Your typical holiday shots – except everybody’s naked

The Daily News March 11, 2004

By Marilyn Smulders

What makes In Their Own Skin so unique? Bridgewater photographer Eric Hayes has taken some rather typical holiday shots of fellow vacationers on a Caribbean cruise. They’re seen sun-bathing in deck chairs, leaning against the ship’s railing or walking in the surf. And none of them is wearing a stitch of clothing, aside from the odd pair of sunglasses or ballcap.

Most nude photos are of artfully lit perfect people: women with flat tummies, and men with six-pack abs. (Notice how the naked woman on the billboards advertising apples doesn’t even appear to have butt cleavage? Weird.) But the people of In Their Own Skin are far from the “glossy magazine ideal,” with their surgery scars, floppy breasts, flabby tummies, and generally generous dimensions. Everyone is smiling. Unabashedly meeting the gaze of the camera, they just look so content.

If there is any discomfort, it’s totally on the side of the viewer.

“These people are comfortable for who they are,” says Hayes, whose last show at ViewPoint was the popular Legends of Rock & Roll. “They’ve accepted themselves for all their imperfections.”

Hayes took the pictures, beautifully presented on canvas, on a nude cruise aboard the S/V Yankee Clipper two years ago. The cruise has shipped out for the past 20 years, usually around Halloween, stopping at islands between Grenada and St. Vincent. (“It’s funny to see naked people put on costumes,” says Hayes with a laugh. “They’re always quite inventive.”)

Hayes and his wife, Mary Dixon, also a photographer, have gone for the past four years. Like his subjects, Hayes was nude too — “I’m a participant, not a voyeur.” It shows — there just wouldn’t be the same ease and trust between subject and artist if the photographer were clothed.

As a photographer who works in the documentary tradition — his pictures have appeared in Mac-lean’s, The Toronto Star, Harrowsmith, Equinox and more — Hayes says he aims to capture people in their own environments, to “reveal who they are.” Moreover, with In Their Own Skin, he also shines a light on naturism as a healthy and non-threatening lifestyle.

“When you take off your clothes, you take off the cares of home, of business, of identity… it just makes you feel so alive.”

IF YOU GO

WHAT: In Their Own Skin, photographs by Eric Hayes

WHERE: ViewPoint Gallery, 2050 Gottingen St., Halifax

WHEN: To March 28. Hours Wednesdays to Sundays, noon to 5 p.m.

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