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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Surfaces and Strategies – Workshop Evaluation

As a qualified teacher, leading a workshop was always going to offer me the chance to enthusiastically share my passion with like minded individuals.

The workshop was planned and delivered on the 12th August.  The topic was one that had been requested by a club that I belong to – a male art nude session.  For the participants (all ladies), there was a mix of excitement and nervousness when they arrived at 9am. I started the session with introductions and a general briefing.


Figure 1: Sutherst. Goody bag. 2017

Each participant was given a goody bag with resources needed for the day. This included a notebook, which they eagerly filled with notes throughout the day.

The first discussions of the day were about model etiquette, lighting for art nude, and potential poses that can be used when working with a nude model. I also explained my motivation for the work that I have been doing and this prompted an in-depth discussion about the gaze. One of the participants, Holly, is currently studying for her BA Photography and has a particular interest in gaze. The entire group had an in depth discussion about the male vs the female gaze, as well as considering the gay gaze and how that may be different from the other gazes.

Once the model, Clint, arrived at 10 am, I started the practical part of the workshop with a single light, low key lighting set up against a black drop. To ease the participants into working with a nude male model, the session started with the model being topless. The participants were nervous originally, but very quickly were able to ask Clint to pose how they wanted him to. A second light was introduced to show the different effect that this would have to the images.

After 45 minutes or so, I explained that Clint would be naked for the next part of the workshop. So the ladies put their brave pants on as Clint’s came off, and the session got underway. One of the ladies, Anne, commented that she felt that the ambiance in the room had changed and that it became harder to make conversation with the model. This did not last for very long though as they settled down quickly as they were so engrossed in obtaining the best images that they could. There were moments of awkwardness, especially when the ladies wanted to ask Clint to position his penis so that it couldn’t be seen on camera. There is no delicate way to say things sometimes, but once you have had that conversation, it isn’t a problem anymore.

Very soon Clint’s nakedness became irrelevant and less noticeable, with the ladies relaxing into the session well. They became more and more confident with directing Clint with poses and positions. There are poses that Clint is unable to perform because of his muscularity, and others he needs to empty his lungs for parts of his body to fit together; this the ladies found really interesting.

The agenda I had planned for the day was adjusted as we went along. This is where my years of teaching really help, as the ability to seamlessly alter and adjust the teaching segments as the session progresses is something that I am comfortable with.

We moved onto high key lighting against a white backdrop. This offered the opportunity for a different type of shot. The backdrop was lit to provide separation of the model and the ladies tried with the light on and off to see the effects.

The ladies were also introduced to shooting through sheer material and shooting a model in a mask. Both of these set ups have provided them with creative, experimental images that they were proud of.

The final lighting set up was backlighting the model to create just an outline. The main studio lights were turned off to reduce stray light interfering with the shot.

To enable focusing, I shone a light onto the back of Clint’s head. This set up was done both on the white and black backdrops, with successful images from both.

At the end of the workshop, an in-depth discussion took place with the ladies and Clint. The discussion turned to gaze and the conversation was extremely interesting. Clint is an experienced model and has been photographed predominantly by male photographers in the past. He feels that male photographers converse less and that they are in some cases, intimidated and uncomfortable with his nudity. It was interesting that he found some acted threatened by his nude body. Women, however, do not seem to experience that.

Clint explained that when he looks at an image of himself, he is able to tell whether a straight man, a gay man or a woman had taken the image. The images taken by a woman or a gay man have a very different feel to those taken by the straight man. The images taken by women tend to concentrate predominantly on shapes and form. The poses are gentle and do not challenge the viewer, as the penis is often not visible, and nudity is implied and not explicit.

The images taken by gay men tend to concentrate on the prominence of the penis in the image and often have humour running through them. These images can often have a direct sexual content through positioning and pose. The images taken by the straight men show Clint as strong and powerful. His muscles become the main focus of the image and the penis, whilst visible is often almost irrelevant.

For each shoot, Clint is fully aware and involved in the making of the images. He is keen to ensure that the shots are exactly what the photographer wanted. In order for the participants to publish any images, they had to get a model release form signed (and a small fee paid). I provided them with these release forms and had explained the importance of getting these signed at each opportunity when shooting with models.

The workshop was a great success, with the participants all taking away images that they are proud of. Throughout the session, we examined their images and talked about how they could improve and develop their work. At times I felt almost redundant as their confidence grew and they were happy to ask Clint to produce different poses using the source material I had brought along.

During the day, I realised that I photograph the male nude using each gaze – the male gaze, female gaze and gay gaze. My images are very varied and include many different styles. Having the discussions with Clint and the ladies really helped me to realise this. The ladies did challenge me on my images at times and were interested in why I shot images in a particular way. I did enjoy these conversations as they made me realise why I chose different gazes for different views.

My teaching style is relaxed. I like to make sure that I have prepared and planned for all eventualities, and that the participants leave having had an enjoyable and worthwhile experience. I am a kinesthetic learner and find that by doing things I remember them. This is the main learning experience type I used in the workshop. I also provided learning materials for both visual learners (hand-outs and resources) and aural learners through discussions and tutor talking sessions.

The participants have left feedback explaining that they enjoyed the day and felt they learned a lot. Holly has published a couple of images on the photography club page and has written a blog post for her course about the experience. Warning – proud teacher moment


Figure 2: Holly Woodward. 2017

For me, the workshop offered a great way to communicate my work with other like-minded individuals.  Being able to share the enthusiasm I have for photography and to see the quality of images that the attendees have produced, is a feeling that is hard to explain.  It is a privilege to be in a position to do this.


Figure 2: (2017). 需要安全验证. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Aug. 2017].

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