REVIEWS FROM THE REV: “Naked States” t.n.s.r. bob

This 2000 documentary follows a New York photographer (Spencer Tunick) as he sets off (with his girlfriend and a camera crew) across America to photograph his signature nudes-in-public-places in each of the 48 contiguous states.  From Chicago to Fargo, the Sturgis motorcycle rally to Burning Man, he finds models in singles and in pairs, ending at a Pfisch concert where he gathers 1,000 naked people and photographs them on an old military runway.

My bias as an artist who has a lot of experience asking strangers to model for him notwithstanding, this is a remarkable film.  For one, the photographs that he takes are great.  But the other great part of the film is the handful of interviews with the models, each revealing the reasons for their decision to take their clothes off for a stranger (for a promised print of the photograph).  Some of these stories are deeply touching, and in some cases deeply transformative of the model him or herself.

Tossed in are some bits with Spencer’s attorney as he wages battle against the occasional public nuisance charges slapped on his client, and the dynamic between “fearless” Spencer and his (generally) supportive girlfriend.

To me the most powerful aspect of this film is the revelation of a kind of simple humanity, both in the visual power of that many people of all shapes and sizes naked in public and in the reservoir of willingness in so many of us to dare, to express, to be and to be a part of something greater than ourselves, even if it’s just for a moment.  Even if it’s just for a single photograph of our naked selves standing in the center of a city street.

t.n.s.r. bob

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