About 1,000 Israeli volunteers bared it all in a mass nude photo shoot at the Dead Sea, stripping naked on September 17 for US art photographer Spencer Tunick’s first middle-east mass shoot titled “Naked Sea.”
Spencer Tunick's nude photo shoot at the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea was chosen by Tunick for his latest project so as to deliver an environmental message highlighting the plight of the world’s lowest and saltiest body of water and to boost Israel’s campaign to have the salt-saturated feature recognised as one of the world’s seven natural wonders in a global online vote in November.
The fabled salty lake is dropping by about a metre (39 inches) each year, and the shoreline has receded by more than a kilometre (0.6 mile) in places, according to some estimates. Experts have warned that the lake may dry out by 2050 unless urgent steps are taken to halt its demise.
Dead Sea nude photo shoot
Both Israel and Jordan are exploiting the Dead Sea tourist trade, with luxury hotels on either shore.
Both have also set up massive evaporation pools that harvest Dead Sea minerals like potash, or potassium carbonate, used to produce soap, glass, baking soda and fertilisers.
For centuries, the sea’s delicate balance was maintained by the Jordan river, its only year-round water source. But in recent decades Israel and Jordan have been diverting its waters into large irrigation projects.
Tunick is a Jewish American who has gained fame for his trademark group photo shoot of naked human bodies over prominent landscapes and landmarks ranging from a Swiss glacier, Mexico City’s Zocalo to the Sydney Opera House.
Switzerland Aletsch glacier (Photo Credit :AP Laurent Gillieron)
Mexico City's Zocalo Square (Photo Credit :Reuters)
Sydney Opera House
Another Tucnik's mass nude photo shoot
“In some places the work is a little bit more controversial, and then in other places the works are accepted as a litmus test for how free a country is, or how open a country is, and how full of rights a country is,” he told a pre-shoot press briefing.
“For me, a country that allows the nude in art, in public space is some place that’s very progressive, very open, and very caring, and very dignified.”
The photo shoot sparked both excitement and harsh objection in the Jewish state. Despite heated protests by Orthodox Jewish politicians and rabbis over what they termed the “Sodom and Gomorrah” nature of Tunick’s work in reference to that ancient biblical debauchery, the photo shoot went ahead smoothly without any untoward incidents.
Dead Sea mass nude photo shoot
The head of the local council in whose area the early-morning photo session took place had threatened to call police to disperse the shoot, which he said was offensive to local residents.
Organisers kept the location secret until the last moment to secure it, and there were no hitches to the two-hour session at the Mineral Beach complex, not far from where tradition says the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, irreparably overrun by sin, were destroyed by God along with their inhabitants. Tunick, who grew up in the largely Hassidic community of South Fallsburg, NY, said in the briefing that he could understand how religious people could find his work offensive.
“That’s why I’ve decided to do the work on Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath), so no-one would be walking by and see a naked person half a mile away and be offended,” he said.
For Ari Frucht, who initiated the project and toiled over its preparations for the past four years, a work by Spencer Tunick would not only help raise awareness of the sea’s condition and galvanise Israel’s government into action. It would also send a message to the world that Israelis are not religious extremists.
A jubilant Tunick praised the “brave” participants of his installation, some of whom flew to Israel especially for it.
“This could happen nowhere else in the Middle East,” he said as the event wound down, and the men and women headed to the showers and buses.
“If you love freedom in New York, freedom in London, freedom in Italy… there’s freedom in Israel, and I think this is very important for people to understand.”
Naked Sea nude photo shoot