Image (c) Laura Pannack
Following a dream start to her career, picking up a string of awards with her first major project focused on teenage identity, friends of 24-year-old London photographer Laura Pannack were startled by her next venture, stripping off to shoot members of the Young British Naturists
Seemingly exuding self-confidence, she confides, “I’m not a naturist, so the hardest thing each time I go is getting my clothes off”. But to gain the trust of her surprisingly reticent subjects, naked it had to be. “I thought, ‘I’ve got to go naked’, otherwise there’d be a suspicion about me, and I’d never know what it would be like,” she reveals. “Then one girl told me to come into the pool and that was it – kit off, done.”
Her photographs of the young naturists, all aged between 16 and 30, were shot on a Bronica 645 with an 80mm lens, avoid sensation, providing a sensitive portrait of the subjects exposed naked before her camera.
Pannack, who is represented by the Lisa Pritchard Agency, first came up with the idea when, on the back of her series on adolescents, the British Youth Council encouraged her to do more with young people. Research led her to a Young British Naturists website and her curiosity was piqued.
“I was fascinated with understanding the reasons why these young people wanted to belong to a group exposing such human vulnerability,” she writes on her blog (laurapannack.blogspot.com). “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 realised 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.”
“The project requires a lot of trust. My procedure involves hours emailing, meeting and talking to people before I’ve even shown them my camera,” she says. “My mum’s my best critic. She said to me, ‘I don’t think you’re photographing these people, I think you’re photographing their nudity,’ which has been the best advice so far.”
Since BJP interviewed Pannack, she was announced the winner of the Portrait Singles section of World Press Photo.
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