Material Bodies: Studies of the Nude

Izzi Ramsay uses text to disrupt and reconceptualise perceptions of the nude. Through the use of narrative – written anonymously by subjects in the photographs – her intention has been to create an interaction between the audience, image and text – to challenge assumptions and to reconfigure and subvert conventional perceptions of the nude.

Narrative texts:

1 “My body has given me a great deal of pleasure, and, hopefully, it has given a great deal of pleasure to others in one way or another. more> 

2 “Half scared, half flattered — wanting to be looked at … but frightened that the camera might not like what it sees, and afraid to acknowledge my own narcissism. more>

3 “Dearest Jane…I agreed to be photographed naked by a friend more>

4 “I think I remember saying that I didn’t think I knew what I looked like anymore more>

5 “Let it begin twenty-five years ago. How would I then have greeted the thought that a photograph of my naked body might appear in a public exhibition? more>

Topographies of the Body

Fanny Hill

Body twist




 Lupine Woman

Lupine woman 11

Lupine woman 5

Lupine 7

Lupine running away

Narrative text 1:

My body has given me a great deal of pleasure, and, hopefully, it has given a great deal of pleasure to others in one way or another.

My relationship with my body has changed over the course of my life. As a child I remember the exhilaration of having a supple, agile body and wanting to run and swim and climb trees but not really conscious of my body unless I hurt myself.

In my adolescent years I truly became aware of my body. The pleasure was in discovering. Sex being the main discovery, and the main pleasure. But I also remember the awkwardness of those adolescent years. Times when I wanted literally to leave my body I felt so uncomfortable in it, so self-conscious with many difficult emotions to deal with.

In my twenties I felt more confident in my body but still found the need to fill it with substitutes; alcohol and drugs on a regular basis. Nevertheless my body continued to give me pleasure despite the punishment I was giving it.

In my late twenties my body almost gave up under such punishment and for the first time I was ashamed of it. I had to develop a new relationship with it to survive – to learn to respect it and enjoy it again. This was like trying to repair a marriage gone wrong.

The effort was immense. To learn to love my body again despite its refusal to do what I wanted it to. At times I hated it but eventually I did what my body needed and discovered it was by far the easiest way.

After a few years I had grown to love my clean, fit body again. But as well as loving it for the pleasure it gave me I also loved it in a more ‘body conscious’ way. I became more conscious of my appearance, my clothes, my shape & weight. Paradoxically, but not surprisingly, this lead to a further unhealthy relationship with my body, more alcohol, more drugs, more punishment.

I and my body survived this destructive period too but this time with more wisdom.

Despite, or because of, the natural aging process I now feel more comfortable in my body than I ever have before. I am less agile, less supple, less trim and firm but have more acceptance. I try to give my body what it needs.

My body is still capable of giving me, and others hopefully, great pleasure, despite the punishment I’ve inflicted on it over the years. Now I am more concerned about how well it works rather than how good it looks.


Gravidus 13

Man with hands on hips


Horseman bit in mouth

Horseman 4.8

Reclining Male

Izzi Ramsay on the genesis of Material Bodies:

“I am interested in how memory is located and experienced in the body with particular emphasis on the ways in which systems of representation contribute to these experiences. more>

Critical context for Material Bodies:

“It seeks both to raise and to challenge doubts about visual explorations of the male and female form, and attempts to subvert conventional presumptions about the nude by disrupting audiences’ suppositions. more>

“Izzi Ramsay’s work uses text to disrupt and reconceptualise perceptions of the nude. more>

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