The female derobed: Neola McDavid’s untainted nudes

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“Trust is very important when you ask someone to take their clothes off so you can photograph them nude,” says Neola Loretta McDavid, who will soon graduate from the University of Roehampton with a BA Honours in Photography. “Your subjects need to have confidence in you as a photographer, and they need to feel comfortable in themselves.”

McDavid’s series of nude portraits, Denudate 2015, exudes strength – stripped back, it presents women in a state of undress, stoic in their own personal space, the only props being the intimate objects in their homes. Her series, like the meaning of the title itself, bares all – it strips women of the labels imposed upon them by society and returns them to their natural state, as “supreme beings” – equal to men, neither subordinate nor superior.

“The women in my portraits signify empowerment. They are not obstructed by the mores of society or media in the way that influences how women are portrayed today. The women aren’t sexualised, nor are their poses meant to be suggestive. I’m not using the female form to sell an ideal or a product; instead I portray women as symbols of power, unencumbered by society’s notions of beauty or perfection. They are symbols of inner strength. I used natural lighting and didn’t retouch the pictures in any way because it was important to keep the pictures real, untainted.”

Raised in west London, 23-year-old McDavid became interested in photography as a child, taking pictures of her surroundings with disposable cameras until she was able to buy a digital Nikon of her own. “As a child I liked seeing things and used to take pictures so I could see them again – so I could keep memories. I studied photography for my GCSEs and A Levels and decided it’s what I want to do for a living.”

McDavid’s interests are broad and she hasn’t yet gravitated toward one specific photographic genre. She’s currently working on a website in which to showcase her work and hopes to eventually take freelance commissions. “I haven’t decided yet if I want to specialise in one particular area – I guess it depends on how well I do.”

Denudate 2015 is on exhibit now at the Free Range Graduate Art and Design Show as part of a summer season of shows celebrating up-and-coming graduate talent in the fields of art, design, fashion, photography and architecture. Photo Week One ends today.

Information about Free Range’s summer season of shows is available here.

British Journal of Photography is hosting a series of Breakthrough Sessions and workshops as part of Free Range. For more, visit BJP’s pop-up gallery at The Old Truman Brewery, Elys Court, 15 Hanbury Street, Shop 13, E1 CQR, or click here for information on workshops and photography sessions.

The winners of BJP’s Breakthrough Awards are currently on display at The Old Truman Brewery in Shop 13.

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