Allan Teger was a psychology professor in 1976 when he stepped behind the camera and began to create a sensual and often humorous universe, showing the nude body as a kind of landscape. We chatted with Teger about the difficulties of shooting nudes, how he handles criticism and why his work has very little to do with sex.
"The first photograph I shot was a skier on a breast. I had small toy skiers for my old model railroad, which I was setting up for my children. I knew that I could make a photograph where the breast appeared to be a mountain at first glance, and that after a moment it would be obvious that there was in fact a body in the photograph."
"Many of my images now begin the same way — by finding a small toy or miniature first, and finding a place on the body where I can use it to create a landscape. Sometimes the process works in reverse — I have an idea for a bodyscape and have to go in search of the perfect miniature to create the scene."
"Most people like the bodyscapes — either as art, humor or sensuality. I do get some people who find them too sexual or erotic for their taste. When I began, in the late 1970s, my work was considered more erotic than it is now — but things have changed, and the sight of a nude body isn't as shocking as it used to be."
Stork with Baby
"Mothers would often drag their children away from my display, trying to protect the child from such a sight. Now, more often, they tend to bring their children up to the photographs and help the child find the body in the picture."
"Not everyone will like the work — not everyone should. If an artist tries to please everyone, he has missed the point of being an artist. My work is not about sex simply because there are nudes in my work. If people react to the work as though I am just trying to be sensational by showing the nude body, they have missed the point of the work."
Cowboy in Canyon
"It's interesting for me to work with nudes. It turns out to be a discipline — for I have to see the nude female body as a mountain or other landscape, if I want it to appear that way to the viewer. If I concentrate on the body as that of a beautiful woman, the result doesn't work as a bodyscape — it doesn't create the illusion of a landscape. So I need to detach from the erotic, sexuality, of the nude model."
Golfing in Navel
"People often tell me how lucky I am to being doing this work — and it's true that it has its benefits. But — it's harder than it looks. The hardest thing is to keep the small toys and miniatures from falling over. They are not made to stand on the soft skin of a body. If they are heavy, they indent the skin. The breathing and even the heartbeat of the model causes them to topple over."
"I have a variety of models with whom I work, and there are often new women who volunteer to model for me. Every person is different, of course, and I never know, when working with a new model, what parts of her body will be useful in the shots I am planning that day."
"The most beautiful models, I find, are the most insecure, never satisfied with their bodies, no matter how perfect they may be."
"Many of my recent pieces have two models in the photograph. This opens up a new dimension for me, for in the arrangement of the two bodies I am actually designing the landscape, instead of merely populating it with the toys."
"In recent years I have also been working with my son, Carl Teger, of Tracer Graphix in Los Angeles, to produce a series of lenticular bodyscape images, where the objects move across the image as the viewer walks past. For example, a motorcycle is seen moving out from between the breasts and traveling down across the stomach."
"I am not sure what I will be doing next. I will continue with the current series, but I may also be doing more male bodies and couples — with a male and a female body in the same shot."