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Episcopal priest insists his nude photography is high art

Unconvinced by his argument, the Rev. John Blair's diocese has fired him.

  • Tim Townsend
  • United States
  • September 18, 2012
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In the middle of the 16th century, Catholic bishops and theologians met sporadically in the city of Trento in northern Italy to discuss the church’s response to the Reformation. Over the course of 18 years, the Council of Trent produced documents correcting abuses like indulgences and other corruption.

In 1564, the council ordered that some naked figures in Michelangelo’s massive “Last Judgment” fresco in the Sistine Chapel be covered up as a result of the council’s dictate that “all lasciviousness be avoided; in such wise that figures shall not be painted or adorned with a beauty exciting to lust.”

It will be difficult for critics to compare Michelangelo’s nudes with the ones photographed by the Rev. John Blair. Just after the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri launched an investigation of the St. Louis priest, many of his photos of nude models were removed from the Internet.

And yet the diocese’s disciplinary board, whose members will decide if Blair’s photography constitutes sexual misconduct, will try to answer the same question as Trent’s participants 450 years ago: How does the church recognize the beauty of art that depicts God’s creation — the human form — without seeming to condone “a beauty exciting to lust”?

Blair worked as a spiritual care supervisor at Christian Hospital in St. Louis County. On Wednesday (Sept. 12), after hospital administrators saw the priest’s photography, he lost his job.

Blair was not hiding his art. In fact, he could hardly have been more public about it. The 40-year-old priest declined to be interviewed, but he describes himself in several places online as an artist. Much of his photography is of adult female models in classic nude poses; his work has been shown in local galleries and art shows.

Before his page on an online photography website was taken down, Blair described some of his work as including “artistic nudes and fine art erotica.” Some of the images involve male and female models in more explicit sexual poses.

“My work is about identifying and affirming the beauty and mystique of the models with whom I work,” Blair wrote on his photography page. Many of the models who have commented on the priest’s page praise his “professionalism” and “respect.”

Full Story: Episcopal priest faces scrutiny over nude art photos

Source: Washington Post
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