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Reflections on Art, the Colour Green and Evolutionary Instincts.

(By Stuart)

Defining art is always difficult, but to my mind one of the defining factors of a work of art is that it inspires an emotional reaction. Happy, sad, moved, scared or brave, art can make us feel all those things and a lot more beside.

For this reason, I’ve always found art nude photography to have a certain element of purity to it. It’s very easy for a competent photographer to take a photo of a nude woman that people will like, but to take one that inspires an emotion and is more than just a pretty picture of a naked woman takes skill, both in front of and behind the camera. Take this selection, especially the first two. Two nude women on a bed may be a staple of eroticism but these images bypass that approach and the skill of those in front of and behind the camera create something beautiful which could be waxed lyrically about at length. You can use words like innocence,  ethereal or intimacy when talking about it. And while there’s certainly an erotic element to it, it’s just that. An element, not the defining factor but merely one piece of the puzzle that creates the emotional reaction.

But where does that emotional reaction come from? It was these photos of Ivory Flame that got me thinking about this subject, and I’d like to explore one aspect of it.

I love greenery. Trees, grass, bushes, anything green in nature I love to be around. I’m never happier than when I’m running through a forest, or lying in the grass as I dry off beside a stream after a swim. As so many of us find ourselves spending more and more time in urban areas, we long to return to green places .

And yet in photos I have zero reaction to the colour green, and I’m not the only one. I love trees, yet why are the best photos of them in autumn when they’re not green? Why are grassy lawns always at their most striking when they’re surrounded by an urban environment which is almost certainly largely devoid of anything green?

I have to conclude that buried somewhere in my evolutionary instincts, hidden beneath layers of intellect and education, lies the memory of a distant ancestor, a Cretaceous era primate that scampered around the feet of the great theropod dinosaurs, hiding in burrows or trees from these huge animals that would eat them. They learnt to stay alive by learning when something was trying to eat them and getting the hell away from them. Built into their DNA was the instinct that if it wasn’t green, you should probably either run away from it or perhaps if it was smaller than you, to try and eat it. Being able to spot a great big Tyrannosaurus Rex or the last fruit of winter could be the difference between life and death, so prompting an automatic reaction to them seems like a good way to evolve.

So does this give us an insight into the nature of emotions and why they evolved? What do emotions do if not give us a jolt? They make us angry, happy, sad, determined, all kinds of things that stimulate action. After all, no one ever fell asleep as the result of an emotional reaction. They rouse us from slumber and make us do whatever it is we think we need to do to survive or to pass on our genes. Emotions kept us alive, and when we weren’t feeling them, we were relaxing, saving our strength for when we next had to do whatever we had to do to survive.

If green is the colour of security and safety in our ancient minds then no wonder we crave it. No wonder so many of us get stressed when we lock ourselves away behind concrete and stone for most of our lives. No wonder we put such an emphasis on parks and lawns, these little private or communal bits of the environment that soothe and relax the ancient emotions that were forged tens of millions of years ago when our ancestors lived alongside the dinosaurs, fighting for survival every day.

Now go back and look at those photos of Ivory Flame on the log in the forest with that shock of red hair that immediately gets your attention. What does your prehistoric brain make of those images? Does it see a predator emerging from the jungle canopy ready to eat you? Does it see the fruit it needs to give it the strength to survive for a little bit longer through the coming winter? While you see a nude woman on a log, is there a part of you that sees something else, buried beneath layers and layers of instinct and intellect, the ringing of a long obsolete bell that harks back to a time long ago?

For me it’s a wonderful thought. Our ancestors survived the endless millions of years of the dinosaurs. They survived the impact holocaust that wiped out more than 75% of all species on earth, the majority of dinosaurs among them. And down through the following 65 million years they not only survived but flourished, ultimately becoming us, the dominant species on the planet. And if my hypothesis is true, those primitive, basic emotions that helped them forge their way through the ages are still there, but now they also build the foundation of one of humanity’s greatest achievements and one of its most fulfilling pastimes. Artistic expression.

Of Lyme Disease and German Toilets

(By Stuart)

It started innocently enough. A small red patch of skin buried among clusters of bruises on my right leg after weeks of work in the garden was the first sign. As I went to bed that night I noticed that the bruise seemed warm and somewhat tender but I gave it no more thought.

My house in the north of Germany backed onto a forest and we regularly had deer in the garden. We had found the occasional tick on us but none for a while and after spending much of November cutting down trees and digging up the stumps I assumed it was too late in the year for ticks.

The next morning wasn’t that much different, except the bruise was now a little hotter. I had to visit the local town that day, and as the weather was good I decided not to take the bus to the railway station. It was an hour’s walk away, a pleasant and easy walk on a good track through the woods, but by the time I arrived I was noticing some pain in my leg. It wasn’t much but by the time I’d walked through the town for an hour and a half the pain was starting to get very uncomfortable and when I returned on the train I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk back.

It was a ten minute wait for the bus home, and the pain and heat from the leg seemed to be getting worse by the minute. When I got off the bus I was struggling to walk and hobbled the last few hundred metres to  the house where I collapsed into the chair. I needed to have a look at my leg to see what was causing the pain and when I did, this was the sight that greeted me:

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“Bollocks” I said as my heart sunk. I recognised the classic bulls-eye rash of Lyme Disease and knew it was serious. By the time I went to bed that night, my leg burnt and I felt absolutely exhausted.

I crawled out of bed the next morning feeling weak and nauseous, but I needed to get to the doctor. The walk there took me down the hill through a forest path and by the time I reached it I was shivering and sweating profusely. I dread to think how I looked with my arms wrapped tightly around me as sweat poured from my face. When I was called I found I could barely walk and staggered across the waiting room before falling into the chair in front of the doctor.

My German wasn’t great, but it didn’t need to be. As soon as I rolled my trouser leg up and showed her my rash, which by now looked like this:

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She said exactly what I expected her to say, “Es ist Zeckenkrankheit Lyme-Borreliose”.

A broad spectrum antibiotic was prescribed and a nurse called to clean & dress the site of the rash. All pretensions of masculinity and courage went out the window as the spatula dripping with antiseptic approached my leg and the pathetic attempt I made at a scream was worthy of a small child that had just dropped its ice cream.

And so I set off back home with the full strength of the “flu-like” symptoms hitting me as I headed back home up the hill. With each step my strength weakened and my leg grew more painful until it got to the point where my leg was almost useless. I was almost dragging it behind me while hopping with the good leg and my house felt as far away as the top of the toughest Munro.

This bizarre hoppy drag shuffle was a slow and painful way to get home. I had to rest every few steps, stopping and putting just a little weight on my bad leg until my other leg didn’t feel like jelly. What should only have taken a few minutes took almost half an hour until I eventually got to my front door and collapsed into the house.

This was, of course, the perfect time for the vomiting to start. Fortunately it wasn’t the instant and projectile style of vomit, so I had enough time to do the hoppy drag shuffle up the stairs to the toilet.

At this point I feel the need to digress a little. As many of our readers won’t have spent much time in Germany, it’s very possible they’re not familiar with the truly evil and horrific alteration that Germans have made to the otherwise simple design of the toilet:

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It’s a shelf. In the toilet. Anything you do in the toilet falls onto a shelf that’s only a few inches below the rim. I say “falls” but that’s only if you’re lucky. If you do something that’s any reasonable length you have to actually lift yourself off from it and hope it falls over on its side. And then there’s the fact that it doesn’t fall into deep water but into an incredibly shallow puddle that does nothing to contain the smell which sits, gathering its strength until you flush, sending the noxious gas pouring out of the toilet in every direction.

You can’t even do a courtesy flush as if you’ve been pebble-dashing the force of the water has enough strength to send something flying forwards out of the toilet to land in your trousers. And if you’ve done something large enough to require the afore mentioned raising, you then have to suffer the deeply unpleasant sight of it doing an impression of the Titanic as the water slowly forces it to the edge of the shelf before slowly tipping upright before sinking to the depths below.

So what has this to do with my Lyme Disease? Well, this was the first time I’d vomited into a German toilet and it’s a testament to German engineering just how well it seems to be designed to send any vomit splashing in every direction out of the pan! It turns out that aiming is essential, and if you hit the shelf, it goes bloody everywhere. Fortunately I had Karla to clean up after me and after she saw the fairly pathetic state I was now in she dispatched me straight to bed with orders to sleep for a very long time.

For about a week the leg was absolutely crippling. Burning hot, badly swollen and exceptionally painful, I could barely move or sleep because of it. Putting weight on it was painful and walking was utter agony for about a dozen steps until the pain seemed to ease to something resembling very painful. But as the rash began to fade, so did the pain and within a couple of weeks I could walk short distances without limping too badly.

 lyme3

Likewise the other symptoms started to fade. The fever, the cold sweats and the aches in every joint began to fade along with the rash. The fatigue lingered for a long time, outlasting all the other symptoms and still left me exhausted for a couple of months.

But the biggest long term health issue was from the antibiotics. They absolutely destroyed my gut bacteria as well as the Lyme Disease and my body suddenly struggled to digest my food. I suffered severe diarrhea for several months as a result of the antibiotics, ultimately needing medication to slow down my digestive system before I returned to normal.

It’s been almost ten months since I first contracted Lyme Disease. I still have a dark stain on my leg where the rash was and it’s been a tough year physically because of it. But I’m lucky, because it was recognised immediately, both my myself and my doctor and the prompt treatment with the antibiotics meant that when my blood was checked several months later there was no trace of it in my system.

If I hadn’t had the rash, as happens in a substantial minority of Lyme Disease cases, I’d have dismissed it as the flu. I wouldn’t have sought medical treatment and I wouldn’t have been treated early. And with Lyme Disease, if you don’t catch it early it’s virtually untreatable, lingering in your system and causing you endless years of life-altering problems, including Encephalomyelitis, an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord and symptoms that resemble Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

I caught Lyme Disease because I got lazy. I didn’t check myself for ticks for a few days and one got me. It was preventable and I only have myself to blame for contracting it. So I encourage everyone who reads this to check yourself for ticks every time you’ve been in an area that could have them. This includes anywhere with deer or sheep and any forested areas. I had several months of hell with this disease, don’t let it happen to you.

In Praise of the Art Nude Model

(Written by Stuart)

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Nude models, in my opinion, are some of the great unsung heroes of the art world. They work hard and with an iron discipline to maintain their physical condition. They frequently endure the physical hardship of being nude in uncomfortable or harsh environments outdoors, often for prolonged periods of time. Some risk a backlash in their personal lives, from friends, family or future co-workers as a result of posing nude. They literally give their whole selves to their art, stripped of anything to hide behind or of any shelter whatsoever.

And yet almost every time it is the photographer who gets the credit.

Now from a business point of view, that’s entirely fair. The photographer usually pays the model for her time, allowing him the rights to the photo, but artistically that leaves me less than satisfied. The model makes a fundamental contribution to the finished work of art and controls the final image in a way many photographers can never hope to match.

So I’d like to take a few minutes to sing the praises of a few individual models, all of whose work has inspired in some way our own photography.

But first let’s get the obvious statement out the way. All these women are beautiful. But there are many things that are described as beautiful. Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” is beautiful. Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony is beautiful. The re-entry scene in Gravity is beautiful. Clearly “beautiful” is too vague a word to describe the qualities these women possess and that’s what I want to briefly explore.

I’ll start with the artistic tour-de-force that is Ivory Flame. Ivory Flame goes beyond simple beauty, with expressive eyes, an elegant symmetry to her poses and a total domination of any image she appears in.

No matter who the photographer, almost every photo I’ve seen of her is stamped with her unique style. Perhaps it’s the captivating and haunting eyes of the first photo here  or in the third photo here. Perhaps it’s her preference for flowing poses that hide a multitude of symmetrical forms, well illustrated here.

You might think it’s her red hair, but even her black and white work holds her unique stamp. For example, there is no shot more typical of her work than this one.

She also seems to attract other creative types, leading to this truly amazing image.

Ivory Flame strikes me as an utterly devoted artist, posing not just with her body but with her soul as well. To my mind, she is unsurpassable, and is the model I most hope to work with one day.

Also, she pulls off the steampunk look like no-one else.

Joceline Brooke-Hamilton, in contrast to Ivory Flame, has a more physical and raw feel to her art. Where Ivory Flame has symmetry, Joceline Brooke-Hamilton so often has wild and energetic shapes, unpredictable and exciting. Elegant and statuesque, her work ranges from simple landscape  or studio nudes to work involving more physicality. A pleasing sense of mischief and fun can also be found in her work, after all there aren’t many models who are prepared to do public nudity in a blizzard.

Not only does she comes across as the most natural of nudes (her work is often used by naturist magazines), she frequently has a hard, gritty edge to her images and the more of her work you see, the less it comes as a surprise to learn on her CV that she’s trained in stage fighting with everything from broadswords to quarterstaffs. She is an overwhelmingly physical model, emanating strength and power in much of her work.

Now let’s try this the other way round. Stefan Soell, whose work is frequently found standing head and shoulders above everyone else’s on the Femjoy website  is one of my favourite photographers and he has a number of models that he works with on a regular basis and it’s interesting to see how his work is influenced by his model. Corinna, statuesque and radiant, always presents a sense of strength combined with pure natural beauty. Few models look like they’re enjoying themselves as much as the voluptuous and  mesmerising Susann and her work always seems to show how much she loves the wild and remote settings she’s so often found in. Anything featuring Julia often showcases the vulnerability of humanity within nature, although the model herself has an appearance that is anything but weak. Stacey gives a sense of mischievous innocence to her photos, Anna-Leah so often seems to wrap herself in mystery…the list goes on and on. Stefan Soell may have an unmistakable style but every time it’s the model who sets the tone.

I could go on. Roswell Ivory is another consummate artist, whose work is never less than exciting and fresh. Ella Rose gives us refinement and elegance often mixed with a bohemian sense of adventure. The list goes on and on, full of inventive and creative models who give their heart, body and soul in pursuit of exciting and creative images.

The model creates the image, the photographer just captures it. An inexperienced photographer with a poor camera can still capture interesting images, but if your model is no good, then the likelihood of getting a good image is greatly diminished.

Naturism and Political Promotion

(Written by Stuart)

A few days ago the Twitter account of a prominent UK naturist organisation tweeted something political. It wasn’t commenting on naturist related legislation or even just re-tweeting a story that was interesting, it was the latest in a series of tweets from them that actively and explicitly supported a particular political party.

 I have written articles and provided photos for this naturist organisation in the past. I shall never do so again, and I’ll explain why.

 Any promoter of a lifestyle or other activity needs to promote inclusiveness as much as the actual lifestyle itself. In a world of such mixed demographics, it is short sighted and self defeating to purposely narrow your target audience unnecessarily. Party politics is a partisan world, where hostile pack instinct and the assumption that everyone else is both incompetent and a pathological psychopath intent on destroying the country is considered both normal and healthy, and this makes it a terrible influence to bring to the table when you are attempting to promote a minority lifestyle. It brings divisiveness where there should be a common interest, alienating anyone of a different or even a neutral political persuasion who is looking to learn more about the lifestyle as they take their first faltering steps into it.

 The world of naturism can be a daunting one to explore. There are body confidence issues. There is the question of what friends and family think. In fact there are a whole range of issues and hang-ups that some people have to address before they are confident enough to try it. Why would we add the fear of political non-conformity to that?

 People have a right to political self expression, but when you set yourself up as an organisation that promotes naturism and ask people to contribute their work for no payment in return, it’s not unreasonable that they would expect you to not use their hard work as a platform for promoting their own political identity.

 They have betrayed the trust of everyone who has ever given their time and creative effort to their magazine.

Naturism or Nudism?

(Written by Stuart)

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One of the oldest arguments in naturism is the difference in the definition of the words nudism and naturism. It’s a perennial favourite on discussion forums and other web sites, and the same old arguments come up time and time again without any real resolution. Many people consider the words to be interchangeable, and while its hard to argue that the wider public see any difference in them, to the practitioners of either, it can be a big issue.

 A common occurrence is that some people will claim you are not a “true naturist/nudist” unless you subscribe to a similar philosophy to them. Well, let’s look at some of the arguments and definitions that people give.

Let’s start with nudism. This is perhaps the simplest definition, and it is subsequently less controversial than naturism. However, there are still those who would attach additional meanings to it. One meaning you’ll never find attached to it though is anything to do with sex. People who claim to be “true nudists” will often go out of their way to tell you that nudists are not exhibitionists, or perverts or anything else vaguely related to sex. In fact they go so far out of their way to make the point, you often wonder who they’re trying to convince.

Another commonly ascribed factor to “true nudism” is a social aspect. This is often something you have to get together with other nudists to do. You can’t really do it at home by yourself or with your family, otherwise that’s just “at home” nudism, which isn’t really “true nudism.” No, for this you have to gather somewhere, usually at a club or other designated area.

All kinds of phrases and concepts are used to try and tell nudists what they are and how to behave. Depends on who you ask, nudists believe the human body is “inherently dignified,” they will never judge someone for their body shape, a variation on tennis called miniten is the single best game to play in the world or that nudism must be kept to “designated areas.” Oh, and did I mention it’s nothing to do with sex whatsoever?

Some of these attitudes are almost certainly part of the culture that’s evolved over the twentieth century of the landed club, a place where like minded people gather to do like minded things. And like minded people tend to confirm and validate each other’s beliefs, and this has perhaps led to a certain understanding of what nudism is supposed to be. The old cliché of the “nudist colony” where beautiful people play volleyball may be an almost forgotten myth, but myths have their basis in fact and a culture of conformity seems to have developed in some nudism circles in the past.

But I think this use of the word is dying out. More and more people seem to use nudism as a more generic title for someone who just likes to be naked, but there are still those who try and claim it for their own.

A more problematic word is naturism. Its derivation from the word nature or natural means it comes pre-loaded with implications. It doesn’t help that the International Naturist Federation decided to define it in 1974:

 “Naturism is a lifestyle in harmony with nature, expressed through personal and social nudity, and characterised by self-respect of people with different opinions and of the environment.”

Let’s look at those values one at a time. Firstly, its a lifestyle, not a hobby or something you do on your holidays. Next, this lifestyle is defined as being in harmony with nature, which pretty much excludes the whole human race, except perhaps parts of Africa where famine, disease and other hideous forms of nature-induced sufferings are common. That’s the whole point of civilisation, to avoid being in harmony with nature, which is a horrible, violent killing field where the weak perish and nothing dies of old age. Fine, you can eat organic food, cultivate your own herb garden, but don’t kid yourself that’s living in harmony with nature.

Some people take this as a statement on personal health and they will even tell you this means you can’t be a naturist unless you are vegetarian, or you have to be a non-smoker and not drink too much.

Characterised by self-respect of people with different opinions” is the next definition. I’m going to assume they mean respect of people with different opinions rather as their actual wording seems a bit strange, but is this really part of a definition for naturism? To me it seems more part of the “don’t be an arse” culture or the “be nice to other people” culture that also involves not stealing from people or kicking sand in their face on the beach.

It is perhaps the final one, the reference to the environment that annoys me the most. Not because its a bad idea, but because it’s the worst possible subject to make a sweeping statement about respect for. The “environment” is a very broad subject, a passionate one for many, and a subject you will rarely see so many ill-informed opinions and distorted facts about.

Subsequently, it is a very divisive subject. Some people think wind farms spoil the landscape and should be scrapped. Others think nuclear power is too dangerous and want all reactors shut down. Both groups almost certainly want us to stop using fossil fuels. You can see how this could be a problem. Suddenly if you support nuclear power, to some people you’re not a true naturist. Want more wind farms? Other people make the same claim against you.

The World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) phenomenon is a part of this. Personally, I never like it when naturism is used as a political tool, and the WNBR is an example of the polarising effect of the environment argument. Were I new to naturism, and just beginning to explore it, the WNBR might just put me off getting involved. Why is this? Because I don’t like the anti-oil cause. I think it’s misguided, misinformed and unrealistic, not to mention slightly hypocritical.

Now, you could argue these points with me (and I may do a future blog on the subject), but the fact is, I feel this way and so do others. Yet there’s a lot of people that would say I’m not a “true naturist” unless I share their environmental concerns.

Ah,” some would say, “but if you don’t care about the environment you’re just a nudist.” Well, I do care about the environment, I just don’t share the WNBR’s view on it. And now we have a situation where potential new naturists see naturism as about a particular viewpoint.

 There’s a running problem here. People use the lack of a firm definition of these words to load their own agendas on to it. Vegetarianism. Abstinence. The latest environmental cause. Social nudity. The list goes on and on.

As I said at the start, for the average person, the words are largely interchangeable. As time goes on, nudism seems to be a less popular word generally and naturism is becoming more and more common as the default term for people who take their clothes of more than most.

Perhaps this is representative of the changing face of the scene in general. As I discussed in my previous blog, landed clubs, which would have been called “nudist camps” or “nudist colonies” in days gone by, are now dying out and perhaps along with it is the term “nudist”.

Personally I just use the word naturist for everything. At home, social, free range, factory farmed, the lot. If anyone wants to create an eco-naturist movement, or an extreme naturist movement, then go ahead. Just make sure you call it what it is and don’t try and load your own agenda on to an existing term.

 

 

My worst book review yet, why I wrote a naturist novel and why landed clubs will die out

(Written by Stuart)

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For a book an naturism, this is far too blood thirsty, it does not convey any feeling about the naturism, only the crunching of bones” wrote the only one star review on Amazon for my novel. I was delighted to get that review. In a way it vindicated why I wrote the book, and to a larger extent, why we both put so much work into the website.

Let me give you a little bit of background to the book. It all goes back to a trip we did to climb Ben Mhanach, a Munro in the southern highlands. It was a long walk in and several times the well constructed path crossed a river, fording it and allowing us to cross. Normally I’m pretty sure footed on river crossings, but this time it felt slippery, and at the first crossing I put it down to the artificial nature of the ford, probably a result of a bulldozer.

It got me thinking about how dangerous nature can be and an idea formed in my head. A story began to form, a dark Gothic horror about a group of friends, some naturists and some not, getting lost in the wilds and picked off by nature herself. I began to write furiously, creating a group of what I thought were interesting characters.

But while the characters were working, the plot wasn’t. They became in my mind a group in search of danger, a deadly peril they could be tested against and I found it in one of the most traditional horror genres of all, the zombie.

Not just any old zombies of course, that would be boring, and the plot needed a unique naturist take on the zombie horror, one which once I found produced what seemed to me to be an interesting idea and a very different direction to any other naturist fiction I’d ever seen.

So I had my characters and my zombies, and with a little bit of romance I was able to bring my knowledge of free range naturism into the story, adding the odd hint of my own experiences here and there into the story.

But it remained a horror story, and there was blood, gore, dashed brains and zombies trying to eat people alive. Of course there was, its a zombie story. Why wouldn’t it?

Yet someone seems to think that’s not appropriate, that naturism shouldn’t mix with other genres. And that attitude seems to be the perfect metaphor for a wider attitude that seems to pervade in some naturists.

Traditional naturism is dying. Controlled for years by ‘national organisations’ and landed clubs, the long standing habit of naturists flocking to designated and specific areas is beginning to wane. The average naturist club offers very little to young people and instead they seek out new territories, exploring wild areas and remote landscapes. They embrace the natural world instead of locking themselves away from it, and in doing so embrace and epitomise the word “naturism” far more than someone who sunbathes on a manicured lawn or swims in a heated pool.

It was inevitable a small minority would feel threatened by this, especially if they can’t make any money from it. By neglecting the younger generations, the landed clubs have thrown away any chance of future financial security, and some fight back the only way they know how – by trying to control naturism.

In 2011 Lady Gaga suggested that she wanted to be nude in all her TV appearances, yet what was the reaction of the American Association of Nude Recreation? They said they only promoted nude recreation in “appropriate settings” and invited to her to a landed club. In fact the whole official response (see it at http://www.aanr.com/blog/aanr-responds-to-lady-gagas-nudity-is-timeless-quote/ ) is about landed clubs, places almost devoid of young people. They attempted to control nudity, to make it a commodity to buy and sell, with themselves as the only broker.

When one national organisation presented evidence to campaign for naturist’s rights during a review of their country’s sexual offences act they told a legislative committe that every naturist in the country was literally a card-carrying member of the organisation. While their testimony was helpful to all naturists in regards to the law, the claim to speak for every single one of them was not unexpected. Worse still was their implication that if you didn’t carry a card you weren’t really a naturist, a worrying thing to have them tell legislators.

The simple truth is that nobody owns naturism and nobody owns nudity. In parts of the world an entire generation of young naturists have been ignored and brushed off by organised naturism, left to fend for themselves or to take what they were given by the landed clubs.

I visited a landed club once on their open day. It was possibly the most depressing experience I have ever had with my clothes off. There were a few facilities, a bar, a swimming pool and lots of space to sunbathe in, but it was a grim place to be, a corner of a suburban area all set up to be a sterile and static approximation of nature. The owners and regular members seem delighted to see us because of our age, but frankly I couldn’t wait to leave. There was literally nothing to do.

The sad thing is it didn’t have to be like this. There are plenty of young naturists around (just visit http://internationalyn.org for proof) and there are some organisations who are moving to cater for them. The Naturist Society (http://www.naturist.com/) makes a good effort to involve all kinds of nude activities. Young British Naturism actively promotes naturism for young people, and with some success. But this isn’t enough and these organisations are likely to be the ones that survive the transition from traditional clubs to more free range activities as the norm for naturism.

Its such a shame because clubs could have had so much to offer. With facilities for children they would have made a wonderful getaway for young parents, which in turn would have brought down the age demographic and made them more appealing to younger people generally. And younger people would have brought more energy to the clubs, keeping them alive and interesting for potential new members of any age.

Instead they went to waste. We’ll see a lot of clubs start to die off over the next couple of decades. The baby boomer generation is getting old and many won’t be going to these clubs soon, and when they stop going, the clubs will die. I’m very pessimistic about their future, but I can’t see how any more than a few will be able to reverse the trend.

A whole way of life is threatened by this, and I think that’s partly what produces the instinct in some to try and take ownership of naturism. They feel that if they can own it, they can control what others who want to try it can do. You can say that “true naturists” don’t wander off somewhere to hike naked, they stay in designated areas where they can relax. Or that “true naturists” always go to the designated beaches.

Which brings me back to my review and why I was delighted by it. Had he given me a one star review with negative comments about characters, or plot development you can be sure I wouldn’t have been so happy. But he didn’t do that. He made a philosophical point, claiming ownership of the concept of naturism and effectively stating it can’t feature in any fiction that crosses genres that don’t meet with his approval. He tried to cut me down and belittle me with his one star review by defining naturism as what it meant to him, regardless of what others may think. He summed up in this one short review the mindset of naturism that is dying, the mindset of defining and controlling naturism, of packaging it up as a commodity to sell to the public. Like a national organisation talking about “appropriate places” he stated his opinion as fact, without any justification at all.

Well sorry, but no. People with that attitude had their chance and they blew it. A new generation is taking over naturism and if they want to cycle naked, to climb mountains naked or even write books about zombies and naturists, then we will, and to hell with anyone who says we aren’t “true naturists” for doing so.

 

Reflections on some wider travels

(Written by Stuart)

For most of my adult life I’ve been a Munro bagger. Since I first learned to drive when I was nineteen I’ve lived for the days when I can jump in my car and drive off to the highlands and spend a day or two scampering like an excited puppy across a Scottish mountain ridge.

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I love the highlands of Scotland. On a good summer’s day, which are more common than you might believe, they become a paradise, a wilderness of mountain and glen, strewn with loch and moorland, the perfect place to lose yourself in. Even when the weather’s not so good, it still has its charm, a misty and moody landscape, offering challenges for even the hardiest outdoorsman. And while certain areas will always be busy, once you get to know the place, Scotland has an almost infinite number of places to hide away from the rest of the world in, where you can walk for miles and encounter no one.

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To me it was the perfect land, a magnificent combination of beauty, danger, magnificence and desolation. Nowhere could ever match it, at least so I thought.

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Then I went to the Alps. My first trips there were with my in-laws and I’ll never forget the trip we took to Bayrischzell, and the mountain that stood towering above it, the Wendelstein. A ten minute trip in a cable car had me at a higher height than I’d ever been in my life, and I was speechless at what I saw. Here I was, on a mountain in September, and it was an experience like no other mountain. The temperature was 26C at a height higher than Ben Nevis. Jagged mountain peaks stretched as far as the eye could see to the south, many of which were still snow capped from the previous winter.

And there was a restaurant. Developing mountains is an alien concept in Scotland and any attempts to do it are always fiercely resisted. In the Alps though, its the norm. Cold beer, hot food and an ice cream to finish sounds like a dream on a Scottish mountain, but here it was the norm. The culture could not be more different. I joked that in a Scotland mountain hut the first thing someone would say in the morning would be “look at the size of that rat!” In Germany its “would you like your beer here or on the veranda sir?”

And then there was the weather. Its not just that its warmer, with less wind and humidity, probably reaching the perfect sweet spot for naked hiking, its also an awful lot more stable. In Scotland, the weather changes rapidly, and a good forecast the night before a climb can change into a wind and rain soak depiction of hell when you check the forecast in the morning. There’s none of that in the Alps, warm, still weather wanders in, stays for a week or two, maybe with some overnight thunderstorms, before there’s a bit of wind and rain before the good weather comes back. There isn’t the enormous rain making machine that is the Atlantic Ocean parked to the side of it, so the instability and general wetness of Scotland just doesn’t happen there.

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The flip side to this though is the altitude. There’s no getting away from it, if you’re not in good shape, 2000m hurts. Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest peak is 1344m, so there’s a real step up in terms of altitude. Its nowhere near high enough for there to be any danger from it, such as altitude sickness, but there’s no doubt you feel it in your lungs. The final pull up to an Alp’s summit is always tougher than it ever was on a Munro.

The German influence brings a sense of order to the whole proceedings though. Well marked paths with signposts at every fork cover the Alps, with routes being clearly numbered and painted Austrian flags on rocks and trees keep you straight when the path is obliterated by rough ground or buried under snow. It even has the length of time you can expect to take to get to your destination marked on the signs, although rumours that you are subject to random inspections to make sure punctuality is maintained and that you arrive on time may be exaggerated.

Also, the locals are a lot more tolerant of naturism in the Alps than in Scotland. In Scotland, a naked rambler goes to jail. In the Alps, there’s barely the bat of an eyelid.

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To a Scotsman, the Alps are a clash of cultures, a contrast that is at times difficult to understand. It is a wilderness tamed yet almost untouched, where beer gardens appear from nowhere then are gone with a few minutes walk, leaving the land seemingly untouched by human hand again. It is simultaneously on a grander scale, with larger and more defined peaks, yet somehow more accessible and available to all. Somehow, despite Scotland’s land access reforms, the German and Austrian Alps come across as a more egalitarian mountain environment, where children and the infirm can venture, yet where the hardy wilderness addict will be left more than satisfied by the mountain challenges on offer.

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Scotland is my home, and the mountains I grew up amongst will always be my first love. If I was a teenager again, they’d be my first choice to climb, to take on their challenge of pathless terrain and savage weather. I love the unpredictability and challenge they offer, and I’ll never stop climbing them as long as I live. But as I get older, I find myself looking to the Alps and their grander majesty and calmer conditions. I feel them calling me now, much like the Scottish mountains called me to them in my youth.

Maybe a restaurant on a mountain isn’t such a bad idea after all. Who wouldn’t want a cold one on the summit of a Munro after a long, hot climb to get there?

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Climbing the Munros

(Written by Stuart)

The Munros are to me, the perfect challenge. The ascent of all 283 of Scotland’s 3000ft mountains requires discipline, devotion and fitness, but it is achievable by anyone who refuses to give up. The technical skills required are not excessive, and many can be learnt simply by starting with the easier Munros and working your way up to the more demanding ones. You can start with easy paths and gentle slopes and most Munros have easy routes to their summits. Some might need some scrambling skills, but only one requires rock climbing – the infamous Inaccessible Pinnacle in the Cullin mountain range on the Isle of Skye.

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Their accessibility is just right for the challenge. Most are within a few hours walk of the nearest road, but there are some that require a bit more commitment, with long hikes in and over night camps in wild place. You can lose yourself in the wilderness for days if you want to, or you can just head off for a gentle afternoon. Even the unfit couch potato can have a go – some Munros have high roads leading to them and good paths, giving short and easy days.

To the hillwalker and lover of the outdoors, they offer everything you could want. Wilderness, solitude, a diversion from the harshness of daily life and a way to test yourself on a regular basis are all on offer to those willing to take the time and effort to tackle the Munros. To the photographer they offer an unparalleled opportunity, with landscape and wildlife unsurpassed in its visual appeal.

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But to the naturist they offer a very special challenge. To shed your clothes in what can be such a harsh and unforgiving environment is what free range naturism is all about and weather, terrain and other climbers all need to be overcome before you can embrace the freedom that being nude in the mountains can bring. But if you persist, you can have the most amazing moments, alone on the hillside, naked and unrestrained.

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To climb 283 mountains is a significant challenge, but with dedication and commitment it is easily achieveable. Entire rounds of the Munros have been completed in just a few months by those dedicated and hardy enough to go out every day and in all weathers, but many people complete them in around ten years.

Many Munros are connected by high level ridges, so in the right place, bagging two or three a day is not difficult. Wild camping on high ridges can extend your range, and 7 or even 10 in a weekend can be achieved in some areas by the fit and active Munro bagger.

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But there’s no need to rush them. Each Munro should be savoured and enjoyed, with time spent lingering on the summit before heading off to the next or returning home.

However, the biggest challenge is undoubtedly the weather. What can start as a sunny day can turn into a horrible thick mist or a dangerous thunderstorm. We’ve had to turn back more than once because of the weather, but here in Scotland it’s something you just learn to accept.

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The weather can provide some amazing conditions, be it dark thunderstorms or early morning fog-filled glens after a wild camp. The weather only makes Munro bagging more interesting.

And for us, the Munros are inspiring as photographic subjects. From the open majesty of the mountains themselves to the texture of the rocks from which they are made, or the flora and fauna that inhabit them, they offer an endless wealth of photographic opportunities that we’ll be exploiting for years to come. From the wilderness plateau of the Cairngorms to the lush & fertile hills of Perthshire, the Munros offer an endlessly changing selection of landscapes to explore and photograph.

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The Munros offer something for everyone. From the casual hillwalker who just wants something to do at the weekend to the hardy mountaineer who tackles them in all weathers, the Munros are a pleasure that people from across Scotland and the world can enjoy.

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Photographing the Free Range Naturist

(Written by Karla)

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I am of the opinion that art should aim to evoke an emotional response in the viewer. There may be a message that the artist intends to communicate, but the most effective way to achieve this is by evoking an emotional response in the viewer. Sometimes the message itself is the means by which an artist can achieve this.

What is a message without some meaning behind it? In other words, art has to say something about our relationship to the subject being portrayed.

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For me, the message I always try to communicate using photography concerns our place as animals within a natural environment. Most people in the developed world never really experience real hunger. Medical care can now cure or fix problems that that would otherwise be permanent. With central heating and air conditioning most of us do not have to fear extremes of temperature. This is a good thing.

But conversely, we end up with a new problem; how to apply meaning to our lives. This is not an issue if you are trying to survive. It does become one if you spend your life commuting to and from work, sitting either in a car, at a desk or on a sofa before going to bed. All so that you can earn money to spend it on things that can make the daily grind
seem worthwhile.

Life becomes more stressful but with fewer rewards. For example, we may be glad to see that our local supermarket has stocked up on our favourite fruit, but this reward is insignificant compared to being hungry in the wild and finding a bush that provides us with fresh berries.

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Obesity is becoming a major issue in western society. It is not just a health issue, but also one that concerns how we view our bodies. The epidemic in obesity is a result of the ease with which we can now feed ourselves. It is also a result of manual labour becoming less common. Most people try to solve this by paying for membership at a gym, a sterile place where you focus on exercising one or a few parts of your body at a time. Riding a real bicycle compared to an exercise bike will help improve your motor co-ordination, reactions and your balance as well as exercising other muscles in your body. But doing so can be less convenient.

Exercise, or playing computer games or watching television provides a daily fix of adrenaline in a safe package. But in the same way that junk food can satisfy a short term hunger, it can leave you unsatisfied. Some people satisfy this need by pursuing extreme sports. It all comes down to the same thing. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves as to who, why and what we are.

In the same way that animals in a zoo may pace up and down their enclosures, or factory farmed chickens peck each other out of frustration, many of us also suffer from being too far removed from our natural environment. We find the ‘junk-food’ society unsatisfying. For every animal there is an environment that it is adapted to. Modern day society removes us from our natural environment and in doing so, we deny a part of ourselves.

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People can relieve their frustrations by driving to a beach and just sitting and observing the openess of a sea-scape; or a magnificent mountainous landscape such as that found in the highlands of Scotland. But we are still removed from the natural environment by sitting in a car. So some people take up activities such as sailing or hill-walking.

Clothes remove us from the natural environment by protecting us from it. We may know that water transmits heat thirty times faster than air, but what does this mean to us as humans within a natural environment? Removing our clothes in the same environment that our ancestors struggled to survive in helps us to remember who we are as a species.

That yearning to be in our natural environment living in a way that gives our lives meaning, is what I try to express using photography.

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