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Weekend: STARTERS: Big picture Desert Spirits, 2013, by Spencer Tunick

May 3, 2014

"It's a lot of work getting people naked, especially in England," explains Spencer Tunick, the American photographer famous for his nude installation projects around the world. Discussing his 2005 project in Newcastle and Gateshead, Tunick says, "Despite the fact that we got a lot of people there, it was hard to convince people to take a leap of faith because the body is so sexualised there."

Tunick has not been put off by British reserve, however, and is coming to Folkestone this month as part of the Museums at Night festival, where he plans to line up 125 individuals and spend about two minutes on a nude portrait of each.

These days, Tunick's partnerships with international museums and galleries ensure he has volunteers ready and waiting. Working with the Burning Man festival in 2013, for example, meant he had "a city of willing people" to create Desert Spirits in Nevada, shooting from before sunrise "up until the rays shone through the diaphanous fabric". When he started out in the early 90s, before the reach of the internet, Tunick headed to the streets of the Lower East Side in Manhattan to hand out more than 1,000 flyers to passersby. "About 10% to 15% of them turned up. That was enough at the time."

Since then, the numbers have increased. "It is alarming to see 1,000 people naked, and many would think it's very chaotic, but these people are coming to participate and make art. It can be a very spiritual experience for them."

Tunick can tap into the emotion of his installation only once it is over and his models share their experience with him: "I am more of a catalyst. At the time I am too busy working hard to please them and myself." There have been times when his volunteers have enjoyed themselves so much that they cheered. "I wish they were quieter," Tunick says. "I would rather them concentrate on me one on one, even if it is one to 1,000."

Abigail Radnor

Spencer Tunick's new book, European Installations, is available from Museums at Night takes place from 15-17 May; see

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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