Latest Book

Philip is interviewed here about his latest book A Brief History of Nakedness. He concludes:

“Many of us now are over old-fashioned ideas about the naked body being shameful, but we’re still trapped by the tyranny of stereotyping. We feel embarrassed about our bodies because we don’t think they’re beautiful enough. Ironically the book is saying that nakedness – in the right context – can help us to look beyond the surface. Beauty isn’t skin deep – beauty and heroism come from within – but as long as we hide the skin we can still be held in the grip of the belief that our beauty is determined by our outside surface. It’s a paradox, but life is full of paradoxes.”

Click below to hear 14 minute audio interview:

To read more about his other books click here.

Responses

  1. You put that beautifully, I really look forward to the book.
    This thing about the body not being beautiful enough is such a big one for us in the west with magazines saying we have to look just so….. TO BE LOVED!!!!!! What kind of love is that?
    We are so much more than our bodies!

  2. Thank you Alice. It has such a strong hold on us that’s why I use the word ‘tyranny’!

  3. This is wonderful Philip! Really moving and inspiring! Alice is so right; at the heart of this is a deep yearning in each of us for self-acceptance and self-love, and as Alice says, we have so few positive things reflected back to us about our bodies in our culture, particularly as we age. It is true that we are more than our bodies but if we do not love them and feel at home in them, it can be incredibly difficult to feel completely connected to, and at home in, life. What you say here, and what you are writing about, is so important because negative body image impacts on many people, from the extremes of eating disorders to the unhappiness that many of us feel in a world obssessed with a body aesthetic focused on youth and perfection. Also, countless people’s relationships with their bodies have been damaged by physical or sexual abuse, or by their bodies being damaged or changed by accidents, or by society’s unheathy attitudes to disability and difference. Because of this, your book has the potential to be an incredibly healing thing for many people. I feel sure that your sensitive understanding of this subject will encourage the reader to embrace their naked selves with love, acceptance and compassion; there are many out there who secretly yearn to heal that wound (as you say, look at the popular response to Gok Wan’s programmes!). Well done Philip for tackling this! Your words certainly encourage me to think that whatever my body shape or history, I am lovable, worthy and acceptable as I am. This is a powerful mesage which I feel sure many want to hear right now. I can’t wait to read this!

  4. Have thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and will be reviewing it for Naturist Life magazine – any chance of some photographs Philip.

  5. I got an email a couple of weeks ago from Spencer Tunick. Reads as follows:

    “Gil, want to buy me a gift ;)” followed by a link to the Telegraph website.

    I promptly sent Spencer an affirmative response, went to the Telegraph website and ordered two copies. Between then and the books’ arrival this morning, Spencer has been and gone (he was at The Lowry in Salford for the preview of his Everyday People exhibition).

    Fortunately, The Lowry had a copy in stock, so I nipped downstairs to the gift shop, and five minutes later I was able to hand Spencer his gift in person after all.

    I now have two copies of the Brief History of Nakedness, but I can think of many more people who would love to own this book, so one of those lucky people is about to receive a gift from me. The others will receive a warm recommendation, but will likely buy the books themselves.

    Since the books only arrived an hour ago, I have not yet had a chance to start reading in detail. But I’ll be thrilled to provide some post-read feedback once I am done.

    While nakedness is by no means Spencer Tunick’s exclusive realm, the shift in social trends that have made nakedness more acceptable in the later 20th and the current century have, as you point out on page 16, made it so much easier for Spencer Tunick to recriut models for his installations.

    It is also worth noting that Spencer has developed a massive cult following over the past 7 years or so, particularly in Britain and Europe, that there will always be enough people who will travel across the continent and will drop their clothes at the drop of a hat for Spencer without thinking twice. The most recent installations for The Lowry in Salford required 1000 bodies. Over 4000 people applied.

    The Saatchi Gallery opening in 2003, while not his first group installation in London, was definitely the turning point in Britain. The amount of press coverage from that event alone was phenomenal, due to the presence of so many A-list celebrities, press photographers and TV crews, The once-in-a-lifetime occasion where celebrities and naked people mixed and mingled for close to 3 hours made headlines the likes of which had never been seen before, and have not really been seen since. Yes, I was there, I was the last person to get dressed again at the end of the evening, I was plastered all over the tabloids and glossies over the following two weeks, and yes, it did change my life in a very profound way.

    Thus, Spencer is not only the beneficiary to this change in social attitudes towards nakedness, but he has also become a significant force behind it, indirectly contributing to the shift in social acceptance of nakedness we have experienced in the last few years, and contributing to the ease in which he can recruit bodies for his installations.

    Spencer is aware of this, but it is very marginal on his list of concerns. He is an artist, and his prime concern is to work with his palette of human bodies to create the art he envisions.

    Spencer is back again in August to create art with naked people at The Big Chill festival.

    In the meantime, I would like to congratulate you on the book, wish you the best of success with it, and I would love to get my two copies autographed. Let’s talk!

  6. Hi Philip

    I have finished reading you excellent book, and wanted to say how much I enjoyed it. I found out about your book when it was reviewed in Naturist Life magazine, and the information you have included about naturism and the naturist movement was extremely informative. It must have taken you many years of research pulling all the strands together, and obviously by including your own experience of Naturism (at Mount Caburn, Cap d’Adge, Speilplatz and life modeling) adds credence to your writing.

    After reading some to the comments posted on your blog I went on-line to read the Peter Conrad review in The Observer. This guy obviously never read the book in full, and with an open mind, which I would thought would be a prerequisite for a book reviewer. I find that his personal attacks on you are unwarranted, and are sadly indicative of certain sections of society today. Whilst I enjoy walking nude in the hills of Scotland – I would not want to offend others [including Conrad] by, say, walking down my local high street without clothes (I believe that this is the belief of the majority of naturists), but I kind of feel sorry for Conrad as he obviously is unhappy with his own nakedness – even in the privacy of his own home – or is it a case of “He doth protest too much”?

    All my experiences of naturism to date have been alone, apart from communal changing rooms etc., but your book has made me now want to develop this pastime and share it with others. I have previously thought about taking the next step but I have doubts in the back of my mid of being accepted – reading your book, and your experiences, have made me realise that I should “take the plunge” and seek out like-minded people. Thank you.

    Finally, “A Brief History of Nakedness” – does this mean you have sequel the pipeline – “A Fuller History of Nakedness”? I hope so!

    Regards

    Tom

  7. Thank you Tom. Great to know the book has had such a positive effect! A Fuller History! Now there’s a thought! Best wishes, Philip

  8. I have put MY review of the book on Amazon.

  9. Hello,

    I went to your speech about Nakedness in Bath on a beautiful sunny saturday morning.
    It help me to remember how much I was in trouble with naked bodies and specially mine.
    You mostly talked about the fear of beauty and return to innocence. I am scared about what the other will think about my body (and I am only 25) but also and mostly because of the sexual desire which will be created. I fear the violence of the men, the “greedy-feeling” (don’t know if it is english, sorry :)) which kill innocence and also to be left alone for another girl nicer, freer and so one, than me which create a lot of jealousy in me.
    I think that the problem of nakedness is more affective for the women first because of history (Adam/Eve) and the media, fashion… A girl, woman has to be almost naked : sexy and creates a sexual desire to be available in the society. It is really difficult to escape from this and to return to innocence.

    I would like to find a group of people, first woman, in which I could learn and experiment this return to innocence like a rebirth in front of the nature and myself.
    I am french and lives around Paris so, if you know a nice someone… :)

    I was very pleased to hear and see you there.

    Thank you

  10. Dear Anais,
    Thank you for this post, which goes straight to a very important topic I think. Our culture, and the behaviour of men in particular, have placed an enormous pressure on women which prevents them from experiencing the innocence and freedom that is their birthright, and so it is quite natural for you to be protective of your body and to feel cautious. I used to think that the Naturist movement, with their clubs and resorts, was passé and strange, until I visited one and realized that of course to feel safe in our society we have to create these ‘artificial’ environments where there are controls, and rules, so that women (and men) can feel safe. I think your idea of finding a group of women with whom you could explore this is a good one. There is a solidarity in working like this, and the whole issue of body-image and our feelings of identity in relation to our primal self (ie our nakedness) can then be explored with others of like mind. Unfortunately I know of no such group, but you might find such a group via La Fédération Française de Naturisme at http://www.ffn-naturisme.com/

  11. Hi Anais,

    I think your feelings speak for most women – I agree with you it can feel incredibly hard as a woman to regain that sense of naked innocence. I think a lot of women grow up with the understanding that their naked body provokes both desire and anger – it is an uncomfortable mix to try to reconcile, and can undermine how we feel about ourselves. My early sexual experiences certainly reflected this conflict back to me – I have felt all the things that you express in your comment, throughout my life. Far too many women experience sexual violence at some point and as you say, women’s nakedness is constantly sexualised and objectified in our media. It is little wonder that nakedness for us can feel more raw and painful than innocent and joyful.

    These challenges continue as we age – I am forty four and find that my aging nakedness is now subject to harsh judgement in my culture; it seems that we spend a whole lifetime trying to come to terms with the complexities that our female nakedness inspires and then find that there are a whole set of new issues to make us feel bad!

    It can be tough but I feel that your instincts to find a group of women to share and explore these ideas is such an important one. In creating a safe space where we can share our fears and struggles, we are given the chance to re-envision a new way to be and build a new relationship with ourselves and our bodies. The more we learn to challenge the negative assumptions and shallow perceptions of who we are, the greater chance we will have of feeling at home in our nakedness.

    The greatest challenge for me has been to show tenderness towards my naked self – we can internalise the cruelty we may have received (from individuals or society) and turn it upon ourselves. Finding like-minded souls who reflect back to you your naked beauty and worth is priceless and goes a long way in helping us find healing. As Philip says, wider society might not have caught up with these ideas yet, but if we can create our own safe environments where we can explore them, bit by bit, attitudes might start to change.

    Getting naked can be a very liberating and healing thing, giving the right environment. I still get angry that our culture has so many unhealthy attitudes to the body and sexuality, particularly women’s, but I also feel – despite moments of feeling down about my own body – that reclaiming nakedness as something joyful is actually where true healing lies for us all. Good luck with your search – I really hope that you find a group that you can share with.

  12. Hi Philip.
    I stumbled upon your book yesterday during a quick browse on the Amazon website.
    Imagine my surprise when I found both my (now) husband Lawrence and my friend Cynthia were mentioned in your book in the index!
    I hope you have given him a favourable mention, and yes we still have the plaster cast on display at home. (It will be an interesting story to tell our two boys when they are older.)
    Regards, Nicola Barraclough

  13. Hi Nicola,
    Yes they’ve both got favourable mentions I can assure you! If your boys are anything like our kids, the story will yield groans of dismay as they realize their parents are even more crazy than they thought they were!
    I wonder what the fate of the snap-a-chap project was?
    Best wishes,
    Philip

  14. Your book is great and unique, but as an Orthodox Jew, I was disappointed not to see more coverage of nudity in contemporary Orthodox Judaism. Where Judaism is mentioned in your book, it is only in terms of ancient times and conversions. You may not be aware but in modern times, millions of Jews observe the laws of the mikva, which requires complete nudity in order the water to come in contact with the entire body. Even if an item as small as a band-aid is left on the skin, the immersion is invalid. Women immerse in the mikva every month following their menstrual period to allow them to resume their sexual relationship with their husband, and some men immerse as well to increase their spritual purity, some daily (although it is not required by Judaism as it is for women). Also, converts of both sexes must immerse. In addition, since men immerse together at the same time as each other and also change together, it is kind of a social nudity experience for them (women however don’t immerse or change together). You should really look into that by interviewing practitioners of Orthodox Judasim.

    • I spoke with a Jewish professor of religious studies to obtain information on this question, but your information sheds even more light – Thank you so much for this feed-back!

      • OK, let me know if you want to talk more about it!

  15. Hello Philip,

    I’m just writing a novel about natural beings that are not humans but existing withing our world – old authors may call them sidhe. I read that you wrote that book about nudity, and was astonished that I’m carrying the same theme in my book. The relation of these creatures to their naked body and the kind to represent it to the eyes of others may seem to man as sinfull and coveting. Their fashion is fitted to show important parts of the body as something that is beautiful. It is not important how old the waerer is, if it’s a male or a female, if he/she corresponds to the beauty ideals of the species itself. For me it is an adventure to write about these interesting people I have contact to.

    If you like you can visit my blog as well. I’m German so don’t wonder If the posts are too ;)

    See Ya
    Alina

    • Hi!
      That’s great! Good luck with your book! I wish I could read German, but for German readers here is your blog URL:alinatamasan.blogspot.de

  16. Hi,

    I gave my mind out and translated some important aspects of my site…^^ – for english speakers…

  17. Sounds it could be a great candidate for our nude philosophy book club will pick up for review

  18. Always open the book, don’t just go by the cover. You will find amazing things as your turn each page

  19. From: Alan G. Clark
    I have only just found your website. This was because I was trying to find details of Madame Warton. I am researching the life of “Cuthbert Bede” (Rev. Edward Bradley), who, in 1850, went to see Madame’s “Tableaux Vivars” at the Shakespeare Rooms in Birmingham. He was twenty-three at the time and was enjoying his last days of “freedom” before taking his first curacy at Glatton-cum-Holme, in Huntingdonshire. Your piece on “The Sad Tale of Madam Warton” is absolutely fascinating – and I will use a watered-down version for the footnote I shall add to the book text I am planning, hopefully, to be published. I shall add your name in the acknowledgments. Anyway, many thanks Philip! Keep up the good work. By the way, have you any old photos or drawings of Madame Warton’s “Tableaux Vivars”?
    Best wishes,
    Alan

  20. Hi Alan, no sadly, I don’t have photos or drawings of her Tableaux Vivars. It is a fascinating story! Best of luck with your research!


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