When Matt Blum began photographing women nude, he didn’t intend to start a movement. He just wanted to make good photography. But over the last ten years, Matt and his wife Kat Kessler have built something that has become both an artistic, captivating collection of photography and a project making bold statements about body-positivity and self-love.
The Nu Project is an online archive of nude photos of ordinary women around the world. The entire project is volunteer based: women invite the photographer into their home for the shoot, and agree to have the photos included on the project’s online gallery free of charge. Viewing the images is free and the online galleries reach 2.8 million visitors a year, half of the traffic coming from audiences outside the states. In 2013, the Nu Project published a book collection of their favorite images over the past seven years (available on Amazon).
What’s most remarkable about the Nu Project photos are their powerful depiction of the ordinary. None of the women photographed are professional models, and the photo “set” is often their unkempt apartment, complete with unmade beds, sprawled magazines, and dirty dishes still sitting in the sink. Women happily pose baring their cellulite, their tan lines, their belly creases as they laugh. Women pose washing dishes, reading magazines, watering the plants, cuddling their lover, or playing with their toddler.
And through these simple depictions, the project makes viewers reconsider what deserves to be captured in a photo, what deserves to be displayed and proudly shared for the world to see, even if just at home. Doing so, it has created an empowering resource for woman seeking proof that what constitutes a “beautiful body” is far more diverse than media suggests.
To make the photos geographically diverse, photographer Matt Blum and editor Katy Kessler have traveled all throughout South America and Europe coordinating shoots with local women to include on the website. According to Matt Blum, the photographer behind the project, women volunteer for a variety of a reasons: anything from a history of body issues, to simple curiosity of trying something new. The only commonality between all participants is that they have the openness and trust to welcome Matt into their home to do his art.
“We never had any governing principles that have stayed consistent, other than the fact that we wouldn’t exclude anyone.”
Many other artists have begun using the internet to combat negative and inaccurate depictions of the female body and begin confronting the insecurities it creates with projects like We Women and The Body Is Not An Apology, or Let Me Love Me, a Facebook Page dedicated not to women, but to people of color.
Through working on the project, Matt has noticed differences in perspectives from women in different areas of the world. But he also believes some ideas are common everywhere:
“In Latin America people are far more conservative about nudity whereas in Europe, people are far more liberal about taking their clothes off. And yet, the idea of the media focusing on similar body types, that’s universal. Europeans still don’t see real bodies in the media. In 2015, across the globe, people react to and respond to this idea.”
Matt hopes to continue exploring the themes of confidence and vulnerability in his future work. He is now currently working on an a project expanding the idea of nudity to include photographs people baring any aspect of their lives they don’t often allow others to see. To see more photos, visit www.thenuproject.com.