The female nude as landscape

The association of woman with nature (and man with culture) has been a long-standing tradition within Western culture, and it’s interesting to see how this manifests in the portrayal of the female nude in photography.

The naked woman in the landscape, for instance, has been a particularly potent and popular image, reinforcing the association of woman with nature, the curves of her body seen to reflect the natural topography of the land.

Indeed, photographers have made much of the female nude’s traditional association with nature. These female nudes below by Bill Brandt seem to actually become human landscapes, don’t you think?

As Hiley says:

‘knees and buttocks rise to form mountains, or smooth white boulders’, Brandt’s nudes taking what ‘seems to be their proper place as part of the natural world’.

Further, in the “Wormwood” series (2007) by Jane Burton, a menacing atmosphere seems to suggest the female figure is actually bound to nature, and part of it…

Meanwhile, Kirsty Pilkington intends her “Bare Winter” images (2008) to be ‘a sensual record of the beauty and connection between Woman and Mother Earth’.

These images capture the fluidity and sensuality of women’s bodies – curled in eucalyptus hollows or wrapped around timeless sassafras roots amid old growth forests in Tasmania – and allude to a primal connection between woman and nature

Of course, it should be acknowledged that the female/nature pairing is simply a construct of culture rather than a fact of nature – woman isn’t “in reality” any closer to (or further from) nature than man.

Nonetheless the persistence of the binary in Western culture has certainly made for some really lovely photographic representations of the female body as landscape, don’t you think?

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