Penn’s nudes were an entirely personally photographic endeavour, much like his Cigarettes and many of his Flowers. Between his fashion assignments, Penn would seek out professional models who would pose for painters and sculptors. These women were often more curvaceous than the models which he photographed for Vogue. Penn recalled them as being comfortable in their bodies and believed that the undulating forms captured on film from his close-up shots of the female nude proved more fulfilling than fashion photography.
Penn initially selected a group of 138 negatives to turn into gelatin silver prints, as well as choosing 14 others to print on platinum and other metals between the 60’s and the 80’s. Most of the series remained unseen until the ‘Earthly Bodies’ exhibition at the Marlborough Gallery in New York City in 1980. These prints remain a resounding celebration of the importace of Modernism to Penn’s practice.