I don’t really have a problem getting naked in front of people, at least when everyone else is getting naked too, so the whole public nudity thing wasn’t an issue for me. I was concerned about the cold and I was kind of hoping to be somewhere in the middle of the pack (I didn’t want my sandy tits front and center, but it would be cool to be able to pick myself out of the great texture of human skin), but other than that, I was more excited than anything else. I always wanted to be in a Spencer Tunick photo. Friends of mine did the shoot in Grand Central Station and it seemed like a hoot and one of those things that one should just do at some point in their life if given the opportunity.
So, after a 3 hour trip on the Long Island Rail Road (arriving at midnight), a desperate attempt to grab a couple of hours of sleep (unsuccessfully), and a 30 minute cab ride from Amaganset, Lynsey and I and 298 other people gathered in the pre-dawn darkness, next to the Montauk Point Lighthouse getting ready to get naked for art.
People were wandering around or sitting in their cars waiting for instructions when finally we heard a voice from a bullhorn. A small cheer rose up from the crowd and we gathered closer, ready to do pretty much whatever this guy wanted us to do. We would have about an hour to wait until 5:15 when the sun came up and while we waited in line to get release forms, I turned to Lynsey and said, “It’s getting chilly isn’t it?” When we first got there, the temperature was surprisingly mild and thankfully it was not raining. But as the sun was coming up, the temperature seemed to be dropping and the wind was picking up. I pulled the hoodie over my head and wished for gloves. This might kind of suck, I thought.
Finally as the light crept up, Spencer climbed a ladder and bullhorn in hand, thanked us all for doing this, thanked his team and led us down to the beach. He warned that if he yells at us, it’s not because he’s mad, he’s just trying to get as much done in the least amount of time. He ran through the poses he wanted to do: standing looking at the ocean, standing looking at the lighthouse, curled up in a ball… the “crab walk.”
He walked off into the distance to set up and when he gave the signal, suddenly the big crowd of just people transformed into a big crowd of naked people.
My first thought was that the temperature was quite comfortable. It wasn’t as windy as it was on the hill. I didn’t even have goose bumps. The second thought was, holy god this is a very rocky beach. Oh yeah, this is Montauk. Tentatively, I maneuvered my way around the rocks and shards and twigs and landed on a relatively clear sandy bit.
Pose 1: stare into the ocean. It was really quite lovely. The cool air on my skin, the only sound was the roar of the waves and the occasional screams from those folks brave enough to actually get in or near the water. The guy in front of me was shivering. We were then told to lie down facing up. Then we curled up like ball, our faces to the sand. Every once in a while he would shout for somone to get down or to stop looking into the camera.
When the signal was given to stand, a cheer rang out. We’d done it! We’re awesome! We’re naked and we’re awesome!
We’re not done?
He wanted some shots further down among the rocks. The rocks, those horrible, horrible rocks. I inched along, each step a little more painful than the next. Then we sat facing the water on the rocks, then we laid on our backs (on the rocks) and arched ourselves up into the crab pose and the distant groans of muscle strain matched the squeals from the folks down by the water. Then we laid down on our backs, then on our sides with our arms draped over the person to our left. I carefully rested my arm on the sandy buttock of the woman next to me and closed my eyes while rocks jabbed into my side. Then face down and I closed my eyes to the scurrying bugs just underneath my face and thought about my friends who only had to contend with the clean, cool flat marble surface of the floor of Grand Central Station.
It is amazing the amount of power someone with a megaphone and a camera can yield.
When we were indeed done, I sighed with relief and cursed my soft, modern feet as we made our way past the two confused (and I hoped pleased) looking fishermen back to where we dropped our clothes. I have never been so grateful to put on shoes in my entire life.
I’d do it again in a heartbeat.