Kenyan Model, Ephy Saint

Photography is one of the greatest arts in the world. It’s no longer about using a photo as a keepsake to show your children in the future. It has evolved to being a way of telling a story. The story of a mother glowing in pregnancy, of a starving child, of a blossoming flower. Any photo can tell a story, if you look close enough. Photographers have honed this craft and made it into a huge phenomenon.

One form of photography is nude photography. Nude photography is all about showing the aesthetic value of the human body. It is different from pornographic photography which is all about arousing sexual desire in the viewer. Often times, nude photography is confused with glamour photography. Glamour photography is where human bodies are portrayed in a romantic or sexually alluring way. The subjects may be fully clothed or semi-nude.

The depiction of the human body in all its glory has gained popularity, especially in Kenya. More and more models are coming out and posing nude and there is a huge uproar about it. Most people associate nude photos with pornography. That showing your body is wrong especially in an African setting. To them posing nude depicts immorality on your part. Once in a while, you will see one bold model pose nude and get backlash for it. No one pauses to consider why the decision to pose nude was made.

There are many reasons why people pose nude. It can be to promote breast cancer awareness, to help women heal after a rape ordeal, to promote a product or even as a way to speak out or take a stand against something in the society.  I came across a photo of Kenyan model Ephy Saint posed nude. The photo was done in a tasteful way that is not pornographic or offensive in any way. Once it went up on social media, the comments came in with some being for it and others against it. One comment that stood out for me was, “This is wrong, shows moral decay in our society. We are copying the Western world. I am against it. This is pornography.”

Does posing nude for a photo necessarily mean it is pornographic? There is something amazing about the human body. Something that many people fail to see. There is so much that can be said about using your body to empower others. There seems to be a notion that nude photography is something we got from the West, something that is ruining our African society. Nude photography dates back to the 19th century, and it does come from what we call the Western world. But in Africa, our ancestors walked naked for a long time. Some remnants of this culture still remain. Therefore, the claim that posing nude is ruining our society is ludicrous .

I think that photography has evolved in Kenya, in a way that people are no longer shy about telling stories in unconventional ways. I have no problem with nude photography if it is done for the aesthetic value or for professional use to pass a specific message. Has the time come for Kenyans to accept nude photography as a form of art?