Everyone Strips

Below is an entry from the Naked States Tour Journal by artist Spencer Tunick and his partner Kristin Bowler. The journal documents Tunick's five-month, cross-country tour, in which he convinced thousands of Americans of every race, shape, and body size to pose nude in public. This entry was written about the photo shoot at jam band Phish’s Great Went event in August 1997 at the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, Maine.

The Phish Experience—huge.        

There are so many people here. Hippies galore! Long hair, hair kerchiefs, granny dresses, halter tops straight across the front open in the back. Big pants dragging on the ground, dread locks, braids, friendly people. Everyone is selling stuff. Hemp chokers, beads, indian print dresses, t-shirts, beers, sodas, grilled cheeses, pipes, pizza. Anything you may need to make a complete transformation from straight real world type to free flowing, dancing, smiling, Phish fan. Complete cultural immersion. What brings 60,000 people from all over the country to this remote town in Maine to come and create a small, no—a HUGE culture?

As Phish performs, everyone is dancing and it seems like the music goes inside and flows through the mass of fans. While the fans are pushing their enormous amount of adoring energy towards the band onstage, we are up on a platform above everyone. What an amazing way to experience this whole event. Hope the weather holds out.

The next day was all rain and cold. I am so happy to get out of here. Flooded tents, wet clothes, shoes, soggy dreads. The mood changes and I am not enough a part of this to submerge into the hard, uncomfortable aspect of camping to experience the positive. Thank god for VIP tags.

We have no idea how many will show up to pose. This is definitely the most appropriate place for this project as so many people are open to the idea and are happy to get naked! After the show, they put up a message on the giant screens about where and when to pose. How many will come?

Spencer has picked the ideal place to shoot. At last, no police will bother us. In fact, there are 10 mounted police ready to help us out, a crew of other security, various other crews running around organizing and moving equipment. Spencer and I are in a cherry picker and Spencer is shouting to Jonathan P. The people start coming over to pose and there are A LOT of them.

I can tell Spencer is a little nervous. The energy and excitement is high, everyone is high on what is about to happen, and everyone strips. The models are laughing, yelling, smiling, walking and jumping. It feels good to be outside and the sun is shining.

It takes a little longer to get everyone to fill the frame, but the models love it. They are doing the wave and celebrating their nakedness. Finally—thanks to Jon P., who helped us organize and promote the tour and who is now naked as well—everyone is lying down and amazingly quiet for just a moment. Spencer shoots them lying down, an incredible moment. Afterwards, no one is in a hurry to get dressed. Everyone is thanking Spencer.

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Copyright© 2003 by Tina O'Brien.

Photos: Spencer Tunick.

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