What It Means To Be Nude


By Jillian Meehan

Photographer Milan Sachs wanted to explore the difference between nudity and nakedness from behind a camera. "To me," she said, "nakedness is the act of having been clothed; what comes after removing clothing. Whereas nudity is simply the state of being without clothing." Sachs set out to present her idea of nudity and nakedness both as a kind of freedom for women. The result? A stunning set of photos, paired with a Q&A so the artist can tell you herself what it means to be nude.

Q: Why was this project important to you?

A: I did a nude photo shoot back in August, at Willoughby Lake in Vermont. The nudes were lit with natural lighting and the models were laying on various rocks in the lake. I liked exploring the concept of nudity in a natural setting. However, I wanted to try exploring the idea of nudity, which is still natural, in an artificial setting—with pink and blue lights, fog, and in a studio. Nude photo shoots are important to me because I know so many girls, including myself, who have struggled with their body image. I want to be able to show my models, that are always close friends, what their bodies really look like, whether in a natural or artificial setting. I think that being naked is being free, which is what I try to capture in my nude photography. 

Photo by Milan Sachs

Photo by Milan Sachs

What was the process of preparing and shooting the photos like?  What was the atmosphere like—was it comfortable for you and the models? 

This nude photo shoot was very comfortable in terms of the relationship between me and the models. I found models that were my friends that I knew were willing to be naked in front of the camera. Personally, I not only had to physically prepare for this shoot but mentally as well. I bought lights, a fog machine, and made sure I had the supplies I needed—for example, Vaseline, which I rubbed on my lens to create a blurrier photo. Mentally, I had to make sure that I was ready to separate myself from my friends and see them as models I was creating art with. I directed them, but also allowed them freedom to direct themselves. 

How do you feel about how the photos turned out? What does this project mean to you, having done it? 

Since the studio we were assigned was, in fact, a classroom with tables, chairs, a TV, and a whiteboard, at first the photos were disappointing. We even rearranged the objects around the room to try and use the walls and the space, but in every shot I could see a table or a chair. I decided, then, to shoot the photographs with the models on the ground. I'm never satisfied with my work completely, but I found that placing the models on the floor created images where it seems they are almost floating in space, which looked interesting to me.

Photo by Milan Sachs

Photo by Milan Sachs

What do you hope people take away from these photos?

I never hope people take away anything certain from my photographs, because I know that everyone has their own opinion and the beauty of a photograph is subjective. Nevertheless, I hope viewers see these photographs and understand that everybody is beautiful, no matter someone's height or hair color, or the color of one's skin.