Photographer Brian Leighton and the Meaning of Nude Portraiture

Curators’ Corner

Photographer Brian Leighton and the Meaning of Nude Portraiture

They say beauty comes from within, but in a world of vanity and status, most of us groom our outer appearance more so than our inner spirit.

Photographer and artist Brian Leighton doesn’t just photograph his subjects; he helps them convert their innermost confidence into outer beauty. As a nude portrait photographer, Leighton views the body as a landscape. The New York Times may have said it best dubbing his work “more evocative of Ansel Adams than Playboy.”

Leighton found his passion for photography as a painter. After picking up his uncle’s camera, he found that he could then paint from his own images rather than those from others. Before he knew it, clients were buying his photographs.

Leighton’s exposure to nude portraiture actually began during his childhood. His mother collected nude portraits as fine artwork, awkward for Leighton and a hoot among his friends. He understandably avoided his mother’s collection until he later grew to see the outstanding artistic value of nude photography.

“Well, I guess you’re over it,” Leighton’s mother said at his first show, where sensual nudes lined the gallery walls.

The photographer’s ability to portray the human body as a work of art went mainstream when his nude portraiture was featured in a 2002 Time Out New York piece on Valentine’s Day gifts to give to yourself. A reader took the idea to heart and booked a shoot with Leighton.

“This guy made me feel beautiful in my own skin,” the client told another woman after the shoot.

The woman whom she gave the rave review to was a writer for the New York Times, and shortly after, Leighton was on the cover of the Sunday Styles section.

TV news stations soon came calling, and in 2004, Leighton made New York Magazine’s “Best Of” list as “Best Nude Portrait Photographer.” His work has since been featured in countless magazines and galleries, and is even part of permanent collections at MoMA in New York City and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Baltimore. Fans of HBO’s “Sex and the City” have seen Leighton’s nudes throughout the popular series.

Undeniably, being the subject of a nude portrait is a position of extreme vulnerability. Leighton’s creative process is one of finding a deeper sense of comfort that yields not only meaningful imagery, but also a stronger, more profound sense of self-identity. During a shoot, Leighton says the body takes on its own form and the subject’s most beautiful features become clear. For many, the experience is life-changing.

“Half of it is seeing and the other half is connecting,” Leighton says. “I help them discover the best part of who they are and the beauty they may not have seen.”

A booking with Leighton starts with a consultation, along with some reassurance that “the first 10 seconds are going to feel odd.” But thanks to Leighton’s calming demeanor and expertise, “nobody is ever in a rush to leave when it’s over,” he says.

Duggal is proud of its long-running relationship with Brian Leighton. He has been printing with us for more than 15 years, working directly with several associates including fine art consultants Bob Kapoor and Ashma Bhulla, and photo production experts Ken Bledsoe and Linda Tutnauer.

“I love Duggal because everyone listens,” Leighton says. “If I’m ever considering a new direction, they’re right there offering solutions to execute and achieve my vision.”

Leighton is currently working on several fine art photography projects and continuing to expand into the realm of interior design. To see his body of work (no pun intended), visit and

Brian Leighton