No matter how it happens, sitting for a portrait session is an awkward thing. You have to act natural and relaxed while you worry about your shirt being dirty or your smile looking weird, all as someone you probably don’t know very well points a camera at you, snapping away. It can be a stressful situation.
Photographer Trevor Christensen noticed this and took some extreme measures to level the playing field. In order to become just as insecure as his subjects, Trevor strips down to his birthday suit, photographing his sitters reactions to his nudity behind the camera.
“The photographer-subject paradigm is one of inequality… Instead of focusing on bringing the subject to a place of ease, where I am, this project brings me to a place of vulnerability,” explains Christensen.
He calls his series, of course, “Nude Portraits.” The photos, which Christensen continues to shoot and post on his Instagram and Twitter feeds, cleverly explore concepts of power dynamics and body image.
Trevor says the idea first came when he was joking around with his friends. 'I imagined the image of hapless photographer who simply didn't understand that it was the subject who was supposed to be nude, not him,' he says on his website. His friend Jordan, seen below, was his first subject for the project. 'We were both incredibly uncomfortable,' he explains.
The shoots usually last 45 minutes, all of which Christensen spends naked. All the subjects know he will be naked before sitting, but, nevertheless, things are initially a little weird. But, 'as the shoot goes on, the experience gets more comfortable as the subject and I find our rhythm,' he tells Business Insider. 'However, I always look forward to putting my clothes back on.'
Christensen says that a typical reaction is just what you would expect- shocked laughter and bemused, embarrassed chuckles. 'The shoot becomes almost normal very quickly, which I think is the biggest surprise I've had though this series,' explains Christensen. Madelyne, below, screamed when she first saw Christensen.
Christensen says shooting a single person is very different than shooting a group. With one person, the tone of shoot can be more mellow and relaxed. With a bigger group, like the band he photographed below, 'I lose control more easily. One person laughs and everyone breaks down,' he notes.
The strangest reaction he ever got, he says, was when he photographed Kara, a porn cam model, who was completely unfazed by his nakedness. 'I've become used to people laughing or shielding their eyes when I walk out, so to have her and her roommates be almost disinterested was completely surprising for me,' he tells Business Insider.
Christensen tells us that he makes an effort to not read comments or reviews of his work on web posts, but says that other feedback he's gotten has all been positive. 'A lot of people connect with my comments on vulnerability. A lot of people think it's funny. I'm happy to hear that,' he mentions.
Christensen's 'Nude Portraits' have become so talked-about that the local news station in Provo recently did a piece on him. The newscaster, below, jumped right in and had his picture taken by a naked Christensen.
This project has helped Christensen in his own life, he says. He is becoming much more used to doing the shoots, which don't seem so awkward anymore to him. He says he is much more comfortable in his own skin.
'I grew up next to one of the most conservative universities -- BYU -- in one of the most conservative towns -- Provo -- in one of the most conservative states -- Utah -- in the country. I've never been one to get naked, even when I'm alone. These shoots have helped me change the way I see my body and the bodies of others. It's been a very positive experience,' he tells Business Insider.
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