Capturing the naked body on film has been a convention of photography practically since its inception as a medium. Throughout history (and the present is no exception) it has been mostly the female form viewed through the lens of a camera, but this image changes over time. The bodies differ through the decades, the ideal fluctuating with fashion, but more arresting are the differences in how the body is imagined. Genevieve Field, editor of Nerve: The New Nude
, explains: "The old masters of photography largely avoided the sexuality of their subjects by applying the rules of still-life photography to their nudes ... one could surmise that they had little desire to get under their subjects' skin." In radical opposition, this collection of contemporary nude photography is almost all about exploring individual sexuality. It makes perfect sense that the book is derived from the erotica Web site Nerve.com; the popularity of the Internet is firmly rooted in sex and imagination, with pornography proliferating and online chat the public forum for fantasy.
The 145 color and black-and-white photographs here are combinations of advertising, art, and pornography: naked bodies splayed on the cracked mud of the desert, pictures that pay homage to Helmut Newton, political statements, and an orgy in Venice. Some images are throwbacks to the past, with printing processes that recall the sepia tones of early photography, while others use special effects from the world of video. If you're at all interested in the contemporary human body and sexuality, you'll be riveted by this collection of images. --J.P. Cohen