Elise Derwin: Why I Got Naked For My Photography

For her series "Nudist Retreat," Australian photographer Elise Derwin got into the spirit.

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I am a nudist on some level. I go topless at the beach, I love skinny dipping and Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory is so damn hot it’s easier to do the house work in the nude but getting rid of all my clothing to spend the day with a group of grey nomads was daunting.

I was curious to know more about the lives of nudists. What did they do for work? Were they full or part-time nudists? Were they always nudists or did they decide at a point in their lives to become nudists? Did their families know? What do you do on a nudist retreat?

Through photographic documentation I wanted to portray nudists as normal people doing regular activities while on holidays. Cooking BBQs, playing darts, swimming, reading, relaxing, fishing and socializing—just all in the nude.

I meet owners of Brujul Nudist Retreat, Bruce and Julie, on a breakfast cruise they were hosting for nudists on the Mary River in the Northern Territory, while on assignment for the NT News. They invited a journalist and myself to visit them at their nudist retreat in Noonamah in Darwin’s rural area about 50km south of Darwin. I jumped at the chance.

It was not compulsory to remove clothing although I didn’t feel appropriate to kept them on if they were letting me into their nudist world. I felt a little vulnerable at first but after ten minutes of walking around without my clothes on, I forgot I was nude except for when I was walking through the bush and worried about ants crawling in my vagina. Nobody stares at you, touching isn’t allowed, sickos are quickly dismissed and everyone respects one another.

It was not difficult to gain permission to photograph. All of the people photographed were proud to be nudists, it was nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of, they knew who they were and loved to have fun.

Most of the nudists I photographed had come from the southern states of Australia where it was freezing in the June. The topical dry season in Darwin is the perfect weather to be a nudist. I asked Helen one of the nudists from Perth, “What do you do when your cold when back home?”

She replied, “We put clothes on—we’re nudists, we’re not stupid”.

By the end of the day I was dying to put my clothes back, midges are a problem in the bush and you need to apply much more sunscreen but I felt liberated at being able to go to work naked for the day.

Find more of Elise Derwin’s work at her portfolio, built using Format.

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