On a warm Saturday afternoon, Tinashe Sithole (alias) packs his wide arsenal of cameras, lights, reflectors and camera stands as he heads for what he assumes will be an easy $100 job in one of Harare’s leafy northern suburbs.
At the stroke of lunch hour, he is picked up from his 2 room rented cottage in Waterfalls by a metallic Range Rover, peeping eyes peek through windows of neighboring houses, even the curtain on his landlord’s living room slightly tilts.“The rent is definitely going to get raised next month.”, he jokingly remarks to himself as he approaches the SUV.
Upon arrival at the car, he is welcomed by warm hugs from two light skinned middle aged women.
Upon physical contact, Sithole can instantly smell the aroma of lavish living and wealth on their Chanel jumpsuits.
The first impression that these ladies give him make him instantly regret agreeing to the $100 fee he charged for a baby bump photoshoot.
It seems like breakfast change.
As he is sitting at the back of the car, he notices that both of them are pregnant, though one is farther along than the other.
He assumes that she is the one with whom he spoke to on WhatsApp.
As they are travelling, the heavily pregnant lady says to him,’’ I hope you don’t mind. My friend will be joining me for the photoshoot. I wasn’t feeling really comfortable doing this alone. Don’t worry you will be fairly compensated.”
Sithole casually agrees but in his head, he is doing mental fist pumps and somersaults for this moment is too good to be true.
He will be handed two hundred dollar bills for two hours of snapping, aiming and clicking.
On a normal weekend, making $50 is laborious and a cause for celebration.
However, Sithole’s joy for hitting the jackpot is going to come at a cost. A cost which could have been avoided if only he had asked what the pregnant lady was referring to when she said she would be uncomfortable.
This is a cost he would soon pay for in a grueling two hours filled with tension and awkwardness.
As soon as he arrives at their residence, the women take him to a green spacious part of their estate and start explaining to him how they want to have a Back to Eden and natural garden theme.
Sithole has done garden wedding shoots before and thinks to himself that this will be walk in the park.
He absentmindedly nods in agreement to what the ladies are saying.
In truth he is mildly annoyed, there are trying to teach a chef how to cook.
After what seems like light-years, he directs them to an area of the garden that is blooming with flowers and fresh shrubs.
His photography acumen tell him that the yellow matching jumpsuits the ladies are wearing will provide a perfect contrast to the green background.
As he is setting up his equipment, something startles him instantly.
The two light skinned ladies who could rightly be referred to in modern street lingo as “yellow bones” start to undress.
Instinctively he looks away, part of him rationalizes that the women must have some clothes hidden somewhere in nature.
Given their apparent affluence, outdoor wardrobes are a very real and believable possibility.
He then hears one of them saying ‘’we are ready.’’
He turns around, only to see the women in their birthday suits once more and covering their essential parts with leaves and flower petals.
It is at this moment that he realizes what is happening..
He is having his first nude photoshoot and ironically, it is not as glamourous as he had imagined.
In fact, he had not imagined it at all!
Biologists say that the male mind has a pleasant fascination with the nude female body, however in this situation Sithole begs to differ, if anything the experience is ethereal.
He feels like a deer staring at the headlights of a speeding car, clueless and nervous.
His trembling fingers struggle to locate the shutter button and adjust the camera lens.
Meanwhile it seems like the ladies are the worst body language readers in history and are blind to see that their designated photographer has turned into an emotional wreck.
He starts having mental flashbacks of the events of the day and all the clues he ignored that lead him to this predicament.
However, he thinks about the $200 on offer and makes the ultimate decision to forego his morals and whore away his camera for the elusive yet lucrative greenback.
In a numb state, Sithole endured the most confusing two hours of his life.
To this day he says the memories of the day still feel like an out of body experience.
However, Sithole’s story does not exist in isolation.
Of late, images taken at nude photoshoots have periodically popped up on social media platforms.
People fascinated with being photographed in their natural states are frequenting photo studios.
This is an indicator of two things: firstly, that local culture is changing perspective as nudity which was once dubbed as a taboo is now being celebrated as a virtue or secondly; the society is gradually seeing the rise of new counter culture.
Various conversations that this writer has had with photographers tend to lean towards the latter.
The general feelings expressed by the men behind the lens reveal a plethora of problems.
Most if not all photographers that were spoken to said that they were not comfortable with doing nude photoshoots.
Most of them who have shot semi nude / nude pictures spoke on condition of anonymity and said that the do not want their brands to be associated with nude photoshoots.
One of the brave ones,Nyasha Chawatama of Chany Media productions said;“I don’t want my brand to be associated with such kind of content because it tarnishes my name in the industry. As a professional photographer, it is better if I focus on corporate events.”
A Mutare based photographer said he did a nude photoshoot at the request of an upcoming model who wanted to accelerate her career.
Nonetheless he reiterated that he had reservations with nude photoshoots.
He added that this was the position of most of his peers in the field and most who took nude pictures would make efforts to disassociate themselves from such.
However, the photographer said that on occasions, they are forced to swallow their morals when the price is too tempting.
Chief Svosve of Mhakwe Heriatage Trust lambasted nude art and said it has no place in Zimbabwean society.
“Zimbabweans are a people who value their culture, norms and values. Despite our primitive dressing in historical times, a woman’s body was always highly coveted.
“Even in Christian or Muslim practices, nudity is not something that is condoned.What we are seeing at present are the machinations of western culture that has penetrated the impressionable minds of our young people,” said Svosve.
Nude photography finds its roots in Roman era where artists of the time began to draw an sculpt nude depictions of mostly young males.
Locally, Europe based songstress Vimbai Zimuto grabbed headlines a few years ago after she shared a nude pictures of herself on her Facebook account.
It later emerged that the nude pictures were used as a ploy to market a new song.