BARE – An exhibition and book of nude portraits by Trevor Hart
In 2011 I needed to work on a project for myself, my commissioned work in advertising and design was keeping me very busy but I needed to spend time on something that would stretch me creatively and something I knew I'd never really cracked on my own terms in the past. For this reason I chose to do a series of nudes.
I spoke with my friend P J Lynch who had been doing some incredible life paintings and he gave me the names of some life drawing models he'd been working with in workshops at the RHA. I set to work with Grace, Meri and Sophie in the studio during the winter and I made some photographs with them that I felt amounted to the best work of my career.
I made a few very large (almost life size) prints and framed them. I hung one at home and in my studio and then female friends, colleagues, family members and people I'd never met began sending tentative emails and questions about the process and then they began to say things like, 'I think I'd like to do that' or 'Would you photograph me?' The project took a turn and has become what I understand now as story about how women have a very complicated and changing relationship with their bodies and their looks during different stages of their lives. In April last year Dove made a beautiful film about their 'Real Beauty Sketches' project, so I knew we were touching on a newish discussion about this subject. I also discovered that nudity is different for everyone. I've recently photographed a woman in her late 40's at the moment who told me that she hasn't stepped foot outside her house for almost 30 years without her signature mascara. She's agreed to be photographed, not naked but without the mascara, a different but equally courageous expression of bare.
A friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year came in to pose. Her most striking feature was her hair, a mass of beautiful and elegantly greying curls, crowning an abundant personality. 'Naked' for her was having a bald head. It was a very moving experience to be given that kind of trust and whilst the image may or may not be included in the exhibition, it was an important part of my understanding of what this work had become and could be.
Laura George came in to be photographed earlier this year. She's written a great piece for IMAGE about her experience and described beautifully another very interesting element to come out of this which was a perhaps a peculiarly Irish notion that to celebrate your beauty is somehow vein or immodest? I know my wife Dorcas struggled with the idea that perhaps people (women?) might think 'Who the hell does she think she is?' I know that for Dorcas she realised that to do the sitting was a way of expressing to herself, “I'm happy with who I am now and the body that I have now”.
To really let go of those inhibitions was to let go of the image itself, however it turned out and see it on its way into the world without hesitation.