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May 1, 2008

Faux-Nudity in the Times Travel Section

Readers of the New York Times Travel section probably had trouble holding down their cappuccinos this past Sunday when they were greeted with a half-page color spread of volley-balling nudists. The photo accompanied an article titled "No Shoes, No Shirts, No Worries" about the growing popularity of nudist luxury hotels. Being the venerated institution that it is, the Times would never show indecency its pages, so the photo playfully engages in a game of what Slate calls "Hide the Salami."

Every penis, nipple and ass crack is shrewdly covered by a well-placed arm, towel or splash of water. Slate's Jack Shafer—when he isn't coming up with playground euphemisms ("love bags?" really?)—is reminded of the scene in Austin Powers where ridiculously out-of-place objects cover up the honey-mooning couple's naughty bits. (Except for, according to YouTube user 2008AndAYes, a brief glimpse of Elizabeth Hurley's nipple around the 1:10 mark.) The cover photo is just one of a series that photographer Adriana Zehbrauskas took for the Times. There is a slideshow on the Times website that offers more images for the porn-starved to pore over like an X-rated Where's Waldo.

NYT Travel Section Photo

Zehbrauskas's lucky snap.

After recovering from the initial shock, Times readers probably went back to their biscotti and wondered how the Times managed to show so much skin without crossing the line. Gelf sought out the photographer for an answer. Zehbrauskas is a Brazilian-born freelance photographer currently based in Mexico City. She considers herself an old school news photographer. So did she instruct fifteen people to cover up for a photo?

"No, it wasn't posed," she tells Gelf. "I strictly follow the no posing rule and I approach a travel piece as any other story I photograph for the newspaper." While she didn't put the shot together, the subjects were aware they were being photographed. "When I arrived at the scene the game was already under way," says Zehbrauskas. "The ones who did not want to be in the shot left the pool. There was a lot going on in the pool as well as in the background and I couldn't possibly control it, but I could position myself in a way that I could cover at least something."

Like any good photographer, she positioned herself for the image she wanted. "I needed a photo that would be interesting in terms of framing. It was a volleyball game," she says, "so I needed the ball in the frame—and one that would clearly say 'nudism' and yet be fit to print." Seventy-one frames later, she was fortunate to find the perfect shot. "I knew what I wanted, but I guess that I could also say that I was lucky."







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