My shirt came off pretty quickly and my pants didn’t take all that much longer. The time to remove my underwear steadily approached and I could feel my heart starting to race. The blood started to pump a little quicker through my veins. Fuck. I was going to get an erection.
Truth be told, this isn't something that once happened when I posed for a photographer. Rather, it has happened about 80% of the time. So when someone recently asked if getting photographed while naked was awkward, I automatically answered “yes.” But if my admittance of erectile reactions could help paint a more accurate picture, it’s that of an awkwardness of a far better kind. (Side note: did you just imagine an erection trying to paint a picture?)
Contrary to the way it might look sometimes, I’m not a total attention whore who absolutely loves getting photographed. In fact, for most of my life I would seize up any time a camera came near me. Thus taking off my clothes for the professionals wasn’t something that just naturally came to me. It was a stark challenge that I had to overcome.
Like most human beings, I always probably had a few good attributes when it came to my body. But like most human beings, I always had a tendency to just gravitate towards self doubt. This seems to rear it’s ugly head most when we take our clothes off. Even once I started making strides in fitness, I’d still stand in front of the mirror and analyze my failures rather than honor my successes. This is the kind of shit that just never goes away.
I imagine this might be the biggest factor in feeling awkward with a photographer. What we don’t like seeing in the mirror we are now showing off to someone else - someone with some sort of professional eye for the human body. And what we normally hide away we now expose to be officially captured.
But here’s the ironic thing: they see us more honestly than we see ourselves. Therefore they don’t automatically see all of the little things that we hate. In fact, their eyes tend to instinctively focus on the things they actually like. Skilled photographers have the ability to focus on our better features and portray us in genuine ways that we wouldn’t see otherwise.
I remember the first time I saw the photos after working with a really talented photographer (emphasis on “really talented”). I was like “Whoa, that’s me?” Then the photographer was like “Oops, wrong photo!” Okay, just kidding. Instead the photographer assured me that yes, that was actually me in the picture. It was a side of myself I couldn’t have ever seen in a mirror. Suddenly I felt more empowered rather than just filled with self doubt. If any feelings of awkwardness remained, they were certainly worth my newfound excitement.
Another wonderfully awkward part of being photographed in your birthday suit is the intimacy of it all. I find it funny that the word “intimacy” often gets used as a pseudonym for sex. Getting naked on a nonsexual basis appears to feel far more vulnerable for people. When you ask someone to get naked in order to have sex, they barely hesitate. But when you ask someone to get naked in order to have a nice lunch, suddenly they look at you as though you asked them for Hitler’s autograph.
Anyway, the point is that nothing feels more intimate than that of allowing yourself to feel vulnerable with someone. While diving into intimacy with a total stranger can absolutely feel awkward, it can also feel totally invigorating. There’s no better example of this than stripping down for a photographer.
It feels like they can magically touch your body just using their eyes; or that a thousand people are watching when only it’s just them and their lens. These kind of sensations can almost sound nerve-wracking. But the intimacy and privacy that you get with a professional photographer actually makes it quite exhilarating. Your fears fall to the waist side as you get to truly enjoy the experience for what it is.
To stop hating on myself and start feeling more alive were two of my main goals when I turned my life around however many some odd years ago. But I could only do it once I allowed myself to get outside of my comfort zones. Clearly one of the ways I’ve found that was by shedding my clothes for the camera. And if I can do it, then anyone can. Truly. I’m not just saying that. "Anyone" just has to realize that sometimes getting awkward is actually going to get really great.