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New York: Naked before the camera

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Photography and the nude have gone hand-in-hand since the invention of the medium in the mid-19th century. The nude is not only a genre of photography; in every representation of the human body, the human being has sought to provoke desire, venerate its heroes, mystify its existence, and debate its sexuality, its cultural identity, and its codes of beauty. In New York, the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum captures the evolution of this practice in the history of photography, displaying 90 images unearthed from the museum’s vast collection. In the narrow Howard Gilman Gallery one finds a selection of photographs taken in Europe and the United States between 1850 and today, including works by Nadar, Muybridge, Brassaï, Arbus, Weston and Mapplethorpe. These images favor natural, formal and comical poses, special atmospheres, and tight frames on specific parts of the body. In a time when the nude can be synonymous with vulgarity, it is worth remembering that it can also, without an overdone style, enter into the great lines of poetry.

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