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Human Natured: Newfoundland Nudes
by Sheilagh O'Leary

Human Natured: Newfoundland Nudes  by Sheilagh O'Leary

ISBN 1973850108

Price: CDN$44.95

Book Description
Human Natured: Newfoundland Nudes is a visually stunning collection of Sheilagh O’Leary’s black and white nude photography. Nude photography is a uniquely intimate art form: stripped of clothing and pretense, the model shows the viewer, “This is who I am.” Through her camera lens, O’Leary explores the beauty of the human body, while illustrating the vibrancy of the human spirit. For O’Leary, geography is an essential element of identity. The stark, raw landscape of Newfoundland is more than a backdrop. Her images capture a profound relationship with rock, earth, and water. The island’s distinctive culture is revealed through her suggestive work. Her work is introduced by writer Lisa Moore.

Sheilagh O'Leary's Human Natured: Newfoundland Nudes represents her rich and far-reaching exploration of nude photography spanning the last sixteen years of her artistic career.

O'Leary brings to this collection of images a strong graphic sense of design, exper t technical understanding of the ar t of photography and a vast interest in the question of what is essentially human. These photographs are also a study of our elemental relationship with nature and our place in the landscape.

Her images, often seared with blasts of light and carved out of a vivid darkness, boldly fix the human form on the rocky cliffs of the Newfoundland coast, or in a quiet pool or river. Whether outdoors or in the studio, the human figure is often sculptural in O'Leary's work. It is sometimes textured with superimposed motifs from nature: the shrubs on the forest floor, or the lacy patterns of light on water, or the bark of a tree. A dramatic perspective or an experiment with scale often abstracts the figure. Here there is a head thrown back to reveal a very white triangle of throat, or a foreshortened elbow and shoulder melting into a landscape of rock upon which the model stretches.

These photographs are experiments in texture, scale, form, light and shadow. Nakedness becomes a metaphor for what is essential about human experience, how the body defines us, how we express ourselves physically, and how we belong to the landscape and are also apart from it.

O'Leary captures a remarkable variety of mood and shade in these works from the starkly mythic grandeur of the vulnerable naked figure exposed to the elements on rugged beach, to the quietly intimate image of partners considering the birth of a child. Here is the contemplative, inward looking portrait of a pregnant woman, or the grandeur of a naked body in the lichen mottled boulders.

This collection of images shows an impressively diverse range of subjects: male and female, young and old. Here are people from all walks of life: dancers, bartenders, musicians, mothers, lovers, and children, women in the late stages of pregnancy. Also a gifted portrait photographer, O'Leary has an indiscriminate and hugely generous curiosity about people and an inherent warmth that allows her subjects to relax in front of the camera. She develops an atmosphere of trust during her shooting sessions, evident in the finished photograph that makes the process a true collaboration between the model and the artist.

O'Leary attended Concordia University and later the Banff Centre of Fine Art in 1992, where she honed her technical skills as a photographer and began to show her work. She has been shooting and exhibiting nude photography to wider and wider appreciative audiences ever since. Human Natured: Newfoundland Nudes represents the best of this very beautiful and thought provoking work.

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