The Nu Project is a series of “honest” nudes of women from all over the world. The project began in 2005 by the husband and wife duo, photographer Matt Blum and art director Katy Kessler, with the idea that women of all shapes and sizes deserve to be photographed as beautifully as fine art nudes. To date, over 150 women across North and South America have participated in the project exhibiting courage, confidence and trust.
All of the subjects are volunteers, found by word-of-mouth or through Craigslist, each with their own story to tell. Staying true to the original vision of the project, Matt and Katy are committed to using “un-models”, keeping the makeup minimal, staying away from splashy glamour shots usually found in glossy magazines and only using photoshop to remove minor temporary blemishes such as pimples, not change the woman’s body in any way. The focus of the project has been and continues to be “the subjects and their personalities, spaces, insecurities and quirks”.
The Nu Project attempts to redefine beauty and celebrate the brave women who have opened their doors and shared their stories. Matt and Katy will be featuring the portraits in a fine-art book, but in the meantime you can check out some of the portraits in the galleries on the website.
We recently caught up with Katy to learn more about their inspiration for the project and what beauty means to them.
How did the project start, what was the inspiration?
KK: Matt couldn’t find anything out there like it at the time – it was either models or “average” women made to look unimpressive. He decided to take a new twist and use non-models, but photograph them beautifully.
When did Matt get interested in shooting nudes?
KK: He was doing a lot of reading and he became enamored of Edward Weston and his work. It’s also a great creative outlet to be your own boss on an art project. Client work is great, but you also have to do some things just for the love of it.
KK: We hide behind our clothes all day. Sometimes we hide behind our hair or our cell phones or whatever, this takes away some of those barriers for an hour or two. The feedback we get from models is often about how freeing it was. I love that.
What would you like to ultimately achieve with the project?
KK: Get as many women as possible involved. The message is simple: there is beauty in every body.
What is your role as project editor?
KK: As the project editor, I review the images from the shoot and select which ones will become a part of the project. I don’t usually go along on the shoots, I’ve only been on a few, so when I see the images I go with my gut reaction. I look for moments of joy, vulnerability, comfort.
What is your definition of beauty?
KK: Confidence, but it looks a little different on everyone.
Tell us about the book project.
KK: We have funded this project ourselves for the last six years, because we’re committed to it and the difference that it makes in the lives of the participants and the people who see the images. But, in order to keep it going and expand the original vision, we launched a Kickstarter campaign. We just reached our funding goal, but we have until March 9 to continue selling pre-orders of the book through their site. After March 9, we’ll begin selling the books on our website.
Since opening Matt Blum Photography studio in 2006, Matt and Katy have traveled the world, shooting everything from weddings in Africa to baptisms in the villages of Guatemala. Matt and Katy live and work in Minneapolis, MN with their son and dog Maria.
To learn more about volunteering as an “un-model” click here.