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YBN

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Young British Naturists (YBN) is a group for UK naturists aged between 16 to 30. When I came across YBN about a year ago, I was fascinated with understanding reasons why these young people wanted to belong to a group exposing such human vulnerability. I wanted to know why they felt the need to be naked or be part of a group where this was not only acceptable but also encouraged. I soon realized that naturism is more than just about being naked, it is a philosophy of life with physical, psychological, environmental, social and moral beliefs. Some would classify naturism as a religion. YBN arrange camping activities and outings to meet and socialise with like- minded young people. At events, members get to know each other, play sports and relax. The group accepts all types of individuals, there are no rules; members can be any of race, religion, profession, political preference, economic status and need no specific skill or talent; individuals are accepted just as long as one is under 30 and has an interest in naturism. Perhaps this complete acceptance is one of the keys to its success. Nudity is often associated with sex. However I discovered that this could not be farther from the truth within naturism. The human body becomes almost an irrelevance, something with which they become almost unaware of and is their own norm. Some members have grown up within a naturist family, others it appears, have joined to improve their self-confidence and make new friends. The one uniting interest is that all members feel more comfortable naked than they do clothed. Whatever the reasons, this goes against all social norms. It is something which the majority of young people would shun especially during those years of adolescence when the average hormonal young person is dictated by fashion and a need to conform or express themselves. Many members are very open about their naturist activities; for others it is a private activity which they keep from friends, colleagues and family, an indication that this minority group fully understands the lack of acceptance for naturism. Perhaps attending YBN events and having a secret life provides a sense of escapism and privacy. The psychology of nudity is complex. Nudity is sometimes used to divest people of their dignity by those wishing to gain power. Enforced vulnerability and shame on another human being to take away human rights, is the dark side of nudity. Alternatively being undressed is an ultimate gesture of openness and self- confidence. To display ourselves as naked as we entered the world, prevents us from hiding behind any identity we choose to convey through clothing. It can bring an exciting sense of vulnerability and a test of bravery; a liberating and daring act. However, ultimately, this vulnerability can also provide an opportunity to be accepted and form new relationships without judgment. As one YBN member explains: "I was drawn in by the great equalising aspect of naturism. It is an interesting question how far people would retain their respective rank if they were divested of their clothes. When all other things are held equal, when nude, a rich person appears no different than a poor person, or a really fashionable person appears no different to someone who has to make do with the clothing they have. Thus, these classifications disappear and the playing field is levelled. In the naturist environment, I feel like I’m their equal - I’m not better than them, nor they are better than me, we are just human. By removing clothing I feel a barrier between people is gone and I’m more able to meet and to talk to others without the feeling that I or they have something to hide." In order to fully understand my subject and gain the trust and respect of the people I wished to photograph I felt it was essential for me to cross over to their side and be naked. By placing myself in a vulnerable situation , the connection with my subjects was one of mutual understanding and equality. This ongoing project consists of young British naturists aged between 17 and 30. I aim to capture them as individuals, not just naturists.
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