Moments before I approached this guy I’d had a conversation with another bloke on the beach who was looking a little befuddled and unsure as to what to do.
‘Are you OK?’ I asked.
‘Yes, but my boyfriend has just taken off all his clothes and gone for a swim and I’ve no idea what I should do!’ he replied laughing.
‘Well if it were me I would take off all my clothes and go and join him’ I said, completely truthfully.
So many times I’ve been in this situation shooting this project (my ‘The Things you Find on Brighton Beach at Sunrise on a Sunday’ project, from which this ‘stranger portraits’ is taken). There is something very compelling about being by the sea at sunrise, particularly on a Sunday morning that makes people just want to get naked and go for a swim. It’s an entirely asexual experience; I don’t think being going completely naked is even done for the practicality of keeping your under garments dry, it’s just about being naked and feeling the water on you.
In truth, the complete nudity is usually something exhibited by the men whereas the equal number of women I’ve come across going for an impromptu swim do tend to keep there under garments on. I guess testosterone makes you more inclined to risky or slightly subversive behaviour and this is Brighton afterall, the gay capital of the UK.
I confess I haven’t done this myself as yet. A few years ago I would have felt more than comfortable with letting the world see my body shape, but now perhaps not so much. But if this portrait is meant to show anything it is that we are who we are. When we’re stripped naked we are all just the same, both literally and metaphorically, and the most valuable lesson we can take from that insight is to just be comfortable with who we are. Easier said than done but this gentleman, who it turns out was neither the boyfriend of the previous gentleman nor even gay (which resulted in a slightly awkward response when I approached him and said ‘I’ve just been talking to your boyfriend…), shows us that it is entirely possible.