I keep hearing this a lot recently and while it's certainly true that you can take a picture of a naked woman that has little artistic merit, you can take a photograph of anything that has little artistic merit.
So what is artistic merit? Is it a work? Is it something that required commitment and effort by the artist? Any photographer will tell you high quality images take a lot of effort and time to set up. That's just as true for glamour as it is for any other professional photography.
Does that then disbar candids from artistry? Surely if it did, a random snapshot taken in the heat of the moment has little value. Doesn't sound right either does it? Because if so, a shot of a kingfisher catching a fish has no more merit than a girl with her top off. Clearly some would argue the wildlife shot has more merit than the booby shot. Perhaps it does... and maybe it doesn't. What makes the difference? Is it because one is sexual and the other nature? But then what's unnatural about sexuality?
And there's the rub. Our definition of art is as subjective as anything else we have an opinion on. Where one person sees beauty or the erotic, another sees smut. Where one person sees a very human behaviour, one that we wouldn't exist without, another sees a taboo to be hidden or a negative image that insults them by reducing their gender to an object.
The way I see it, art is as much about setting a mood, making a statement or provoking a reaction as it is about showing off your talent with a stylus, copic or pencil.
Certainly Tracy Emin's bed devides opinions in this way, as did Hans Rudi Geiger. There's no law that says you HAVE to like it for it to be art.
Where then does nudity fall?
Michelangelo's David generally gets a pass, as does Milos' Venus. Why? Because they're marble? Does that mean the artistic merit is purely in the artist's skill with the hammer and chisel? If so, why make statues of naked people at all? Is there therefore no artistic merit in the human body? No value to expression, eroticism, sexuality, physicality or mood? Is it that there is... but we've been conditioned to react negatively to naked people in the flesh in a way we haven't been for naked people in graphite or stone?
Has photography simply stripped away our ability to differentiate and thus given us a swift kick in the taboo? If so, is that not a very important function of art?
Lots of questions.
The answers are perhaps as unique as the person trying to answer them.