Saturday, January 4, 2014

Coffee Table Books

We were doing some New Year's cleaning around the old Platypus homestead and came across our dated edition of The North American Guide to Nude Recreation.  As we spent a few minutes thumbing through the pages, it brought back memories of clubs that no longer exist, as well as places that have changed names.  Many of the most recent places are not listed, of course.  The book is nearly 20 years old.

In addition to the changes among places to go within the U.S and Canada, what struck us most were the pictures.  People were smiling with what seemed to be genuine smiles.  People from all walks of life. Grandparents with their grandkids.  Overweight people.  People with scars, gray hair, and balding hair.  And people who clearly loved their pets too.

Maybe this is going to sound hypocritical coming from a blog that has only cartoon mascots for pictures, but we miss the spirit that made coffee table books like The North American Guide and Lee Baxandall's World Guide to Nude Beaches possible. There are lots of pictures in these books of people who did not have to be concerned with their images appearing on the internet for an audience that goes well beyond nudists and can get into some strange folk.

Over time, somehow we lost a bit of our innocence, didn't we?  The books got more and more expensive to produce. One poor selling edition could set a publisher way back. So could an angry subject who demanded a recall of any books with a picture that somehow managed to get in without the proper release.

So the books got thinner and thinner with fewer and fewer pictures, or even information.  Fewer people bought them... instead, turning to the web for guidance about places to go and to blogs for the images and content.

What disappeared in the process is the conversation starter right in front of your couch.  Also lost is the balance between young and old, male and female, scars and gray hair, as well as beauty mixed with maturity and the lines of life's wrinkles.  We may be being just a bit nostalgic here, but we believe some will agree with us.   The Platypus doesn't do photo  blogs. Too many of just the beautiful people with too little context.  Yogi Beara may have had it right when he said, 'No one goes there anymore.... it's too crowded.'

The North American Guide opens with a two page spread of nothing but bare bottoms from a line of people, with one toddler in the middle of that line who couldn't look happier. It captures in one moment what seems to be missing.  The way we were.