Nudity vs. Nakedness

As a model, you’ve probably seen the term, “tasteful nude,” cross your inbox quite often. So, what makes an image tasteful? What makes is not? Sometimes it’s obvious, and other times it’s not so obvious. Hopefully this article will help you make up your own mind on the matter.

A long time ago during an art class in college, a discussion came up about what makes someone define a piece of art as being a nude, and what can cause an intended nude to instead be seen as naked. It was an interesting discussion in that prior to having it, I never really thought of the two as having individual traits. But since our discussion that day, my awareness of the two has completely changed.

If you ask enough people, you’ll find that there’s no clear definition of the two. Everyone will seem to have their own ideas, or no idea on the matter. What I’m sharing here is somewhat more of the idea accepted by the art community. Of course, there are always exceptions to this. There will be those whose art defies the norm, and can still be considered true works of art. Though when defying the norm, ones’ work should be exceptional to “pull off” the boldness.

That’s not typical though, and many photographers promote their works as having “nude” models, while many people see the works as having, “naked” models.


Referencing back to my art class many years ago, the discussion was about two well-known artists, and how their renditions of the same work was seen in an extremely different fashion. The artists I speak of are, Michelangelo, and Donatello. The work in question, their renditions of the statue of David.

The best know version belongs to Michelangelo, and it may very well be due to his ability to use nudity to convey the message of the statue. That message being the readiness and steadfastness of the smaller sized David as he faced the much stronger and larger Goliath. David’s pose and steadfast gaze indicate his unflinching nerve against a bigger and more powerful enemy. His use of nudity allows the viewer to see the stance clearly. It allows the poise and gracefulness to be seen. Although Michelangelo’s David is not in motion, he still conveys such an appearance of composure and grace.

With Michelangelo, his use of nudity is clearly defined as a necessity for the work to be seen in the appropriate light. Had he been clothed, the message of strength, poise, readiness, and grace would be much more difficult.


Contrast to Michelangelo’s David, Donatello’s David was widely rejected as art, and originally hidden from public view because it was viewed as vulgar. This is most likely because Donatello chose to do something peculiar with his statue. He clothed his statue of David, but not entirely. Donatello’s version wore everything but pants.

As mentioned, Michelangelo’s choice of a totally nude David could be seen as necessary to convey the intended purpose of the art. But since Donatello created a version that was clothed in such an unnatural way, it was immediately viewed as inappropriate. The question on many of minds was, “where are his pants?” Many also wondered why this person had time to put on his hat, boots, and grab his sword, but no time to put on his pants? It didn’t make sense to what people could define as natural. You could explain away Michelangelo’s version, but Donatello’s version seemed to be more like a statue of a pervert who’s just standing around with no pants, and his genitals hanging out. It created a feeling of visual discomfort. To me, it still does.

Today, we might view both for their quality of work, as well as the artists ability to create such pieces. But even so, Donatello’s version of the statue of David is still commonly viewed as odd.

Photography Correlation

When agreeing to participate in nudes, you might want to ask what the purpose of the nudity is. Does the photographer have a message? Is there a way to explain the type of nudity in the images? Or does removing your clothing not particularly make sense for the image your shooting?

I’ve seen many images that are quite obviously taken without real artistic purpose. They seem to only convey that the photographer was hyper focused on capturing an image of a naked person, not a tastefully nude one.