Color photographs by Melody Lucero
Black-and-white photographs by Spencer Tunick
t 5:30 on a foggy Tuesday morning in San Francisco, a small group of hipsters stands on a corner in the city's ritzy Nob Hill neighborhood, looking out of place and tired.
"Are you the other nudists?" asks a young woman walking toward them.
This mixed crew dragged themselves out of bed at dawn on a Tuesday to be part of Naked Pavement, a series of surreal photographs by 28-year-old New York photographer Spencer Tunick. Since 1992, Tunick has asked friends, fans, and freaks to strip and pose for more than 150 shoots on city streets from New York to London to Jerusalem. Outside the United Nations, for example, Tunick wrapped 25 nudes in a plastic sheet for his own "General Assembly." The models' pay is always the same - a signed print and a good story to tell.
"At the beginning, I think my photos were more dreamy and whimsical," Tunick says, several hours after the San Francisco shoot. "Then they became more socially conscious. In my latest pictures, I've tried to juxtapose the human condition against the metal cars and the pavement, the softness of the human body against the hardness of the streets."
Visiting the Bay Area for an opening at a local gallery featuring another body of his work, Tunick passed out a few handwritten fliers announcing today's Naked Pavement shoot. A dozen brave souls turned up this morning to grin and bare it.
"Thanks for coming," Tunick says excitedly as he approaches his models, breaking their sleepy silence with a smile. "OK. We should be quick. What I want everyone to do is lie end to end on the double yellow line of this hill with your eyes open and your hands and feet at your sides. Like this."
As Tunick drops to the ground to demonstrate, the nervously fidgeting group pays close attention. Once the artist is certain his vision is understood, he darts into the intersection to take light readings.
"If you're not posing, can you please stand in the street and block traffic?" he politely asks one of the more modest visitors standing on the sidelines. "If anyone has boots on, they should take them off now. After this next wave of traffic, we'll do it."
While Tunick has orchestrated shoots with more than 100 people nude on the street, he has only been arrested once. Last December, he and a male model were charged with public lewdness, disorderly conduct, and trespassing after Tunick photographed the man naked and draped on a giant Christmas tree ornament outside of Rockefeller Center.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm in a videogame, where I'm a blip on the screen and I have to stay away from the police, homeless people, and cabs while I run around the city shooting nudes," Tunick explains later. "If I get the shoot done, I win."
Quickly glancing up and down the road, Tunick gives the word and his models don't hesitate to drop their drawers. In a blur of flesh, they race into the street and align themselves on the cold asphalt.
"Arms together! Arms together! Take off your glasses! Eyes open!" Tunick shouts above blaring car horns.
As Tunick snaps through his roll of film, taxi drivers peer out of their windows, unimpressed. This is San Francisco, shrugs one cabby. A bellman from a nearby hotel casually asks if the shoot is for a postcard while a jogger does a triple-take without breaking her stride.
Two minutes later, Tunick yells that he's finished and the grinning group makes a mad dash to the pile of clothes on the sidewalk. No arrests. No injuries. Only a few halfhearted wolf-whistles from a trio of confused construction workers who missed most of the action.
Spencer Tunick's next Naked Pavement photo shoot will take place 1 October at 6:45 a.m. in New York on 13th Street between Washington Street and the West Side Highway. All are welcome to pose. The shoot is part of Extremely Refrigerated, a two-week art and performance installation taking place in New York's meat-market district and on the Internet. It's being produced by the Floating Point Unit transmedia art collective.
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