Love & Sex

Meet the Woman Who Only Took Nude Photographs of Men for 35 Years

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Vivienne Maricevic wants to introduce you to more naked men.

In 1989, the Guerilla Girls famously drew attention to the fact that only five percent of the artists in the Metropolitan Museum of Art were women while almost 85 percent of all nudes in the museum were female. This limited idea of what constitutes "nude art" lives on today. Close your eyes and picture a "nude photograph" and invariably, you will probably picture the bare body of a woman sprawled out on a bed. For portrait photographer Vivienne Maricevic, this monolithic view of the nude needs a revamp.

Maricevic's newly released collection of unreleased nudes, entitled She Shoots Men covers the male nudes she shot over the course of 35 years, from 1975 to 2005. "The male nude is a forgotten subject. From social and cultural conditions, we know about how men see female bodies and know far less about how women see men," Maricevic tells Nerve. Part of Maricevic's mission is to not only bring more representations of the male nude into our culture, but to make those representations just as intimate and sexy as those of women.

Thinking of the male body erotically isn't something that's frequently done. As one episode of Seinfeld aptly put it, "A woman's body is a work of art, a man's body is utilitarian." But to Maricevic, this sense of utilitarianism is a myth and she claims the men she has photographed for decades enjoy the shoots and even welcome the role reversal.

"I am finding many men who have never been photographed by a female and want to have the experience, want to be a sex-object," she claims. "Of course, the male nude can be just as eroticized as the female nude. The male nude body is just as beautiful as the female nude body."

The trouble is, we're just not used to seeing the male nude — not in a magazine, not on television, and especially not in fine art. Last year, College Humor released the funny video, "HBO Should Show More Dongs," which received a lot of attention for pointing out the simple truth that prestige television is filled with naked ladies, but male genitals are nearly absent from our favorite shows. "Censorship of male genitals reflects the disproportionate significance that culture ascribes to them," Maricevic claims. Her work throughout the decades has always included full frontal images of men's genitals for this reason. For her, it's important that these images be shown through a uniquely and distinctly female lens.

"I know that you know that male nudes should be in our culture," Maricevic tells me when I asked her about the imbalance of representation of the nude in art. "Our country is still very much a Puritanical society, not like the Europeans, where sexuality is more acceptable." Overturning skewed notions of the male nude in America was what lead Maricevic to spend years hunting for an American publisher when she had others knocking on her door. "Many European publishers wanted to publish my book, but I wanted a U.S. publisher. It took a lot of work on my part to convince [one]. We still have more men at the top of the helm of companies than women, and men (the heterosexual ones) still want to see female nudes."

Maricevic's images might not seem immediately erotic, sexy, or hot when someone first sees them — men wrapped in blankets, men staring longingly out a window, men lounging on couches — but that element of ridiculousness and surprise is what Maricevic is going for. "Women are not brought up to seek the image of the male nude, as men do for female images…which are everywhere," Maricevic explains.

If female sex keeps selling, Marinevic will make it her life's mission to make male sex sell too. Although she's been photographing male nudes since 1975, a time when the very idea was truly subversive and before Robert Mapplethorpe was truly in vogue, Maricevic hopes to continue her project. "My photography is an integral part of making changes in the reception of the male nude. It's been my motivation from the beginning, to make my own little dent in breaking that double-standard."

Images via Vivienne Maricevic.