This Photographer Is Encouraging Us To Love Our Bodies Through Naturism

Photographer Amelia Allen's new book, Naked Britain, is a celebratory exploration of the human body, with a focus on the UK's growing naturism (aka nudist) movement. While Allen is primarily known for her fashion cred — her work has appeared in Vogue, Tatler, and Vanity Fair — her latest work allows her to explore a different side of the human body.

"I have spent the majority of my career photographing conventionally beautiful and aesthetically pleasing models who are used to displaying clothes," she says. "Everything surrounding this is to do with body image and having to look a certain way to fit a specific societal construct of what is seen as beautiful." This is why Allen was drawn to naturism: She wanted to unshackle her work from body ideals and aesthetics, and focus on women's rights and the freedom that comes with accepting your body as it is. Essentially, she was looking to highlight a different kind of beauty.

"I wanted to photograph a community that represented equality in body image, appearance, sexuality, and gender," she says. "Naturism was perfect for this."

Thanks to the lack of representation of diverse bodies in media, it can sadly take a lot of work for people to love their bodies and to not hold up others as the epitome of perfection. Thankfully, Allen's shots of the naturists, free of self-consciousness and judgement, encourage you to do just that: appreciate your body for the wonder that it is.

Click through to see our favorite photographs from the book, and to read more about Allen's experience photographing this community.

Amelia Allen's Naked Britain, published by Kehrer Verlag, is available here.

Photo: Amelia Allen
Allen's first foray into naturism was attending a clothing-optional day at a members' club in the UK. She met a family who invited her to a naked picnic and skinny dip, before introducing her to the wider community. Three years on, they're still friends. "The first experience was quite a daunting one, and it all builds up in your head, but you’ve just got to treat it like a Band Aid: Once the clothes are off, you’re free. It’s really good fun, very refreshing and liberating," she says.
Photo: Amelia Allen
"There's something about wandering around in a place you usually wouldn’t be naked — like a garden; I loved it," Allen says. "It took some getting used to, but not only was I trying to learn about this way of life through my photography, but also to grow personally. To step out of my comfort zone and look at my own relationship with my body and attitude to nudity."
Photo: Amelia Allen
"Many said one of the reasons they liked being involved in the naturist community was that they could be themselves, away from mainstream life and remove all those stereotypes and statuses of clothing," Allen says. "Being naked means you are a blank canvas and, for some, you are anonymous."
Photo: Amelia Allen
As for whether or not naturists feel happier in their own skin, or if they also have body hang-ups, Allen says: "I think both. They are more self-accepting, because they realize there is more to life than their appearance. I guess everyone has an opinion of their own body and that changes throughout your life. They feel most comfortable and relaxed being naked and under a lot less pressure than among clothed society."
Photo: Amelia Allen
Most of Amelia's subjects are 35 and older, and Allen says that the free-love attitude of young people in the '70s hasn't quite carried over to 2017. We're more open than ever about our sexual orientation and gender identity, but nudity is often still seen as crass. "It’s quite funny that that is the case, and that casual sex and paid clubs are so normal to many but nudity with no sexuality is seen as distasteful," she says. "Is that because the people who sunbathe topless or breastfeed in public don't fit into society's idea of an aesthetically pleasing idea of body image?"
Photo: Amelia Allen
"There seems to be a double standard: It's okay to be naked if it's for sexual pleasure or observation, or for an editorial, but not okay for the freedom and liberation of it," Allen says.
Photo: Amelia Allen
As for whether or not Allen thinks attitudes about bodies are changing, she says: "I think so. Plus-size models help a lot of young women who aren’t the size of a catwalk model. I'm a fashion photographer and a size 14, and that is okay... I think it's important to recognize that ad campaigns and social media are not honest perceptions of reality. Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else’s showreel."