The one thing that can be relied on as soon as the sun timidly emerges from behind the clouds is that the great British public will instantly strip off and head outside.
How fitting, then, that Spencer Tunick chooses Hull (Grimsby obviously too busy reeling from the Sacha Baron Cohen treatment) to shoot his next naked installation, where lucky volunteers can be herded around like cattle until a pose is met. Rather like those enormous rallies on football pitches where hundreds of figures have to stand in just the right place for a resulting image which is taken from so hugely far away that no one can make themselves out from all the other matchstick-sized nudies. Has anyone ever experienced the casting call for one of these? Everyone seems to be the same size and shape: perhaps in being all-inclusive the process is actually a hideously exclusive one, whittling out anyone too large or small. I’m afraid the best and most amusing time I’ve ever enjoyed mass nudity was when Charles Saatchi decided to open his County Hall gallery by inviting several guests to mingle completely starkers. Probably the best thing he ever did, really.
Obviously, I’m speaking as someone who doesn’t understand this medium – i.e. mass bodies – as anything more than a gimmicky one. Sometimes, the compositions placing gradually differing skin tones remind me of the sculpture Andy Goldsworthy does, in arranging differing coloured leaves in natural settings to achieve a pleasing image. But mostly I’m at a loss to grasp what bigger notions this choice of medium explores. For it is a medium; the bodies are treated as interventions within the surface plane amongst the spatial settings, rather than subjects in themselves. If he wants to express “a sea of humanity flooding the urban landscape” how is this achieved through the USP of exposed skin? Certainly, we are posited as vulnerable and a bit silly looking against the magnitude of nature/buildings but you only need one image to say that. His CV reads off all the cities he’s done this in, and I say, well so what? It’s like the photobomber in all your tourist snaps happening to be naked and serious looking.
I’m clearly shitting on an entire photographer’s career here. Which I tend to regularly do when I meet photographers at parties (oops). But I have yet to be profoundly moved by the excessive presence of wibbly bits amongst the nice landscape photography.
Image: Courtesy copyright Spencer Tunick/Naked Pavement Inc.