Hamam’s new issue is all about getting naked

by Kitty Drake in July 2021
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Art & design

A magazine about the art and culture of bathing, Hamam’s glistening, flesh-coloured cover sets the tone for issue four’s theme: ‘Naked’. As editor and co-founder Ekin Balcıoğlu explains in her opening letter, Hamam isn’t so interested in nakedness in the physical sense: “Being naked isn’t necessarily about exposing your body. It’s about being visible, vulnerable, and ready to let go.”

Balcıoğlu shares a story about working in a Russian banya in San Francisco, and how she was struck not so much by the fact that she saw her co-workers physically naked, but by the emotional closeness this nakedness fostered. 

The best pieces in the issue explore the unexpected things you can learn about another person when you both take your clothes off. One very exposing bathhouse moment is recounted by the artist César Debargue, who remembers a run-in with a Japanese yakuza at the bathhouse:

“I was having a good time at Goko-yu Sento, and I noticed an intimidating fellow, with bad manners, making noise and throwing water everywhere. His body was tattooed from foot to neck… it was an actual yakuza. At the end of the bath, I was with him in the changing room. He started to put his clothes on, and to my surprise he was wearing very cute, yellow and red Mickey Mouse underwear.”

In the issue’s stand-out feature, the photographer Laura Pannack captures young British naturists, aged 17-30. In order to create a feeling of mutual understanding, Pannack explains in the accompanying text, she was naked herself while she took the photographs. Looking at these images is absorbing and, in a curious way, awkward. We see naked people reading, and playing table football. Knowing the photographer, too, was naked, makes it feel rather odd to be reading the magazine clothed.


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