The naked body speaks volumes to our fragile yet mystical and graceful existence. We are born naked and it was a naked act (in most cases) that brought life to each and everyone of us. Body language is our first language. We are tied to our bodies, in such a strong way that they can often tell things about our emotional state, even in spite of ourselves. As a photographer I am drawn to photograph the naked form for the same reason artists throughout millennia have been drawn to it. Because it is beautiful and expressive. The simplest, purest and most eloquent form of our humanity.
Yet, nudity is often met with resistance and shame in many cases. Specially in today’s social climate. Sadly it is also exploited and wrongfully represented. That is why when coming up with the concept for this series, that I’ve called Bare Sky Dance, I decided to switch the focus around. Instead I chose to make the dancers be the voice of the series. Hence why I will keep my on words short this time around. I want you to read form each one of them the reasons why they chose to pose for this series. It was a beautiful experience for me to meet my collaborators in a completely new way. Dancers with which I’ve developed profesional relationships for several years found themselves sharing things with me I wouldn’t have learnt otherwise. To all of the dancers that trusted me with their image for this series I say thank you. Not for posing but for opening up to, me letting me know you in such a personal and intimate way.
I will leave you now with their words and images. I trust you will be as enriched as I was by this experience:
“Doing the #BareSkyDance series with Omar was extremely liberating. I have always struggled with my body image. Even recently I have been told by someone in a professional setting that I should not be considered a ballet dancer because of the way my body naturally is shaped. I don’t talk about this often but I am also a victim of sexual assault. The incident has made me even more self conscious of my body and ashamed. The thought of my body not being able to be partially hidden underneath fabric made me cringe. However Omar is someone I trust and someone who I know would capture these images in a way that would be respectful, thought provoking and meaningful. The day we happened to shoot on was cold and rainy, not the typical day one feels inspired to dance on a rooftop naked. Nevertheless standing on the rooftop, my body exposed to the world, I no longer felt self conscious, ashamed and vulnerable, I felt free and proud. When looking at the images I instinctively wanted to pick apart and critique every part of my body but the freeing feeling I felt on that rooftop brought me back down to reality. These images showed how incredible the human body truly is. The fact that I am able to dance and stand on my toes and put my body through such immense stress day after day is amazing. It hasn’t been an easy road but it is so good to feel proud of my perfectly imperfect body.”
” “Don’t hesitate. Go for it. Be Epic.
These are three mantras I repeat to myself day in and day out to survive the hustle and bustle of NYC. Without them, I don’t think I would have survived this long in a metropolis that is well known for its competitiveness. In order to make it here, you have to be one thing and one thing only; FEARLESS.
After almost a year’s hiatus from the camera, Omar invited me to be a part of his #Bareskydance series. I hesitated to agree because I was coming out of a break-up, and the vulnerability I was feeling left me no desire to be in front of a camera.
When I met again with Omar, he didn’t know it, but I was feeling the lowest I had ever felt. I felt raw and open and exposed on the inside. But I knew in my gut that it was important to take charge of my confidence, and one step toward doing that was to put myself back in front of the camera, nude.
In the nude and visible on a New York City rooftop, that openness and rawness was now exposed on the outside as well. “
“As a dancer, I am innately self-conscious about my body because we tend to be fairly critical of our lines and technique. Being nude might bring even more attention to any potential mistakes or flaws. Things that maybe the everyday person might not notice but a trained dancer would. I chose to work with Omar on his #BareSkyDance series and dared to pose nude because he is a photographer that I have worked with before and I know I can trust to take the photographs that will represent my work well.
Through this images I want to honor the strong and masculine role of the male dancer, particularly the male Asian dancer. I want people to see not only the beauty but also the strong athleticism of the male dancer.
When I grow older, I look forward to coming back to this images and bring back the memories of my youth and the body that I nurtured through my career as a professional dancer. “
“When Omar contacted me asking if I was interested in shooting for his new series I didn’t know the concept yet, I just said yes! Then he told me it was called #BareSkyDance. Images of a wide sky, freedom, skyscrapers shaping the horizon of New York City in contrast to the naked body of a dancer sounded beautiful in my head.
I have worked with Omar several times, in fact he was the first photographer I worked with in New York, and I lay all my trust to his ideas and visions. Shooting dancers he always manage to capture the vulnerable moments with an eye for well thought composition and light.
We had the shoot an unusually cold summer Sunday morning in Brooklyn, it was raining and the sky grey. The weather and the hard rain came in play of how the pictures turned out: dramatic and sensitive. I was completely soaked and my pointe shoes too but that all disappeared while I was in front of the camera lens.
The city has so much magic and in this series Omar takes it to the rooftops which is a big part of New York characteristics. This shoot was also extra special for me because it was the day I moved back to Europe after 6 years in the city. I felt like the city was crying and #BareSkyDance wrapped up my time in New York coming here hungry with big dreams. The series has emotions and its celebrates the dancer on top of New York city in an astonishing way.”
“I chose to participate in Omar Z Robles’s Bare Sky Dance photography series to de-stigmatize the notion that nudity has to always be associated with sexuality in a visual setting, as well as to reclaim my personal right of consent after a silencing my history with sexual assault. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with either sexuality or nudity, I just prefer to not have them be the basis of how I present myself to the world. I personally feel there are ways to express oneself in a more transparent fashion without being as overtly erotic.
When agreeing to taking part in this project, I was allowing myself be a part of a more vulnerable type of shoot. I consented to working with Omar (who I have gained trust collaborating with for three years), I consented to baring my form unclothed, and I consented to shoot in a more private roof setting. The essential key is that I made a personal choice; I gave it my approval and not someone else’s. This project was incredibly liberating in a sense that like being on stage, I was able to shed my outer layers and uncover the freedom of self-worth.”
“As a model, a dancer (and hell just as a woman) people often ask me to pose nude. I usually politely decline because I want my art to be about more then my naked body. Being naked is completely natural and normal but also easy. Easy to look good in a photo, easy for people to like it. But when Omar asked me to pose for his Bare Sky Dance it was about the beauty and simplicity of dancing completely free, something that took my brain a LONG time to understand. Dance is freedom to me. It’s not about technique, not about getting the best roles or being on the biggest stage. Just being present in this moment, feeling only what my body is doing, with my mind silent. For me posing for Omar’s new series was a celebration in the freedom that dance has given me. The freedom to be proud of my art and the body that helps me do it.”
“I have been following Omar for quite a while on Instagram and I have always admired his work. And for some time, I had wondered how I could get the opportunity to shoot with him. When he posted that he needed more volunteers for his Bare Sky Dance, I knew that was my chance. I have done one other nude dance photo shoot before and I loved it, so I knew I would be comfortable doing this kind of thing again. I enjoy being photographed nude because as a dancer, I see my body as art, and I see my nude body as the rawest version of that art. I do not see it as a sexual or inappropriate thing in a context such as #BareSkyDance. I see it as beauty and nature and freedom. Omar is doing work that captures all of that in a very artistic, professional, and honest way.”
“With the Bare Sky Dance series, I hope a feeling of liberation is conveyed in some way, shape, or form. I also love the juxtaposition of the soft vulnerable energy of the dancer, contrasted with the often harsh, steely surroundings. That to me is about a person keeping their principles, or faith, or what have you, in despite of everything going on that is out of your control.”
“What appealed to me about posing for @OmarZRobles #BareSkyDance series is the fact that I have a very different type of body. I don’t necessary look like most dancers, I have tattoos and I am taller than your average male dancer. Through these nude images I want to encourage other people to embrace their differences and feel supported in being unique and different. I want empower individuals that can relate to me and my image by doing things in the dance world that just a couple of years ago people who looked like me weren’t able to do. I believe there’s inspiration there to be given.”
“What a beautiful concept Bare Sky Dance! To be fully naked, vulnerable, open is, in my opinion, the most dangerous thing a person can do and also the most beautiful. I chose to shoot with Omar because his photography, especially this series, captures that essence. It is a beautiful experience to be fully naked and vulnerable, embracing the beauty of the natural state, yet surrounded by the city chaos of New York. The juxtaposition of these two things intrigued me and I think rooftops are the perfect location to capture the raw beauty of both; a view of the city from above the chaos where natural beauty can come to life.”
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All images and text ©2018 Omar Z Robles (unless otherwise stated). All Rights Reserved. Do not copy or use with out written consent from Omar Z Robles.