HIM: Photography has been a fun aspect of our relationship from almost the very beginning, and taking naked pictures is a big part of that. I like that it links us to the tradition of the nude in art that goes back to what – 30,000 years ago and the Venus of Willendorf? Not that I think we’re making a particularly unique contribution, but I really appreciate photography as a creative project that we can collaborate on as a couple.
HER: I like that it preserves a moment in time that you’ll never have again. This is true of all photos, of course, but it takes on a new, almost desperate, significance when it’s your youth and beauty you are trying to capture in its final moments. I’m 40, and I know very well that I won’t look like this forever. I’ll look back on these shots one day with a mixture of pride and melancholy at what I used to be and what I’ve lost.
HIM: That sounds so sad, but I guess that is the bittersweet note that haunts every photograph: the illusion of freezing time when, of course, it’s impossible. In fact, sometimes that sense of time passing itself becomes part of the picture, like in the photo on the left. It looks like a scene from the Garden of Eden, though in the moment I think we were just looking for something you could do with your hands. Later on, I removed a boat from the horizon to help with the illusion, though I like that your jewelry is still there as a subtle anachronism.
But now that you’ve mentioned it, the desire to hold onto the past was exactly what got me started on this path in the first place. Ten years ago I began taking nude self-portraits to capture, at the age of 44, what I considered then to be my physical peak. Eventually, though, I started to enjoy the creative challenge and the project moved beyond simple documentation. I focused on making the best photographs I was capable of, using my body as a prop, you might say, or a reflector of light. Here are two examples from July of 2006 of what I used to do on my own. You’ll notice that I had a thing about foliage even at this early stage, a framing device that pops up in a lot of these pictures.
HER: Ooh! I remember that one. You sent it to me when we first started dating and I actually squealed when I saw it (I’m not a squealer). I loved the way the muscles in your back picked up the light. Of course your perfect ass and cock are what I spent most of my time obsessing over. I think I even sent it to my sister to brag about my new man. So fuckin’ hot! And, ten years later, you look exactly the same (with maybe a few more grey hairs). The second shot was another one you sent me back then. I like how the diffused lighting makes you look like a marble sculpture.
HIM: That was the fascinating part for me, becoming more sensitized to how light behaves. Of course, really good photographers are attuned to that kind of thing. They read the ambient light intuitively and work with it to achieve the effects they want. I don’t have those skills. For me, the best effects were (and still are) a big surprise when they happen. In those early days I would set the timer on the camera, run around to make the pose, then run back to see what had happened. There were 20 wasted shots for every one that was worth a second look. That was yet another bonus when you came into my life. Now I could concentrate on being the photographer and leave the modelling to you. You’re beautiful, you’re game for anything, and I think you have a certain grace that the camera likes.
HER: Aw, shucks. This one is from our first photo shoot together. It was very early in our relationship, and I came to your place where you had a backdrop and lights set up for photography. We started with some standard portraits, fully clothed, then you encouraged me to gradually undo and take off my blouse.
HIM: Really? That doesn’t sound like me.
HER: It was fun and erotic, and we laughed a lot. My stupid shoes were killing my feet by the end, so I sat on a stool to rest them. That’s when you got the idea for this one.
HIM: There was a lot at stake for me during this shoot because I was still in the phase of trying to make you believe I was good at everything. And, as I mentioned above, good photographs were generally things that happened to me, not things that I made happen. I was very aware that you had made yourself vulnerable posing topless, so I wanted to make the most of that. I was feeling uncharacteristically nervous. Nothing kills a mood faster than making a beautiful woman look ‘unbeautiful’. I wanted to capture you the way I saw you, but most importantly I was trying to impress you.
HER: It worked, but not just because of the photos. One of the things I like is that we try, as much as possible, to keep our photos naturalistic, and not over edit them. It’s important for me to have accurate representations of how we looked when they were taken. We do, however, occasionally cut out distractions or play with light and colour levels
I liked the moodiness of this pic, but it was a little too dark. The pelican landing on the water was a bonus, but it was obscured by the tree. And there was a weird squaring-off of my ass as I moved my leg forward. It was close to being a great shot, but not quite there yet.
HIM: One of the things we do with almost every picture now (if we haven’t used fill flash) is to brighten it. After that, I went after the bird. I was aware he was coming into the picture, and if I had clicked the shutter a micro-second earlier he would have been in the perfect spot. I knew enough about Photoshop by now to grab the bird and move him to the right. But that meant that I had to rebuild the end of his wing that had been behind the leaves.
As for, um, your ass, you can see from your right cheek that yours is nice and curvy. But all kinds of weird things happen when a body is in motion, and I agreed that the unnatural flatness of the left cheek was distracting. I was able to easily restore the curve. From there I just cropped out the messy twiggery at the top and we had another Garden of Eden moment.
HER: Hedonism II in Jamaica, where this pic and the first one in this article were taken, has been a real boon for our photographic experiments. Every trip, we take a morning on the ‘prude’ side of the resort to take pictures (something strictly forbidden on the ‘nude’ side). We’ve also taken some sunset shots on the little private beach close by. There aren’t too many places where you can take nude photographs outdoors, so Hedo presents an opportunity too good to pass up.
HIM: It’s interesting the role happenstance can play in a good shot. The arrival of the pelican in the picture above is a great example. It’s something we could not have planned on that morning, but it adds drama that elevates the picture beyond anything we could have intended. But something perhaps even more amazing happened with this shot we affectionately call ‘Giving Birth to the Sun’.
HIM: We liked this picture from the beginning, but it wasn’t until almost a year after it was taken that we noticed there was a man standing on the point opposite us at the moment it was captured. It seems so clear that he’s looking at you, although you have to wonder what exactly he could see from such a distance. In reality, he might not even have been aware of us. It’s such a tiny detail, just a few pixels, yet it adds an undertone of exhibitionism, or voyeurism – or even menace. You want to know: is there a connection between these two people? Again, it takes the photograph from ordinary to just a little bit extraordinary. I guess that’s the part I’ve liked about photography from the beginning, that no matter how much you plan, you’re not completely in control of the results. While frequently you’re disappointed, every so often you discover something magical.
HER: Another boon to our photography has been the amazing quality cameras available in phones today. The light, easy to maneuver phone cameras have turned us into a culture of selfie-takers, but they’ve also allowed a lot more flexibility for those of us wanting to get sexy couples’ shots without the need to have someone else in the room to hold the big camera. We took this one with the phone, then blacked out the bedroom in the background in photoshop to create a pretty dramatic image.
HIM: In putting this article together we looked back at a lot of our pictures to find ones that worked well, that helped tell a story. We were severely constrained because the vast majority of our shots include our faces and, for professional and family reasons, we just can’t afford for those to be seen (I don’t know what we actually expect we’ll ever do with them). So, part of our challenge has become finding creative ways to hide our faces.
Beyond that, we are drawn to pictures that have an interesting interplay of light and shadow, but shadows can be hard on a girl’s ego (no one likes to amplify every little uneven spot), so look for flattering sunset light, the gentle all-over light of a cloudy day, or light filtering through a white curtain to provide nice light washes that will make you feel good about your body.
Liam & Kate are a married couple, very much in love, writing honestly and insightfully about their adventures in the world of non-monogamy.