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Surfaces and Strategies – Shoot Mod3#15 – Body Parts – “Tony”

As I have developed the body parts project, I have sought to explore subjects that normally wouldn’t be given a voice in photographic images, like an older man’s body. Tony volunteered to take part in the project.  As ex-military man, Tony had been involved with amateur productions for over 40 years.  One day, whilst on a train to York with his wife, Tony announced that he was going to give up his Civil Servant job and become an actor. He is now in his 60s and keeps very busy with his acting career, special effects business and film production.

As a society, we are obsessed with youth.  John Coplans challenged this with his photographs of his own naked, ageing body. His photographs questioned and challenged the taboo of age.

“The principal thing is the question of how our culture views age: that old is ugly. Just think of Rodin, how he dealt with people of all ages. I have the feeling that I’m alive, I have a body. I’m seventy years old, and generally the bodies of seventy-year old men look somewhat like my body. It’s a neglected subject matter…So, I’m using my body and saying, even though it’s a seventy year old body, I can make it interesting. This keeps me alive and gives me vitality. It’s a kind of process of energizing myself by my belief that the classical tradition of art that we’ve inhereted from the Greeks is a load of bullshit.”

– (Coplans in Warren, 2005: 329)

Like Coplans, I wanted to capture the true beauty of an ageing body and present the photographs in a way that would subvert the traditions of Western Art that only shows the nude figure as youthful. The lighting set up was again key to achieving this.  As in other shoots for this project, post processing for each image has been completed in a consistent way to maximise the impact.  I have applied a Lightroom preset called ‘Inky’ to each image. The images have then been edited to increase clarity and hence increase texture and definition in the resultant images.  The images were also converted to monochrome so that the focus is not distracted by colours and the viewer concentrates on the content of the image.

Some of the amazing body part images we captured during the shoot are shown below.

The images, like Coplans, have been shot without revealing the face. This is to emphasise that the ageing body is shared by everyone and it is not distinctly linked to one individual. We all shared the ageing genes, so the images are representative of man as a whole.

“I got the idea that my body was everybody’s body.  Like my genes were the genes of the whole human race, shared with them…My photographs became faceless and timeless and about the whole of human beings. It’s not (just) about the exterior. It’s also about the generic past of making and what we share together.”

– (Coplans in Warren, 2005: 329)

Tony wanted to be involved in the project to help me and had contacted me via Facebook to volunteer his help.  His offer of help was just that.  He had no hidden agenda other than to help another person develop and achieve their potential. I hadn’t met him before the shoot, but am extremely grateful for his involvement as I believe we have captured stunning images. Thank you Tony :).


Warren, L. (2005). Encyclopedia of twentieth-century photography. New York: Routledge.


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