Abby WintersTitle Unknown (2004)

This isn’t a good picture. I mean you’ve got gorgeous evening golden hour light illuminating four beautiful young woman.

And there’s definitely a feeling that they’re bliss stoned after a day of sun, sand, frolicking in the surf and sharing time and space as friends.

It’s that last part–which reads so clearly–that’s prompting me to post it despite its numerous flaws.

When I began this project, it seemed–at first–that everyone who was a photographer or image maker on Tumblr knew a bunch of folks that essentially lived a nudist life.

It took me a bit to sort that about ¾ of those were photographers/image makers of various degrees of talent hiring nude models. The other ¼ continued to intrigue me.

I’m supposed to go out to the West Coast again sometime in the next several months to collaborate with my friend Amadine. However, we haven’t been able to plan yet because once a year, she and her three best girlfriends go camping out in an isolated stretch of woods–where no one wears a stitch of clothing for four days. (One of the friends is an image maker and documents things–after which the images are sorted according to whether it’s just one person in the image or whether more than one person is in it. The image maker then sends these as two separate archives to everyone. You’re free to show any pictures of yourself to your partner, but the pictures of anyone else are your eyes only.)

I came of age in an extremely repressive Evangelical Xtian milieu. My interactions with anyone other than teachers, ministers or family was closely monitored. This meant that my pool of potential cohorts was limited to classmates or progeny of close family friends.

There weren’t a lot of age appropriate potential friends. Everyone was either several years younger than me or several years older than me.

I’ve always preferred to run to keep up vs. slowing to keep pace. So I favored the older kids. The older kids did not especially care for me. I was excluded. I kept my mouth shut about it–I’m not a narc. But when you’re so closely monitored and you’re wired in such a way that you have two speeds: completely 120% engaged or disaffected and listless, it’s obvious when you’re being left out.

Invariably the older kids would be ordered to let me participate. But then there was a level of cruelty involved that still makes me grimace when I think back on it.

For example: one time, we were playing spin the bottle. I was told that my mom wouldn’t approve of me playing but they were going to let me play because I’d at least proven I wasn’t going to rat them out. However, because my mom would’ve approve, I couldn’t be kissed or kiss anyone else. The way it worked was if someone spun and landed on me, they got to pick anyone else in the circle. If I spun the bottle, whomever it landed on I then got to tell them who to kiss. (With the caveat that I wasn’t allowed to make anyone do any gay shit.)

One of the handful of intentions in starting this project was to force myself to get better about talking about just not the aesthetics of photography, it was to get better about talking about desire–others, my own, etc.

I still feel like I have a long way to go.

The other reason I posted this image is because for the last three years one of my New Year’s resolutions has been to go skinny dipping. Like Spin the Bottle and tons of other bland transgressive games adolescents play to safely test the extents and limitations of their sexuality, I’ve never gone skinny dipping.

But the thing I know that’s a sort of bait and switch. I want to have something between the closeness of the young woman in the photo but something that skews a little closer to this amazing video of four friends masturbating together in a hotel room.

I don’t want to rub my sexuality in anyone’s face–and if you knew how often I worry about not only being a burden to others but being a burden to others in specifically this way, you’d be flabbergasted–but I’d really like to have something that splits the difference between the above image and this video.

But that’s probably entirely too much to ask of expect–given who and what I am.

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