Light Table: Early Digital Nudes


Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2022


Early Digital Nudes


At the turn of the century like many photographers at that time I started working with a digital camera.  My assistant turned me on to one of the first, a Nikon Coolpix. I think it had about 5 megapixels and was best used for posting images on the internet or for making small exhibition prints.

I was shooting for Penthouse, Playboy and other adult magazines as well as mixing those shoots in with fashion and editorial assignments for Vibe, New York Magazine, and other mainstream publications. Editors started to require freelance photographers to start shooting with the new format. So I started to test shoot models with the new camera before taking on any big assignments. 

I put the call out for a new face. I was introduced to  this beautiful blond who will go by the name of Norma Rae Jean. 

Norma Rae was very much the Rockwellian version of the girl next door; a gorgeous blue eyed blond with full lips, hips and a nice size bosom.”

This is how I recall the way she was described to me by one of her friends, an adult model, who I knew and previously photographed.  Our mutual friend arranged for us to meet at a nightclub where Norma Rae  worked as a receptionist in center city Philadelphia. I always like to see for myself before making a commitment to photograph anyone new and it also takes the edge off whenever I work intimately with the new subject.  Norma Rae had already shot for Playboy just a few months earlier so she was comfortable modeling nude.

A few days after our initial meeting, I arrived at Norma Rae’s apartment. As I recall,  it was a high rise around 17th and Chestnut. Her place was filled with natural light and a few modernist pieces of furniture were sprinkled here and there presented a cozy minimalist atmosphere.  The photos for this article were recently re-edited. Several are published for the first time.


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