Jock Sturges talks about his nude photography in Beijing

Jock Sturges Photos: Billie Feng

On September 10, American photographer Jock Sturges met his followers and media in the Wuyue Image Space at the 798 Art District (No. 1 Street in center), Beijing, where an exhibition of his photos is underway. The exhibition runs until October 28.

Most of the photos on display are of nude females, from young children to mature women. Sturges took this group of photos with a Rollei camera in 2012, supported by Mr. Duncan Meeder, the owner and collector of the photography specialty shop “Foto Henny Hoogeveen” in Lisse, the Netherlands. In order to express respect for the photographer, Rollei company has released 100 Rolleiflex*2.8 Platinum cameras on which Mr. Sturges’ name has been engraved.

Sturges was born in 1947. He started to take pictures when he was just five years old. “There were a lot of camera books in the house I was raised in, but nobody in our family took pictures. That’s part of the reason why I became interested in photography,” Sturges said. Sturges had five brothers so he spent his childhood years only with boys. “I photographed other boys and some of them were very beautiful.”

Some photos of the Rollei Project

He started photographing nude women when he went to a small college in Vermont in 1970. “I was photographing some nudes in my first year there, but they really weren’t very different from nudes in men’s magazines. And feminism was beginning to be a very important political movement. I joined a workshop run by feminists. They said turning the body into an object is hard on women and it’s not socially a good thing.” Sturges agreed with this and didn’t photograph naked women for about eight years,” he said.

Then he got a chance to visit a commune in California, where a lot of hippies lived. They were standing around in the sun naked. “They didn’t care if they had clothes on or not. For the first time, I saw the absence of shame among both young and old people, which was very interesting to me.” The visit triggered his enthusiasm for photographing naked people again.

Sturges doesn’t tell a model how to pose for the camera; instead, he develops good relationships

Signing books for photography lovers

with them and photographs them in their natural positions. “The more you don’t pose your models, the more your pictures are likely to be true. So I don’t ask them to do anything, I accept them the way they are.”

Sturges said many of his models have become photographers because he gives a camera to every one of them and encourages them to take photos. “I owe them a lot because they are giving me so much of their beauty, so I am explaining details to them all the time, such as how I make the pictures and what the reflector is for.”

Besides taking photos himself, Sturges also teaches students. “Everywhere I go (I teach) and I’m editing books for young photographers. I feel strongly that if you are lucky enough to have some reputation, then you turn around and help other people,” he said.

Sturges has held over 100 solo exhibitions around the world since 1976, and published 16 works and albums. This exhibition in Beijing is his first in China.

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