CULTURE & ARTS

Nude Bodies Invade Some Of The World's Greatest Natural Landscapes

A photographer ventures across Europe and Asia in search of the perfect nude photograph.

Peer into the expanses of a Ruben Brulat photography, and you'll find yourself playing a different kind of Where's Waldo? Instead of a man in stripes gawking in a crowd of cartoon doppelgängers, you'll be searching for a nude body hiding in plain sight, nestled ever so slyly in the pocket of a stunning landscape.

Brulat positions naked people -- sometimes himself, sometimes strangers -- in settings that are unequivocally sublime. From a red-stained rock formation in the Gobi Desert to an ice field punctuated by ebony rocks, it's hard to focus on the curled body, tucked away in anonymity. You're more likely to drop your jaw at the uncanny feel of a saturated green field than the pale individual baring everything in the middle ground.

The French artist began his particular brand of nude photography (or, landscape photography, depending on your purview) after a solo trip to Iceland in 2009. "I was ... walking through the island when one night there was a rock by the side of the mountain -- a large and fascinating rock," he explained in an email. "It simply came as an urge. I got my camera ready, the timer on. I ran towards the rock with my bare body. It was cold but I did not feel it. It was rough but there was no pain, only a surge of all feelings together."

After Brulat's venture into self-portraits, he started introducing other people into his work. Throughout a yearlong stint of travel, heading towards Asia from Paris by land only, he would find and invite locals and fellow travelers alike to participate in the series, asking them to similarly take off their clothes in the empty spaces of nature. Sometimes Brulat and his subjects would meet only a mere hours before the shoot, other times they'd know each other for weeks before a photograph. At the end of their collaboration, he emphasized, they would say goodbye forever.

"The experience [of photographing other people] is extremely intimate and personal," he added. "There is the scale of nature surrounding each of these beings, but more important was the instinctive approach that took me away from the camera, looking only at what is there."

The subjects' faces remain notably obscured in most shots. The front of the body, Brulat said, is identity. His photos are meant to transcend identity, taking "each body to its almost animal nature." But the act of shading the face from view also evokes thoughts of loneliness, exaggerated by the figures appearing as if they were abandoned in the wild. Brulat sees this kind of loneliness as freedom.

"When walking along the trails or the side of a mountain ... there is this feeling of freedom," he concluded. "Then there is this need that comes, this urge from deep within. There is this incredible feeling of being part of something much greater than what we are made of. Once laying against the bare rock, feeling everything and nothing, there is peace."

Burlat is currently traveling throughout Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea but graciously allowed us to showcase some of his past photographs here. Enjoy.

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