The project ism principle
What inspires women to submit their naked photos online? The short answer is - Control. The ability to show yourself on your terms, how you'd like to be seen, free from the distortion of someone else's viewpoint and the sanitizing of Photoshop. For some contributors this is an exposition of pure art. For others it's a rebellious gesture, erotic expression, a desire to be desired, or a cathartic process. And for everyone, as we're told every day, it's just hugely fun. In the 16 years since we began collecting folios we've amassed around one million raw images from over 7 thousand contributors in over 10,000 folios (not all are online, yet). We get more visitors than the Guggenheim, we have a larger collection than the Louvre and track the zeitgeist like the Tate cannot.
Our request of contributors, above all else, is - subvert the paradigm. Summon your muse and use your creativity to transcend the clichéd banality of pornography. Which doesn't mean you need to hold back, if sexual expression is on your mind - in fact some of the most beautiful and arresting images on ISM are incredibly raw and confronting. Until now porn has hijacked the female body, but explicit imagery need not be crude and artless. The difference lies in the context and intent, and to encourage unfettered creativity, ISM awards an Art Prize certificate and $250 to a contributor each month, as judged by the editing staff (most of who hold fine arts degrees).
So what's inside ISM? A body of work that's astonishing in its diversity and thrilling in what it reveals. We have contributors from the Congo to California, from 18 to 70 and beyond; art students to lawyers, the unemployed to airline pilots. Professional photographers and novices. They photograph themselves at home, in nature, and sometimes in brazen acts of very public nudity. In Duet folios they're joined by a friend or partner (male or female). Sometimes the background is as revealing as the subject herself; the empty packet under the bed, the personal effects, the assorted bits and pieces that make up their environment. Beauty in all its colours, shapes and forms, bodies with modifications, bodies with hair and without, bodies in perfect shape and bodies bearing the scars of day to day life and sometimes life-altering events. ISM also publishes videos; a little more frivolous than the photo folios, the 'hands on' rule is relaxed so the contributor has complete freedom to make the short movie she wants to make, naked.
These people are not models, and that's a very important distinction to make. By definition, a 'model' is an ideal, held up to be aspired to; this idea offends most of us who will never have the flawless complexion and sculptured body parts that mainstream media and the porn industry (and their image enhancement tools) tout as being uniquely desirable. But most of all, it marginalises the mind, as well as all the subcultures and mavericks that make humankind so interesting.
Central to the success of ISM is a strong ethical focus that ensures all contributors can submit their folios with the confidence they will be handled respectfully and impartially. And of course, be well paid for their work; every folio is fully paid for prior to publication, and additional bonuses are paid out for every click by you, the viewer. Don't be ashamed to admit you're here because naked self-photography is incredibly sexy. That does not diminish its artistic merit or cultural value. As you browse the thousands of folios you'll realise that no matter what the image you're looking at, it's the contributor's brain that is really turning you on. And making you think, and appreciate, and value the diversity of human form and imagination.
To survive, ISM desperately needs your help. We update the site every day, sometimes with 2 folios, plus a video each week. Whatever your motive for coming here, whether you're interested in beautiful imagery or you're a pervert - do the honorable thing and subscribe now so we can keep this project alive and reward the people with the guts and skills it takes to submit a folio. Or if you're a cis-female over 18 - grab a camera, get shooting, and submit to the adrenaline rush of having your own folio published on ISM.
ISM Fast FactsProject started: June, 2003
Contributors so far: 8,215
Folios published so far: 11,993
Unique images on the site: 521,555
Videos published: 883