Nov 19, 2008

Lifestyle - China;Nude Photos & Weddings

Venkatesan Vembu

HONG KONG: Dressing in solemn white seems rather a tame way to seal a marriage. Increasingly, therefore, young Chinese couples are “sexing up” their weddings with photo-shoots of themselves – completely in the nude!

Professional photo studios in several cities across China offer discreet “nude photography” services for the private amusement of young couples planning to enter the holy state of matrimony. And it’s proving tremendously popular among a young generation of Chinese people who have kicked off the Mao suits of their parents’ times – and, with it, every last bit of social conservatism.

“Many young couples enjoy having their nude pictures taken by a professional photographer in a studio,” notes Robert Smith, a professor of cross-cultural communication in Quzhou College in eastern China.

Typically, couples in China have their formal “wedding photos” taken weeks, perhaps even months, ahead of the actual wedding ceremony. In recent decades, as a new Chinese generation rode the country’s breathless economic boom, the trend was towards having these photographs taken in exotic locales and in a variety of costumes, but most often in classical white suits and gowns. Increasingly, however, even that, which once seemed exotic and other-worldly, seems oh-so-20th-century.

Professional studios, sensing a new market, began unveiling nude photography services, and the bride and groom soon followed suit - or rather, stripped off their suits! “Some studios even offer nude photography themes to cater to different needs,” says Wu Bingshun, a professional photographer. “You could, for instance, have an Adam-and-Eve setting, complete with a snake in a Garden of Eden, and a fig-leaf to provide a modicum of modesty.”

These nude photographs don’t, of course, go into the official wedding album. “The parents are against such photographs,” notes Smith. “So the solution is to take two sets of wedding pictures: one set in formal wedding clothes for the parents, relatives and friends to see, and another set of nude pictures for the couple’s enjoyment.”

In matters like this, understandably, discretion is critical. “Even those who are daring enough to want nude wedding photos of themselves don’t want to see those pictures uploaded on some Chinese-language website,” notes Wu. The photo studio typically has to sign a secrecy contract before the shoot, and hand over all the photographs, even the imperfect ones.

For sure, not everyone in China is thrilled about this naked embrace of what was, until recently, a ‘decadent Western’ social phenomenon. There are those who say it reflects an unhealthy social trend and is a symptom of a “moral decay” in society. But Wu says: “Nude photography is just a welcome twist to the stale unchanging tradition of the wedding photo.”

In other words, the fig-leaf of social conservatism in China is being blown away by the gusty winds of globalisation. And quite a few young Chinese are unabashedly rejoicing in the buff.


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