The Century Project
April 6, 2003 12:07 AM   Subscribe

The Century Project (not suitable for work) 'is a series of nude photographs accompanied by highly personal and moving statements by women whose lives span 100 years. The words and pictures combine to form a powerful statement about body image, society's portrayal of women in the media, sexuality, pornography, and women's health issues. For some, this is pretty controversial stuff...yet the simple fact that women have invited me (a man) to exhibit and speak in Churches (3 times!) and on the campuses of Colleges and Universities, by itself speaks volumes about the way in which Century has been received, and what it's value has been ... '
'Life is at its fullest at 94.' - Mary.
posted by plep (23 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Um, pretty controversial? There are nude kids and teenagers on there... I'm not sure this is safe for home, either...

I was interested in seeing what moving statements they had to make, but I was moved to close my browser window immediately before trouble ensued. I'd advise them to avoid such distractions if they're really trying to get a point across.
posted by lnicole at 12:44 AM on April 6, 2003

Then again, I guess reactions like mine defeat the whole purpose of that site... but even still, *shudder*

I guess I just wasn't prepared for them to be so in-your-face about it.

And I definitely don't say this as if I'm hung up over nudity; it's the exact opposite for me.
posted by lnicole at 12:49 AM on April 6, 2003

Hmmm, you know lnicole I never even thought of that as one of the reasons why this might be controversial...
Thanks for that though. I'll have to go away and consider this...
posted by plep at 12:55 AM on April 6, 2003

This is great. I guess I was most intrigued by the women who said that they were, often for reasons they themselves could not comprehend, ashamed of their own bodies, or by the idea of revealing their bodies, yet chose to participate anyway; I would like to think that I would be that brave, but I'm not sure I can say that this would be the case.
posted by taz at 1:13 AM on April 6, 2003

The exhibition has been going on for a while (and it is a physical exhibition as well) so I searched the site for any mention of legal trouble and found none.

Here's a letter to the editor to the Massachusetts News, crowing about the Child Pornography aspect (you have to scroll down the page a little bit, try searching for the word "Century").

Some more from our friends EWTN: the Global Catholic Network.

Another letters to the editor page with a few differing perspectives on the project also from Massachusetts.

I can find no mention of any arrests or a court case involving the project which I actually do find quite astounding. I'm not sure of the letter of the law(s) governing display of images of nudity of minors. I imagine it varies by state.

Regardless, I think it's a great exhibit.
posted by rocketpup at 1:18 AM on April 6, 2003


I thought quite hard about whether to post this link, and decided that it would be OK because none of these pictures are erotic, or disrespectful. The approach seems to be much more that the subjects are revealing something about -themselves-. The subjects of the photographs are in control. They are willing participants. That seems to be the difference, for me.

I suppose for the same reason that it would be acceptable to post links to, for instance, sites about Australian Aborigines which include nudity - the context is important. Would those who made complaints make the same complaint about ethnographic photographs including nudity? These pictures don't seem to be about eroticism, but they do say something about the subjects. That's the difference.

I have to say, I really enjoyed this site. :)
posted by plep at 1:22 AM on April 6, 2003

There are nude kids and teenagers on there... I'm not sure this is safe for home, either...

They aren't sexual pictures, they aren't child pornography. They are nude pictures of girls. People won't turn into child rapists looking at them.

God, the story of Renee was sad. The women with the mastectomies, the older women were awfully brave, given the premium this culture places on youth and physical perfection.

That's what's sad--this is a series of nudes for 0 to 97, this is what life looks like. It's probably frightening to people in their teens and 20s, I suppose, to look at real, everyday people, older people but it happens to everyone in time. You get older, you never stop getting older until you die. Life happens.
posted by y2karl at 3:59 AM on April 6, 2003

Well said.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:29 AM on April 6, 2003

[y2karl says it best than I ever could]. Thanks. :)
posted by plep at 5:23 AM on April 6, 2003

Well, that was a good dose of real, beautiful humanity. The photographs show how, despite all the culturally transmitted taboos and absurd standards of perfection, most women feel comfortable with - and enjoy - their bodies. We've only got one each and, when the adding up and subtracting are done, who's to say our body isn't responsible for more happiness than misery and doesn't deserve a little dance now and again - or at least a little pat on the back?

A lovely post, definitely.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:45 AM on April 6, 2003

Hmm. I actually see something a little different in that - the sorrow in all the ways women have been taught to hate their bodies, to bear them in shame, and the Olympian work it takes to reclaim them.

But, yeah, agreed.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:01 AM on April 6, 2003

A year or so after I photographed her, Renee´stayed up until 3 AM one morning playing cards in a girlfriend's apartment. A guy they knew came in and started to show off a pistol he had just scored on the street. One of the women suggested he put it away before someone got hurt. It went off instead. Renee´ was shot in the head and died instantly. She leaves an extended family, including a son who was about a year old at the time.

There is something wrong with this passage.
posted by thirteen at 9:16 AM on April 6, 2003

They aren't sexual pictures, they aren't child pornography. They are nude pictures of girls. People won't turn into child rapists looking at them.

Fine, but people have been and will continue to be arrested or at least harrased for having a picture of their own child in the bathtub or walking around naked, pictures which seemed entirely innocent to them.

And if you took your computer to a shop and some nosy tech saw a naked picture of a fourteen-year-old in your browser cache, I doubt that many police officers would care about the source - especially in the bible belt. You might have common sense, but that doesn't mean that everybody else does.
posted by bargle at 9:52 AM on April 6, 2003

You may not find the pictures sexual, because you're not a pedophile, but nude pictures of children will be abused by pedophiles. Children can't give informed consent. It may be the photographer's idea of art, but I cringe to think of the child's picture making its way into lots of porn collections. What were the parents thinking?
posted by theora55 at 9:59 AM on April 6, 2003

Thanks for posting this, plep. I think this project directly addresses - and combats - the issue that some people are having with the pictures of nude children. The pictures of girls and women here are defiant of the notion that every time we see nudity, especially female nudity, it's sexual. Here they're just themselves, just being, not being a sex object, and that's a rare thing to see in US culture.

Hell, why do you think most women have body issues? It's got at least something to do with the fact that every time we strip we've gotta worry about being the embodiment of female sexuality, instead of just, you know, being fucking naked.

Also, the "but what if someone can pervert what you're doing and victimize you?" argument has been used to restrict women's activities since time immemorial. Sure, you don't mean anything by dressing like that, but some man could take it the wrong way. Sure, you're a good girl, but if you go to bars alone it'll give people the wrong idea. I understand that this is a slightly different situation with children, but there are pictures of naked and semi-nude kids all over the place: art galleries, families' photo albums, etc., because it's normal. The fact that a pedophile will react abnormally to it doesn't make it less so.

I think these pictures are the best kind of activism (and I can't wait to be a rocking, nekkid old lady!).
posted by hilatron at 11:07 AM on April 6, 2003

"Oh, but think of the children!"

Oh, but give your head a shake. You're fetishizing nakedness.

I guess that pictures of children had best not be posted at all, no matter their state of dress. My god, some ear-fetishizing pervert could be masturbating at the sight of a babies pinnea!

The answer is not to cloth girls and women in burkas. If anything, that increases the fetishizing: what is unseen must be imagined, and imagined taboos can be powerfully erotic.

Head down to the nude beach and the only guys running around with jutting hard-ons are newbies who are still labouring under the idea that nakedness is taboo. Everyone who's been there a few times has grown accustomed to the scene. No fetish, no taboo, no eroticism.

The people who are screeching about the sight of nekkid kiddies in this art project are contributing to the fetishization of nudity.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:51 AM on April 6, 2003

I saw child nudity, not child pornography. Sorry some people can't seperate that, but those are people with sicknesses and will find something arousing in any image of a child, clothed or unclothed. People get off on the strangest things. Pyromaniacs use fire, so should we never publish images of blazes destroying homes in the news? I realize a fire has no feelings about being exploited by a degenerate, but the point is we can't possible control these bahaviors.

Back to the site... Great post, including the children. I found it full of taste, especially the women brave enough to expose what is often viewed as their "defects." Pure art.
posted by LouReedsSon at 12:37 PM on April 6, 2003

I loved this site. We fear what we do not know; the open and respectful eye looking at the aging body is nothing but good. A reality check. A celebration. Thanks, plep.
posted by jokeefe at 1:12 PM on April 6, 2003

This is the kind of Century (American New) Project that I can get behind.
posted by asok at 4:08 PM on April 6, 2003

I love this. And I love you for posting it.
posted by iconomy at 4:26 PM on April 6, 2003

Wow. What a site! I want to see all the pictures. It's amazing how much a body can take and still keep going. It's amazing to see all the different sizes and shapes and the ways bodies grow older. The self-hate was hard to deal with. But it's important to get it out there. It's such a part of so many women's everyday existence.

I was a little shocked at the children naked. But only because I thought it was illegal-even though this obviously isn't sexual/porn. I think it's important for people to be familiar with all stages of life-I'd love to see one of these for men. I simply have no idea what their bodies look like at varying ages.

I don't know if I could do this. I wouldn't mind being photographed, but if it ended up in a book or art museum or on the internet? Would I be willing to show my (fairly) normal body to everyone? I don't know. I'd like to think so, but maybe I'm more hung up on MY nudity than other people being naked.
posted by aacheson at 9:01 PM on April 6, 2003

The argument in this thread is patently absurd. Referring to some images of this Century Project as potential pedophilia is totally illogical and irrelevant. The presentation of said pictures, not to mention the images of women in wheelchairs or over seventy or suffering from glandular ailments is... Well let's just face it, the argument in here fearing this will be misconstrued as pornography - it's simply unfounded. The fact is the OPPOSITE is alarmingly apparent and I find it more disturbing.

I've always wondered why pornographers always insist on depicting women who look like aliens from outer space with physical parameters that would require the removal of lower ribs and other cosmietic surgery, all that makeup and airbrushing to remove moles, freckles and pores, and posing them in positions that they wouldn't possibly do in every day life... Now after being exposed to this expose of the 21st century female truism, I know. *shudder* These are images of women who should never be seen in public without clothing. Or perhaps a burka. I mean, pornography is not intended to present women as they actually are. It's a manner of fulfilling the fantasies of men in desperate need of visual aids to stimulate their creativity.

I admit that it is cerebrally stimulating to see testimonials of women who find posing nude to be a living testament to the survival of tragedies they have endured and witnessing their celebration of the female spirit is indeed... heartwarming, but if the sight of a woman's nudity doesn't inspire the male genitalia to engorge with blood as God intended, there's something intrinsically and horrifically wrong! This presentation treats female nudity as if it were as insignificant as paintstrokes on a canvas! Women activists may find actual pornography to be belittling to women, but I find such nudity used in this manner belittling to men!

And yes, from an intellectual standpoint I can understand its necessity, but speaking as a gentleman, I'm offended beyond comprehension at this atrocious display of women as something other than sex objects! Thank God for pioneering men like Hugh Hefner and Lawrence Flint, without whom civilized society would go completely bonkers! Viva La Difference!
posted by ZachsMind at 9:37 PM on April 6, 2003

It would be interesting to see another version of this through a woman's eye. Having modeled (fully clothed) a little, I was always more comfortable being photographed by another woman. The photographer's gender influences the work - not to say that it isn't good work, in fact it brings up some interesting issues. Is the act of posing nude inherently sexual, especially posing for someone of the opposite gender/sexual preference? I think it is - imagine yourself posing or photographing. What would go through your mind? Not arousal, but you would probably be aware of yourself as a sexual being. I don't think it's a bad thing, but it may help explain the feelings of unease viewing some of the images inspires.
posted by rainbaby at 5:15 PM on April 7, 2003

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