“Models” dare to bare all for art: nude photo shoot makes history
CLEVELAND — Putting aside their inhibitions, and their clothes, 2,754 amateur “art models” recently gathered here to create art while breaking the North American record (previously set in Montreal with 2,500 people) for the most nudes in a single photograph. The record-holder, Spencer Tunick, a New York photographer with 65 nude photo shoots to his credit, conducted the project. He instructed the participants to appear at a location near downtown Cleveland at 4 a.m. on an unseasonably cool summer morning, which never saw temperatures reach 60 degrees. Men and women of all shapes, sizes, races and ages willingly stripped, subjecting themselves to various poses and laying awkwardly close to one another on the ice-cold bricks at Voinovich Bicentennial Park behind the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
Three separate shots were taken. First, the women stripped, removing all clothing, jewelry and glasses; they were photographed while the men stayed clothed. Then the men undressed to pose while the women huddled and waited, freezing in the cool, morning air. Lastly, the group picture was taken, displaying a sea of bodies stretching down the “gray brick road.”
“The hardest part for me was placing my head on another naked man’s leg while some other guy’s head was resting on me,” says Dave Gentilcore, captain for a commercial airline. “It was too uncomfortable to concentrate.” In fact, an anonymous man got up and walked off the shoot after he was told to lay close to the other men; it was too much to ask of him.
Most refused to comment, but those who did had differing opinions and stories of why they were taking part in the event.
“It was a personal thing,” says Heather O’Brian, a traffic director at WMVX, a Cleveland radio station. “I had a huge fear of being exposed because of my poor body image, and this was the one chance I had to overcome my insecurities and become accepted, just the way I am.” O’Brian felt she gained many personal insights from the experience, realizing most people are not slender, beautiful supermodels but are, instead, average human beings with imperfect bodies.
But for some, it was a means to make history; a way to have their picture hanging in a museum. Gentilcore adds, “I had to be a part of the photograph, just to say I’ve done it. It was neat to be involved in an event that few people are willing to take part in.”
Men and women of all backgrounds, dared to take their clothes off in front of not only strangers, but friends and co-workers alike who chose to participate. One woman, s quoted by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, exclaimed upon seeing a colleague, “I knew I’d see someone from work. Why did it have to be you?”
Tunick has directed photo shoots around the world in more than 20 countries, and recently set a world record in Barcelona, Spain, with 7,000 nudes in one photograph. Throughout his career, Tunick has faced several obstacles, including many arrests while working in New York. After being arrested five times, he filed a civil-rights lawsuit against the city and following many appeals, won a favorable ruling.
The Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) sponsored the art project and exhibited the photo in August. Accompanying the image was an exclusive video containing footage of the event. Every person photographed received an image of Tunick’s choice as a token of his appreciation.
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