The Nudist Identity

FOR DOWNLOAD MORE GALLERY It's the age old question: Who are we? Identity is part of the social fabric, we are all tagged with some label, such as man, woman, child, African-American, Asian, Caucasian, civilian, soldier, and so on. On a less personal basis, we become numbers, from our social security cards and driver's licenses, to the slip of paper we grab for when waiting our turn at the deli counter.

A new art exhibit in Michigan entitled "Revolutionizing Cultural Identity: Photography and the Changing Face of Immigration" reminds us of the ongoing challenges we all face in claiming our own identities. While the show concentrates on the cultural aspects of identity, one triptych shows a young man in t-shirt and jeans, traditional ethnic clothing, and nude. Only when he is nude is he stripped of his dual identities.

When you are in a social nudist situation, you certainly notice the sex, age and skin color of everyone else, but withoug clothing it's impossible to tell anything further. Occupation, social standing, and other identities imposed by society melt away. In a way it's like getting a clean start on developing an identity, one that is unique only within the nudist community. It's who you are, not what you are.

Update 4/9 10:53 PM: a reader points out to me that the triptych mentioned in the article is the self-portrait of a young woman, not a young man. so I stand corrected.

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