Naked ambition: SA women shed their inhibitions & clothes for nude photography

Women give many reasons for getting their kit off

25 August 2019 - 00:00 By SUTHENTIRA GOVENDER
Cape Town bookkeeper Tonia Theron.
Cape Town bookkeeper Tonia Theron.
Image: Cocodash Boudoir Photography

Johannesburg doctor Lerato Masemola is getting into shape to go bare.

Wearing nothing but a pair of red stilettos, the mother of two first posed naked in 2012. It was part of coming to terms with being sexually abused as a child.

Masemola, now 39, is gearing up to go starkers again in October as a gift to herself to celebrate 17 years of marriage.

She is among a growing number of South African women who are shedding their inhibitions and their clothes to pose nude in tasteful, professional photographic shoots that can cost up to R20,000.

Whether it’s to document their weight loss, as a gift for their men, to celebrate leaving an abusive relationship, or to overcome an illness, more women are taking it off.

Photographers have seen an increase in the demand for nude shoots as the global movement for body positivity gains momentum.

Going nude made Masemola feel liberated. “I liked the way I felt when I did the first shoot. It was some sort of liberation for me. I was sexually abused as a child. For the longest time, I had low self-esteem because I viewed myself as damaged and tainted.”

Taking off her clothes for the first time in front of a camera was cathartic for Masemola.

There is actually nothing perverse about skin, but society makes it look like its something bad
Lerato Masemola

“After the shoot, I felt free. The women of today are in a different space. We are moving away from the burdens that society places on us. There is actually nothing perverse about skin, but society makes it look like its something bad. That shot I did was not crass or offensive.”

Cape Town bookkeeper Tonia Theron did a nude shoot to give herself a confidence boost.

“I felt exhilarated and nervous at the same time. I didn’t have much self-esteem, and I’m a shy person, especially in front of the camera. But in the end, it was worth it. I felt like I achieved a lot and overcame some of my insecurities,” said Theron.

Photographer Peter Driessel of Boudoir Fusion Photography found that in the past few years most of his clients have wanted to include nude images as part of their boudoir shoots.

“There are a number of reasons, the biggest being that they find it very empowering to be able to pose nude in a safe environment and create art out of their images.

“When Michelangelo and Botticelli painted beautiful images of women and men naked, they were not frowned upon by society, but rather celebrated for the beauty they created. I find it sad that in this day and age so many people appear to be so averse to nudity.”

Former Cape Town financier Allison-Ann Montgomery-Maaske left the corporate world to become a full-time nude model, after she did her first nude shoot by accident.

“After many years in corporate, I decided to pursue my passion. I started nude modelling by accident. I went for a boudoir shoot. The photographer asked whether he could take a few snaps. I’ve always thought I looked like an adolescent boy. And here I saw myself as a woman.

Allison-Ann Montgomery-Maaske.
Allison-Ann Montgomery-Maaske.
Image: Peter+Jordan Photography

“In the past five years there has been a shift in how women feel about themselves and view themselves.”

Montgomery-Maaske said posing nude has been “perhaps one of the most empowering and liberating things I have personally ever done”.

Photographer Sandra Keddie of Stylishly Sexy Boudoir Photography said her clients were doing nude shoots after overcoming ill health, or learning that they had breast cancer. Others were celebrating milestone birthdays.

“A woman who poses nude is not necessarily comfortable in her own skin. She could be, but mostly she is looking to gain confidence, to boost her self-esteem or to take control of her life,” said Keddie.

Psychologist Claire Newton said each woman would have their own personal reasons for going nude.

“What they need to be aware of is how they go about it and what they want to do with the photographs. They would need to make sure they are really comfortable with the photographer.”

Newton said if women wanted to give their nude photographs to their husbands, that’s lovely. But she cautioned against posting those nude pictures to social media.

“To put it on social media, they are opening themselves to abuse.

“If it was my client, I would ask why they would want to put those pictures in the public space. If they say to me they want to boost their self-esteem, I would tell them that other people’s approval is not about boosting your own self-esteem.”

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