Hayes finds subjects
Eric Hayes's black and white
photograph, Christie, is part of his exhibit In Their
Own Skin at Viewpoint Gallery, 2050 Gottingen St.,
Halifax on Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
Bridgewater photographer raises
thorny issue of 'body acceptance' in Viewpoint Gallery
By ELISSA BARNARD / Arts Reporter
ERIC HAYES likes to take his camera where few dare to go.
In the Bridgewater photojournalist's latest exhibit, he
takes people on a naturist cruise from Grenada to St. Vincent.
Hayes's black and white pictures depict happy, naked,
middle-aged people, mostly in couples, on the boat and on the
"I think photography really succeeds when it can show
viewers something they cannot see for themselves," says Hayes.
Not all viewers will want to see these pictures for
themselves, but Hayes raises up the whole thorny issue of
"body acceptance" as well as celebrating people who are free
within their own bodies.
Hayes and his wife, Mary Dixon, also a fine art
photographer, had been on two of Christie Musick's naturist
Caribbean cruises aboard the S/V Yankee Clipper before Hayes
arranged to take pictures.
"I've been a photojournalist all my life. I got pretty
frustrated the first couple of times not feeling free to
shoot," he said in a phone interview.
"It's so beautiful, it's wonderful. You feel so
comfortable. Even at night it's warm. The ships are beautiful,
the islands are beautiful and there are all these really
friendly, happy, naked people and I wanted to photograph
Before the 2002 cruise, he contacted trip organizer Musick
and all the people who'd be on the trip, met with willing
people the first morning aboard ship and got them to sign
Hayes shot 20 rolls of film in a medium format camera,
though he used a digital camera for three pictures.
He wasn't totally naked. He wore belt bags holding the
cameras and waiting for the right picture. "I would cruise
around and if the lighting was good and the people were in a
situation that would translate well, I would say, 'This is it,
this is the moment I've been waiting for.' "
Many of those moments were in the soft light of early
morning or early evening. He photographed a woman who sat on
the Clipper's bow every morning at 7 a.m. to feel the sun and
the wind. Trip organizer Christie is photographed with a merry
smile, her body covered in the black sand of the volanic
island of St. Vincent.
Back at his home studio, he scanned in the negatives and
used his Epson Stylus Pro 7600 wide-format printer to print
the images directly onto canvas, which he notes has a texture
"I wanted to get the viewer in contact with these people as
much as possible. I didn't want to hide them behind glass.
There's nothing to hide; let's not put them in glass cases."
Hayes first discovered the joy of naturism when he was on
vacation at a Jamaican SuperClub resort that was split between
a nude beach and a clothed beach. All the fit, "really
goodlooking" people on the "textile" beach were concerned
about body image and kept to themselves. At the nude beach
"all the middle-aged flabby people had given up on image and
were very approachable, very friendly," says Hayes.
The naturist way of life is appealing, he Hayes, because
"the practise of communal nudity in a non-sexual context
"It's a leveller where people meet each other without
prejudgment by what they're wearing and, in a society obsessed
with looking youthful, it's an opportunity to accept each
other for whom we've become, scars and all."
He is not worried if people looking at his pictures are
voyeuristic. "I don't worry about what people bring to it.
That's their problem.
"I'm part of the entire eco-system. I was born naked and
here I am. I have no shame about my body, and who I am and
what I do.
"I don't need to be a CEO in a big corporation to feel
important, I don't need to wear clothes to feel like a human
In Their Own Skin is at Viewpoint Gallery, where Hayes is a
co-founder and treasurer, Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
Hayes will be in the gallery Saturday and Sunday.
Viewpoint, 2050 Gottingen St., started four years ago as of
May as a collective of Nova Scotia fine art photographers. The
gallery is right now working with other galleries in Halifax
on a city-wide celebration of photography as fine art,
Photopolis, in the fall.
Hayes also teaches digital photography at the Lunenburg
County Municipal Recreation Department and, in his own
photography, loves the control digital technology gives him.
Ironically, his wife works by hand with polaroid transfers
and emulsion lifts that come out differently every time. "I
tend to be digital and she tends to be analog."
Hayes started taking pictures as a summer newspaper job
when he was a high school student in Kelowna, B.C. Over the
past 25 years he has done work for regional and national
magazines such as Harrowsmith, Equinox, Maclean's, Canadian
Living, Canadian Business, Atlantic Insight, enRoute and
Saturday Night. He won the National Magazine Gold Award for
Photojournalism in 1983 for work with Maclean's.
The show can also be viewed online at Hayes's website: