Hundreds strip to expose naked truth on global warming
By Heather Lima Aug 18, 2007, 13:42 GMT
Hundreds of naked people pose in front of the Aletsch glacier during a massive naked photo session with U.S. photographer Spencer Tunick, near Bettmeralp, Switzerland, Saturday, August 18, 2007. The environmental group Greenpeace commissioned Tunick to take pictures of nude volunteers on a Swiss glacier to call attention to the issue of global warming and its impact on glaciers. EPA/LAURENT GILLIERON
Brig, Switzerland - 'Whatever you do, do not smile for the camera,' photographer Spencer Tunick shouted strict instructions through his megaphone, as around 300 people strained their ears, poised to bare all on a Swiss glacier Saturday.
It may have been in a good cause, but no one wanted it to take longer than necessary as, at somewhere between 1,800 and 2,000 metres altitude, even at midday, the temperature, particularly when naked, was on the chilly side.
Greenpeace had organized the naked stunt with Tunick, the celebrated US photographer, who has been called 'the flesh architect' for his spectacular installations in which he persuades ordinary people to strip off and have their picture taken with hundreds of others.
The latest work unveiled on the Aletsch Glacier near Brig in the south of Switzerland, was to draw attention to climate change. Where better than to illustrate the problems of greenhouse gas and global warming than on one of the Alpine features set to melt away in less than 70 years.
'It shows how vulnerable people are and how vulnerable the environment is,' teacher Philip Reynolds, a Briton living near Lucern, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
He was one of the 300 chosen for the first photograph on the side of the glacier. Describing himself as an environmentalist, he told dpa he had no problem taking his clothesoff.
'I wasn't embarrassed. Everyone else was taking their kit off but the rocks were a bit spiky,' he added.
More than 1,500 people had responded to an appeal on the internet asking for volunteers to reveal 'the naked truth.' 'Expose yourself to the glacier without protection. Get undressed for urgently needed climate protection,' the appeal urged.
Organizers did not expect all of them to turn up but hundreds did. They had come from all over Switzerland. One couple had hitch-hiked from Poland. All had got up extremely early to cross the country and trek up the side of a mountain choosing public transport over private as recommended by Greenpeace organizers.
Most were driven by an environmental zeal combined with the cultural excitement of being the subject of an artwork
For the second photograph, on the glacier itself, 600 people took part. Cotton slippers were provided to guard against the hazards of potential frostbite. Anyone with bikini or suntan marks was ordered to stand at the back.
Markus Alleman, campaign director at Greenpeace, Switzerland said the last report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, had warned governments they had just eight years to bring in effective measures to counter global warming. 'The facts, though indisputable, obviously haven't been enough to persuade politicians to act. It is time to get an emotional reaction.'
Tunick himself refers to his works as 'living sculptures' or 'body landscapes.' He has worked in Britain, Spain and France as well as the US. In May, he photographed his biggest group so far, 18,000 people in the centre of Mexico City.
For the volunteers who had been warned of the physical rigours of taking part in a four-hour trek at altitude, and dutifully heeded the orders barked out by Tunick, the reward was to have taken part in something they hoped would make a difference. More concretely they would get a souvenir photograph of the installation by the artist himself.
'Yes, I would absolutely put it (the photograph) on the wall,' said volunteer Philip Reynolds. 'But maybe not in the office.'© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur