On a freezing cold July morning, 350 people stripped naked on the roof of Prahran Woolworths and posed for American photographer Spencer Tunick. Five months later, Tunick has released the striking final image along with three others in his latest Melbourne series.
That’s me, somewhere up the back and to the right.
Behind the scenes images from the shoot have already done the rounds. Organisers estimate 45 million people around the world saw us on websites including CNN, the Guardian and, of course, Broadsheet.
But the images released today are the ones the artist intended, and the ones that will last. Strip away the chaos and adrenaline of the morning of the shoot – and the ensuing media circus – and the final works stand with calm dignity. Tunick treats his subjects as equals without stripping them of their uniqueness. Even under red or pink veils, or behind primary-colour body paint, these pictures see the naked human body as a sculptural form.
Tunick has been photographing naked people en masse for nearly three decades. Beginning in New York City, he now travels the world, engineering vast public shoots – and becoming a connoisseur of different cities’ public indecency laws in the process. Even in a liberal city like Melbourne, Tunick met opposition. Woolworths initially denied his request, then caved due to public pressure.
This shoot was part of Chapel Street’s Provocaré Festival of the Arts. In addition to the images, which are being distributed to the participants today, organisers have announced a virtual-reality app that puts users right in the middle of a Tunick piece.
“If you’ve ever wondered what it would feel like to be surrounded by 550 nude people covered in paint, this is your chance,” Chapel Street Precinct Association general manager Chrissie Maus tells Broadsheet. “And you don’t even have to take your clothes off.”
Works by Spencer Tunick are available to purchase here.