What a brilliant experience!
Today was part 1 of the Spencer Tunick Scope Out event in Folkestone. Photo Shoot day! It was, thankfully a beautiful warm sunny day – the perfect day to get naked!
I’ve been a fan of Spencer’s work for quite some time and have always wanted to be in one of his pictures. He is more well known for his vast nudescapes like this one in Newcastle.
But due to various restraints this project featured individual portraits rather than a group shot which meant that it was less anonymous and a bit more scary! The outline of the project is here.
So I set off for Folkestone and after driving past the meeting point three time I finally worked out where I was meant to be. It was a good job I’d allowed an extra half hour! I parked the car up and walked round to check in. I signed the release form and sat myself down next to a bunch of people who were chatting away. It was most unlike me, normally I’d end up keeping myself to myself but I just felt like I wanted to join in the conversation.
We chatted about the project and how we felt about it – it transpired that I wasn’t alone in feeling more nervous about Saturday when we show our pictures to people than actually being photographed. One girl said she practised her pose in front of the mirror that morning and a guy replied “I’ve been doing that for 4 weeks!”. Another girl announced how she been out and bought a new pair of knickers the previous day! It turned out that we were the first group to be photographed and that Spencer Tunick had actually selected all the participants himself – that made me feel quite good. As we chatted I watched the people arriving and signing in trying to work out what sort of people had volunteered to do this. Sure there was a high proportion of “arty” types but there seemed to be a whole cross section of people including in our group a nurse and someone who had come along between meetings and had dragged all her stuff up the hill in a wheely bag!
Then one of the organisers came and asked the people in the first group to follow her and we started to walk down to the beach. A little way down the hill she stopped us and briefed us telling us that there were two gazebos where we could get undressed and that we should put our clothes in the bags provided. She pointed out that there was a TV crew down there but they wouldn’t be filming us! She joked that they’d had to do a risk assessment for the event but the one thing they hadn’t taken into account was the risk of sunburn! We then continued down a very steep hill which took us past a campsite and then through a gateway and onto the beach!
It was the most beautiful location with high chalk cliffs all around. There was an open stretch of concrete which had 2 bright orange gazebos set up on it. To the right was a beach and to the left the cliffs, in front of us was the sea. We came round to the front of the gazebos and on the edge of the concrete by the sea sat Spencer with a little table next to him. There were a group of people in the obligatory Hi-Viz jackets around him. We were pointed towards one of the gazebos and told to undress.
I’ve never seen so many people get naked in such a short space of time. One girl simply grabbed the hem of her dress and pulled it over her head revealing she was completely naked underneath. I ended up at the back of the queue due to the time it took me to get my boots off. I only saw one person hesitate and curiously she was one of the ones I’d noticed arrived and thought she looked quite confident in a tight dress! She did eventually get undressed but stood somewhat aloof from the rest of us. One lady had a small baby in a pushchair with her who must have wondered what the hell was going on!
One by one we were called forward and asked our names. We were then introduced to Spencer and directed to stand a few feet in front of him near the edge of the concrete facing him. he then took two pictures, one with each of the two cameras he had on the table and then it was the next persons turn. I stood in the line of naked people for quite a while before it was my turn but curiously it didn’t feel at all odd. It was also refreshing to see that the fact that we were now all naked didn’t stop the banter and conversation that had been going on at the top of the hill and on the way down. It’s not the first time I’ve been naked in a crowd of people like that and I was reminded how we are all the same and yet at the same time different!
When it was my turn I went and took up my position slipping slightly as I walked over the wet surface. He asked me to move slightly to my left and then took a picture of me looking out towards the sea. the second picture was taken with me looking towards him and that was it. I wandered back over to the gazebo as the next naked person took my place. I got dressed and walked back up the hill past the TV crew who were interviewing people as they came out – luckily they were already filming as I went past!
So that was it – really enjoyed the experience and fulfilled an ambition (well half fulfilled I’d still like to be in one of his big installations!) Would I do it again – at the drop of a…erm hat!
I was quite disappointed to see the following pictures on the local paper’s website. It was obvious that they’d sent along a photographer with a big lens to try and get some shots but instead of asking for permission they just sat up on the cliff and snapped away – the lens they had wasn’t quite good enough either! The information on the website was incorrect for most of the day so sloppy journalism was at play as well and it was late afternoon before a coherent and correct story actually appeared!
There were a lot of sad and predictable comments too from people who’ve probably never done anything out of the ordinary in their lives “It’s disgusting” or “I just don’t get art” they cry – no doubt as they sneak another look at page 3. There were also some rather rude comments about the way people looked – obviously from people who’ve never looked in a mirror themselves or maybe there are just a load of people with “perfect” bodies commenting on the website! Get a fucking life you morons!