A fascinating glimpse into an experimental British nudist culture that radically challenged and transformed conventional attitudes to bodies and their representations
This richly illustrated volume examines the idiosyncratic phenomenon of social nudism in mid-20th-century Britain, an island nation fabled for its lack of sunshine and its reserved social attitudes.
Structured across three interrelated phases, readers first encounter the movement at its genesis in the 1920s, when nudism was synonymous with vegetarianism, intellectualism and utopianism. That nascent culture proliferated in the postwar era, with a widening landscape of amateur clubs and governing organizations alongside high-circulation publications and censorship-challenging photographers. Finally, Annebella Pollen examines the movement’s redefinition as naturism, its cultural battles and its struggle to survive amid shifts in sexual liberation in the permissive 1960s.
Unadorned bodies were the central campaigning tool of British naturism’s photographic propaganda. They drew attention to the cause and drove publication sales but they also attracted regular public opprobrium. Naturism’s shifting visual culture thus provides a microcosmic view of British moral, legal and aesthetic transformations in a period of rapid social change, revealing evolving perspectives on health and sex, gender and ethnicity, pleasure and power.
Annebella Pollen is Reader in History of Art and Design at the University of Brighton. Her first book, Mass Photography: Collective Histories of Everyday Life, explored 55,000 amateur snapshots taken on one day in 1987. The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift examined the modernist craft and occult spirituality of former scoutmasters in 1920s England.