of something.

Art Model, Jennifer ©2019 Terrell Neasley

“As you grow older, you’ll find the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do.
~Zachary Scott

Now, I shoot something that creates instead of destroys. It brings peace, instead of destruction. I don’t touch guns anymore. I got out of the military in 1998 and 1999 was my last time to touch a weapon. Six years after that, I picked up a camera and it had the same affect as the M-16. Both felt like an extension of my arm and my body. Instead of pulling a trigger, I pushed a shutter release button. Instead of aiming to kill, I aim to thrill. I still look down the sights/viewfinder to find my target and I go hunting for the light. The art nude is my favorite drug of choice and I do not tire of it.

Favorite genre of nude to shoot?
Well, I have two. I love shooting nudes in nature and natural surroundings. But equally so, I absolutely adore shooting a nude model indoors doing ordinary things, just being naked. Be it lounging, household activities, or even sleeping (I love love love capturing a sleeping nude!) these are my favorite ways of baiting the light. I can have a camera on her 24/7. Also nudes in public, but they are much tougher to do. 
Basically, I am a byproduct of inspiration from Edward Weston who shot nudes on his adventure out west, Harry Callahan, who shot nudes close to home, and also Spencer Tunick, who shoots nudes en masse all over the world. The first two shot their wives who are two of my favorite model inspirations… Charis Wilson and Eleanor Callahan, respectively. Charis put photography on the map as an art form since she wrote the proposal for Weston to get the first two Guggenheim Fellowship grants ever awarded to a photographer. Eleanor is like a muse mold. You start with her.

 “I never refused when he wanted to take a picture,” said Eleanor Callahan, the 91-year-old widow of the photographer Harry Callahan. “I never complained, whatever I was doing.” ~ Eleanor Callahan, “The Artist’s Wife: The Constant Muse Who Never Said No”,  NYTimes, Oct 2, 2007.

Art Model, Jennifer ©2019 Terrell Neasley

Least Favorite?
Implied. I generally can’t stand implied nudes. It’s one thing if a few implied nudes are wrapped up in my regular shooting, but if I’m doing only implieds, then I’m getting paid and will be happy to do it. Otherwise, I can’t often use it in my art and I have no motivation for it. Conceptually, I don’t think I even understand it. If everything is hidden, why do nudes? I don’t knock it when other shooters or models do it. I have the utmost respect for all my peers who do this. It’s just not for me. I work best when I’m able to shoot with options to imagine and then create it. The less restrictions, the better. If it pops into my mind, I like the freedom to explore it, experiment with it, and see if it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t but I learn more from what doesn’t work than I do with what does. 

Art Model, Jennifer ©2019 Terrell Neasley

Biggest challenges? Right now? Finding models to work with! In the U.S., I almost always had a nude model available to me… concentrating on one woman or several. Over the years, I have shot less and less different models. I’d average about 10 models a month when I first began. Over the years, that dwindled down to a select few as I tended to work more with familiar models instead of new models. But I’m traveling now and that has made things just a little bit tougher. In two years, I’ve photographed only 3 travel models… none of them being locals, to my chagrin. Kayci.Lee came with me for a month, Jennifer met me in Peru, and I met Athena, who was already there, on my second trip through Peru… all American women. It would be nice to shoot a local model, but I honestly don’t care. The one who shows up gets my appreciation. My preference is shooting the same woman all over the world. I think there’s more art to be made from that. A grand adventure story can build from it. 

How are my nudes different?
I think I differentiate in several ways. One is that I tend to work with a myriad of different women of various body shapes, ages, and sizes. I’ve photographed large heavy women as well as tiny ones. I’ve worked with women in their 70’s and one woman who turned 18 years of age the day before our first shoot. I don’t think I need the “perfect” body or a cover girl model in order to make my art.

Art Model, @Athena Demos ©2019 Terrell Neasley

One other way is that I don’t shy away from explicit nude work. To me, the nude is the nude. I’ve often said, I shoot all the nude, the whole nude, and nothing but the nude. I am noted for doing macro vulva and nipple work as much as I do far away nudes where you don’t even notice the naked woman in the landscape upon first glance. I thoroughly enjoy my macro work and it’s a whole new universe within itself. The different textures of a labia or nipple are brought out in the close-up and it becomes an abstract composition to where, at times, the subject becomes lost and something entirely new is created. I once had a man complement me on a shot he thought was aerial view of a mountain range, when in fact, it was a macro composition of a woman’s areola
It was a model, the second I had ever worked with who taught me this. She was an art model for the drawing class at Murray State University. As a beginner, I was far too modest as a shooter. I had to make sure the nude model had her legs together to protect her virtue. When she took a pose that exposed her genitalia, I tried to object. She insisted that I take the shot as if I had offended her. Then she went on to tell me to never censor my artwork. She insisted that the joining of her thighs were just as much artful as the rest of herself. There will be enough people to try to do it for me that I don’t need to help them. There was a story behind all that, as I discovered soon after.

What other nudes do I enjoy?
Serial work. I enjoy shooting a series and noting the changes over time. Doing a series of how the body changes from one moment to the next is fascinating to me. It can be changes in age, like I’ve done with Kayci.Lee, shooting her since she was 23. Or it can be postpartum changes like I’ve done with Panda. Even changes in looks throughout a single day can have profound impacts on art creation. The body is extraordinary. I already mentioned loving to do sleeping nudes. That’s capturing a part of a model that’s rarely seen… I think. I do that whenever I can.

Art Model, @Athena Demos ©2019 Terrell Neasley

What is the best art nude photo you have ever seen, that is not yours? Art Nude Photographer, Dave Rudin took an image of Carlota Champagne in the Nevada Deserts and it is still the best photo that has ever been taken, nude or otherwise.
This all goes far deeper than I can get into in a single blog post. That would be impossible. I’ve had some people become upset because they don’t understand why I might run into a landscape that is so beautiful, but I can’t take the shot. It was because my vision for it calls for a nude and there wasn’t one available. I don’t care. It matters little to me that other people might become frustrated with regards to what I do or do not shoot. They’ve not taken the time to understand or even ask. So be it. 
Art Model, @Athena Demos ©2019 Terrell Neasley

I am indebted and grateful to all the models who have trusted me and allowed me to exhibit them in my art. I am enthusiastically appreciative of those who have elected to join me on this life journey around the world. Kayci.Lee helped me to simply get started on this journey right after a trio of difficult personal life events… the Vegas shooting, the death of a close friend, and a 4-year relationship breakup.
Jennifer came along during the absolute most devastating time of my life the following year when my brother had just recently died. ABSOLUTE MOST DEVASTATING! [Dang! Jenny! Do you remember meeting that guy on the night of my late brother’s birthday who introduced himself with the same name as my brother?? He felt like shit and then proceed to get me drunk on Pisco Sours. Fuck, I’m still tearing up over that, now…] 
WHEW! Anyway! And meeting Athena was one of the most fortuitous experiences I can recall in recent memory. That was an experience in enlightenment. It’s all been about timing. Take either of these 3 out of my life equation and I’m a mess. Okay, that is all.