Photographers' Blog

Naturism: These images contain nudity

September 19, 2011

By Mark Blinch

When you’re a photographer, every day brings the unexpected.

(Video best viewed in full screen mode)

Case in point: My assignment at the Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park.

Imagine a campground where people perform everyday tasks but without a stitch of clothing on.

Mowing the lawn, coffee with friends, dinnertime with family members, even board meetings with colleagues — at this camp, there were no exceptions to the no clothes rule.

But Bare Oaks, located about an hour north from Canada’s largest metropolis Toronto, is about more than just nudity. It’s about community and trust, self-respect and self confidence, naturalism and naturism.

Most people might be familiar with the ideas of naturism or nudism. The International Federation of Naturism defines the term as “a way of life in harmony with nature, characterized by the practice of communal nudity, with the intention of encouraging respect for oneself, respect for others and respect for the environment.”

Inside the naturist community at Bare Oaks, clothing is only used for protection, whether it be from the cold or from work that might injure your body, but most of the time you would never see a naturist in clothing unless they left the park and went into the general public.

In other words, this was not a clothing optional campground — if you are uncomfortable being nude, you will be asked to leave. It is hard to trust someone who is wearing clothing among a group of people who are willing to bare it all. Even the workers at the front desk when you arrive are naked.

I was lucky enough to be given access to this campground for several days. In that time I noticed that people embraced nature in a way that most of us just can’t.

For instance, many embraced jogging or daily hikes, relishing in the gentle breezes of the woods. Many of the park’s visitors love to swim and said repeatedly they couldn’t understand how anyone would want to wear a wet soggy bathing suit while swimming. You quickly learn that clothing is only used as a tool.

Inside the park there is a pool, a volleyball court, a restaurant called “Bare Bistro,” camping grounds for rent, a variety store, a pond to jump in, a garden and a trailer community. Some people come up for the day, some can stay for weeks, and some live there permanently.

When you walk around, you can see people tanning, reading, barbecuing, socializing, swimming, walking the dog – and just about anything else you see in any campground. There are people of all ages, about the same amount of men and women. There are a lot of couples, many families, and quite a few single people.

Everyone is welcome.

One thing I need to make clear: Bare Oaks is a family park, not a party zone. Like any family campground, there are children present. Open sexual acts or advances are not permitted nor tolerated and people who don’t comply are quickly removed from the park and banned.

Naturism is not about sex, nor is it narcissistic. Naturism is a place where the human body is celebrated, a juxtaposition to today’s society where being skinny or muscular is seemingly the priority and focus for many.

I was given three days of access to the park, most of which was spent following park owner Stephane Deschenes and park manager Karen Grant and her family.

The first day Stephane gave me a tour of the park, and then I got to sit in on a staff meeting. Stephane gathered his employees to discuss regular routine park maintenance and issues. At the end of the meeting, they started to role play different situations to deal with problems with the clientele that may arise. They talked about what to do about inappropriate behavior such as urinating in the bush, sexual advances, client screening, loud partying, dealing with a man with an erection or any other issue that may arise in the campground.

For those of you that are wondering, if a man finds himself with an erection, he’s told to jump in the pool or cover it up with a towel. In fact, it’s considered proper “naturist” etiquette to always carry a towel with you for sitting on a bench or restaurant.

When people were told I was doing a story on naturism, some were quick to say they did not want to be photographed. Others were not camera shy at all. Many were willing to talk to me, telling me that they have never felt so free and liberated than when they are practicing naturism.

They say its much easier to get to know someone when they have nothing to hide or cover up, and their relationships and conversations become much deeper, much less superficial, giving people who stay at the park a real sense of community.

You must be wondering if I worked nude as well. The answer is yes, I did. Though I was uncertain at first, it took me about 30 seconds to feel completely comfortable. I knew that people would have a hard time trusting me taking photographs of them if I had been covered up. It’s fair to say it was a life experience I’ll never forget.

Comments
4 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

It was a pleasure to work with Mark. He took the time to really understand the naturist philosophy and thus avoided the typical provocative view of our nudity. While we understand that nudity is the most salient aspect of our creed for people in mainstream society, naturism is so much more than just taking your clothes off. It is a life philosophy with physical, psychological, environmental, social and moral benefits. Mark spent enough time with us to understand that. By participating, he put his subjects at ease because he showed them that he was not just there to exploit us. I think that shows in the photographs.

Posted by Bare-Oaks | Report as abusive
 

Mark, what delightful and honest video on your visit to Bare Oaks. Not often does mainstream media do a piece like this without multiple warnings and cute camera angles or pixelated body parts. And, to me the fact that you were nude during your visit speaks volumes about you. I had the pleasure of spending several days at Bare Oaks in early August and I had a wonderful time. I was made to feel welcome. Naturism really is a wonderful way of life and wearing a bathing suit just sucks.

thanks again,

Pat

Posted by PatB | Report as abusive
 

As a long time nudist/naturist I found this video an honest view of how I enjoy my time spent recreating nude. http://www.aanr.com truly is a huge part of my life and this video has moved Bare Oaks up on my “to visit” list.

Thanks for providing a great video that I will share with family and friends. A special thanks to those at Bare Oaks who agreed to participate and share their opinions and views.

Shirley Gauthier
http://www.willamettans.com
Oregon

Posted by ShirleyG | Report as abusive
 

WOW. This is the best report on naturism that I have ever seen. It needs to be seen by both the public and naturists alike. It’s great how the connection is made between nudity and spirituality and community. This is what’s lost in most reports about naturism. If we in the naturist community could get this message across more often I’m sure it would draw more people. Naturists were among the first to advocate for sustainable ideas like health, vegetarianism, and community back in the 1880′s, which was the birth of the modern naturist movement. Bare Oaks seems to have kept that philosophical connection, and I am eager to visit their resort and talk with the people there. Way to go, folks!
Mark
Oregon

Posted by RoosterSauvie | Report as abusive
 

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