This documentary about photographer Spencer Tunick, who photographs groups of naked people in public places, first aired on Cinemax. In 1999, the then-unknown Tunick came up with one of those great ideas on which careers are made: He would criss-cross the US photographing nudes, individually, in pairs, in large and small groups, until he had an image for every one of the 48 contiguous states in the union. "Naked States," it would be called. So Tunick piled into a van with his girlfriend Krissy, his partner, his cameras and Arlene Donnelly's film crew, who documented what became a five-month odyssey through American attitudes towards public nudity. The filmmakers got some very funny footage along Tunick's long, strange road to a triumphant show at New York City's I-20 gallery: Tunick recruits models at a biker rally in Sturgis, SD, and the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert, at a diner in Fargo, ND, and on the streets of Boston. He shoots everywhere, from outside the main gate of The Citadel in South Carolina, under an antler archway in Wyoming and in front of LA's Griffith Observatory. Fair warning: There's a whole lot of naked flesh in Donnelly's documentary 1,123 barenaked Phish fans alone, recruited at a concert in Presque Isle, ME. But as in Tunick's photographs, the nudity isn't pornographic, salacious, exploitative (he isn't the Ugly George of today) or even erotic: One bare backside many be sexy, but hundreds look like a field of mushrooms. Tunick's small-scale photo conceits are often trite: A fat black woman and a scrawny white woman, both nude, striking poses on an American flag. A pensive man sitting near the railing of the Golden Gate bridge, near a sign that reads "Emergency Phone and Crisis Counseling." A naked, lushly pregnant, middle-class woman and a scruffy, fully-clothed street person standing at opposite ends of a shopping cart filled with redeemable cans. And his aesthetic formulations aren't entirely convincing: Tunick is much more convincing on the politics and economics of art-world celebrity than arguing his group shots are "a reaction to war, terrorism and killing." But those large-scale images are riveting funny, bizarre and oddly pretty at the same time. Donnelly's interviews with Tunick's subjects who are often surprisingly perceptive about their photos on an aesthetic level are genuinely fascinating. Their reasons for posing range from the woman who felt it would help her reclaim her sense of personal integrity after a sexual assault to the middle-aged man confronting fears about his aging body, to a woman whose summer resolution was to "be more adventurous." But the capper is Tunick photographing a group of professional naturists. Yes, he has to strip to get the shot, and no, he doesn't like it. "Not enough pockets!" he complains, juggling film containers. Yeah, sure.
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 2000
- Rating: NR
- Review: This documentary about photographer Spencer Tunick, who photographs groups of naked people in public places, first aired on Cinemax. In 1999, the then-unknown Tunick came up with one of those great ideas on which careers are made: He would criss-cross the… (more)