Grey Room

Out of Reach: Photographs of Child Nudists

Tania Cleaves (née Woloshyn)


Photographs of nude children are everywhere in nudist literature of this period, problematically interspersed with those of nude adults, usually women. In this article I put forth several arguments. First, children’s bodies were central to nudism in the 1930s and its eugenic aims. Second, children’s bodies were equally central to nineteenth- and twentieth-century definitions of “obscenity,” their arm length providing a physical measurement to gauge appropriate visual content. Third, nudists’ desires to take and consume photographs of children’s bodies in the sun emerged from deeply sexualized perceptions of its transformative rays and account for why those photographs remain powerful and disturbing objects today.