A couch and a naked girl in nothing but her favorite pair of shoes—the formula is simple and obviously sexy. But for some, getting the necessary components would be a bit of a challenge. That is, unless you have a camera, and quite possibly a really long beard.
San Francisco based photographer Merkley has been taking pictures of naked chicks for some time and admits that he is quite surprised at people’s willingness to pose in the flesh. These aren’t some girls he finds with a “Nude Models Wanted” callout on Craigslist—he has a strict rule of one degree of separation or less. She has to be someone rolling in his same circle, a girl he would have eventually met or possibly seen naked.
Without that social accountability it tends to get a bit awkward and Merkley learns from his mistakes. His most uncomfortable photo shoot was when he was hired by two perfect strangers who may or may not have wanted to just get laid.
“It was a little creepy because they were expecting it to be how a lot of people might imagine a naked photo shoot—a bunch of smarminess. I am not here to get turned on, or turn you guys on. I am just here to take some cool photos.”
So then, what is a naked photo shoot really like? In Merkley’s world it’s all about the girl—her house, her music, her friends.
“I always prefer when there are a couple of extra people around—you would think it would add awkwardness, but it actually eliminates any that would potentially be there.”
Most of the time they have a drink to calm everybody’s nerves, then he checks out her couch, and sees what she has to make up the prefect scenario.
“People are what they own. You don’t get a full portrait of somebody unless you see them in their environment with the things they have, the stuff they choose, and the stuff they carry around with them.”
And obviously, the stuff they are born with. When Merkley first started nude photography, it was just that, the girls posed completely bare, bush and all. But lately, he has been shooting girls in just their panties because “there are too many douchebags out there” and with Flikr as his choice exhibition they are easy to run in to.
“The problem is the vagina tends to be a tremendous upstager. I mean I don’t have a problem with it by any means, but it’s really hard to have genitals in a picture without getting people worked up,” explains Merkley.
So how does he get these chicks to bare it all? Bryn Carter, who has posed for Merkley a few times and is pictured above, admits that it really is a vanity thing.
“I saw his pictures and I was like I want to look that pretty. I’m in my 20s and I know I’m not going to look like this forever. I wanted to document it so when I’m older, I can be like wow, that’s what my boobs looked like.”
And true to form, just like after Merkley’s first couch photo shoot with his friend Jenny, all her friends wanted in — after Bryn’s photos came out, half the girls she knew wanted to jump on the Merkley nude bandwagon.
Maybe it’s his, as Bryn describes “goofy, casual and relaxed” demeanor or his seriously impressive photo shop skills, but Merkley has no trouble booking models, and once he’s in their living rooms, he has no trouble getting them to off their clothes.
“Normally there’s a little apprehension. But in about three minutes most people are completely comfortable, and by the end of the photo shoot people are just hanging around without putting their clothes back on. That fear goes away really fast.”
Interestingly enough he does find that women who are atypically pretty have an easier time baring it all and girls who are more traditionally beautiful tend to have the most apprehension.
“I think it’s because in their life they get treated as beautiful so often, that they place a really high importance on it, so it becomes more of an issue.”
But whether you are drop dead gorgeous or just your average girl, Merkley will shoot you—well that is if you know any of his friends.
So how did he score such a sweet deal? Maybe it’s all the praying he did in his early years that got him in good. Merkley was raised in Utah as a Mormon and one of 17 children. He dropped out of the church at 25 and moved to San Francisco, and over the last 15 years has become a fixture in the SF scene. As for his family, some of them are aware of how he spends his time.
“My dad secretly thinks it’s awesome, but he can’t officially admit it.”
You can find Merkley’s work on Flickr or if you want a more tangible medium, his self published book 111 is available online and at some Mark Jacob’s stores. It’s all it promises to be, 111 naked chicks on their couches with a Merkley photoshop twist—anything from a flying cat to a jar of pickles.