Nude image of a woman surrounded by flames photographed by Inner Spirit Photography Studio Calgary's Mark Laurie.

Rights of passage are doorways into exclusive clubs, of sorts. You can only get to be a true member by passing through the rite. In some cultures it’s been formalized, like an African tribe where the young boy goes out hunting at night, and if successful he returns a man.

There are rituals like the Debutants Annual Ball of New York, where young ladies from upper class are presented to high society.  That ball is known to present the daughters of the world’s top one percent. It’s a very refined right of passage.

For many women, the nude portrait has become its own rite of passage resulting in a unique group bonded by the experience. You can see celebrities are boldly joining this group. The Allure Magazine constantly has famous women nude, sometimes appearing in the annual article titled “The Naked Truth: Four Celebrities Go Nude for Allure,” coming complete with a video where they talk about their experience.

Halle Berry has nude pregnancy images through her home, as does Heidi Klum. Both not only talk about them, but makes them part of the interview tour. Then there are the selfies and… well, the list goes on.

We have found that most of our clients are doing this for themselves. For broad general reasons, like “I am in the best shape ever”, just lost lots of weight, need confidence, need self-esteem, want the memory, which all boil down to “I want this experience.” Even so, once stated, it’s still a scary thing for most.

It’s not for everyone, which makes it a bit exclusive. The same can be said for skydiving, bungee jumping, fire walking, or coming out at a debutant’s ball. It is a great icebreaker, though. If there is ever a lull in boring group conversation just mention you had some nudes taken for a private book or wall hanging, then watch it come alive.  Try to get the same conversation energy by mentioning you skydived!

Several of our clients tell us that it’s a way to own their bodies – own their expression of their bodies. One explained that up to then, she felt it was a vessel for everyone else: the kids a baby home then a feeding station, her husband’s connection, and so on. In her session she decided what she wanted to express, the full range. We interpreted that for her, and refined her pose, but it was her expression.  She got to be naughty and nice, playful and wicked, sexual and tame. She revealed what she wanted to, and expressed herself to the fullest.

It’s a bold thing to do; often you are fighting your own body image and fears of the camera. Yet it is such a rush once you get in the groove of it.

Once you have passed through your rite of passage you join the exclusive group of nearly 5,000 women we have photographed nude over the last 32 years. Women have told us it changed their lives. Whenever a challenge appears, they compare it to the experience – is it more or less scary than doing that? It is usually less, making them confident to take it on.

Years ago when I started, it was the boudoir that was the passage, the daring thing to do. Now it’s the nude and it’s for themselves; if it’s a gift, then that is a side result or the excuse.

Like all rites of passage, you wind up in a secret society of sorts. Knowing glances pass between those who have come through, and it’s a shared bond. Others can enjoy your stories, and live it through you, but only those who have done it too can understand and know.

Celebrities are not really leading the way with this; they are joining it in progress, highlighting it, if you will. It’s not to be mistaken for posing in Playboy or another men’s magazine. It’s posing for yourself, for your own reasons and purposes.

It’s thrilling to be part of someone’s right of passage – their trip to an important, personal, place. It’s always amazing and humbling to watch and be part of the journey and transformation with them.

Posted by: Mark Laurie

World-renown photoartist Mark Laurie of Inner Spirit Photography specializes in Female Portraiture: nudes, boudoir, prenatal & fine art. His empowering images of women reveal their heart & soul.