Is Nude Photography Always Wrong

I was in seminary for 6 years and have an MA in Theology.
To the best of my knowledge, nude photography is morally unacceptable for a few reasons. We all know that pornography is evil because it reduces the person to an object for pleasure/use. However many people make the argument that within the promer context and intention nude photography could be acceptable (modeling for the sake of studying the human form or women’s empowerment and confidence building) One of my good friends is a photographer who I continually debate on this.

It was once explained to me that the difference between a nude painting and a nude photograph is that the painting has been filtered through the artist’s mind/interpretation and what the world sees in the art is the mind of the artist and not the person themself. And that the problem with nude photography is that it gives a raw look into the intimacies of a person’s body which is not filtered by interpretation. This “raw material”, you could say, can therefore always be used according to the viewer’s intentions and is much more malleable than the Michelangelo Sistine Chapel art, for example.

To my friend, who argues he has no issues lusting after the models whom he photographs nude, I usually argue that he doesn’t have the right to that type/level of intimacy with them. Only one’s spouse ought to have access to the full disclosure of oneself (at least bodily in regards to one’s spouse, whereas full spiritual disclosure might be appropriate with one’s confessor).

Among the many other arguments as to the problematic nature of nude photos as discussed on the forum in other articles, can anyone help me backup/better found my argument? I’m not sure how to proceed or if there is some resource that could help in this regard.

Basically, to restate my question: I cannot think of any good reason who nude photography would ever be permissible and not contradict my previously stated argument. What do you think?

1 Like

I got one! Nude photography would be permissible for medical instruction. Think anatomy books or reconstructive surgery b4 and afters.


Photography to document injuries or a crime scene for later criminal prosecution.


What about impressing on him the duty to protect ones modesty. The idea that nothing is more beautiful then virtue. That modesty is beautiful. Obviously God’s creation is beautiful. Who doubts that? Really, such art “look at the beauty of the human form” is unoriginal. Totally been done. If his art could capture beauty that is all but forgotten in todays world that would be an achievement. Challenge him to capture the beAuty of the virtues.

There are moral reasons to look at a human nude body. Doctors and morticians need to know how our body works. I don’t think nude photography is always immoral.

Agreed photography of nude bodies for anatomical/medical instruction or to document injuries or crime scenes as evidence for criminal prosecution. Is probably permitted .

But as art i think nude photography is an attack against the virtue of modesty.


I do NOT think “women’s empowerment and confidence building” is a valid reason for nude photography.

I’ve never heard of a single woman do that who supports chastity.

The so called reason for “women’s empowerment and confidence building” does nothing other than support the sexual revolution


We have anatomical drawings and models for that. For rashes, wounds, infections real true pictures were helpful in nursing school but to learn and study body parts the drawings and models were fine, Grey’s Anatomy. Yes cadavers are used for medical study but those cadavers are always (or should always) be treated wi th respect. Forensic work also may need actual photos true but again respect is given.


And more importantly- it’s an attack against chastity and human dignity.

1 Like

Then maybe you can guide us. Say a nude photograph is taken. At what point is there sin? The pose? The capture of the image? The publishing? The viewing?

I think this is an interesting question with a not-so-obvious answer. Do intentions matter? The person posing for the photo may have good intentions or bad, and the photographer likewise. What if the photo is intended to be used for good purposes, but it is misused by someone who receives it?

This might be related to the question of morality of taking pictures of someone in their swimsuit or underwear. Such photos might be intended for use in a clothing catalog. Someone might misuse the catalog for lust. Whose fault is that?

I’ve been to major art museums in the US, and occasionally there is nude photography. In the vast majority of cases I’m not offended or tempted. Most of it I find it tasteful, and some of it I find even beautiful. I don’t see it demeaning the models in the photographs. So what if the picture gives knowledge of a person’s body? If you don’t want to see such things, you don’t have to.

1 Like

Any anatomy student will tell you models and drawings aren’t quite the same thing as a real body. Hence they still dissect human cadavers as part of the learning process.


I agree with this.

I have a friend who went to art school and as part of that education you have to learn to draw nude models in live sessions (all sorts, men, women, old people, young people, fat people, thin people, anything really). He said that nudes are very difficult, maybe one of the most difficult things of all to draw correctly. You only have a fixed amount of time and after that the model goes home. So obviously you can fix shading and things afterwards but you have to use that time to get the overall shape right. Mostly there wasn’t enough time so the prerssure was on to work quickly and accurately. When you are doing that you are so concentrated on the task that you don’t even have time or mental capacity for any sexual thoughts.


There is a difference between art and pornography.

The nude figure is not infrequently used in art, heck, take a look at the Sistine Chapel!

I would (mildly) dispute this. Photography as documentation yes I would agree, but photography as art does involve inputs by the photographer such as lighting and composition, and even edits or image processing before publishing or releasing the final image. Even old style film photography involved at least as much work in the darkroom during developing and printing as there was in the studio capturing the original images, and usually more for a true photographic artist, and now the tools for editing digital photographs allow for an almost infinite amount of enhancement to or interpretation of the raw image.

1 Like

No… nude photography is not always wrong…

To counter your argument very simply… ART. The human body is a work of art…the work was completed by none other than the creator himself. Unfortunately, there exists a hyper sexualization of the human body by many when, in fact, there is nothing wrong, dirty or raw about it. There is a sort of prudishness about the naked body.

Photography is widely recognized as an art form… the use of light, shadow, position, surrounding, etc are in the artists control making the artist the one who is filtering the and presenting and interpreting the subject.


I can agree with that as a generality, and, of course, for scientific reasons. That said, reactions to artistic nude photographs vary from person to person, and for me, it is always wrong.


Sure, the same way reactions to a sculpture, a minimalist painting, architecture, etc vary from person to person. What would you say to someone who said the Structural Expressionism in architecture is always wrong?

I am not qualified to comment on architecture.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit