Shoreditch
October 15 and 20, 2004

Two Early Mornings in Shoreditch - by Diane and Craig

October 15 - Craig Mason:


 
Spencer Tunick did a small by-invitation-only installation in Shoreditch, east London on 15 October. This was the first time he'd been in the UK since the large event in Selfridges in early in 2003.

The models were told to assemble in the foyer (or 'lobby' as Tunick's email said) at 6 am sharp. The first thing we discovered was that this was a women-only installation. I was a little disappointed, of course, but I thought I'd hang around anyway to see my partner pose (good job Diane is a woman).

The set up was this: there were 10 women in all. They were to be split into two groups of four, the other two being invited to a solo shoot later in the day. Diane was in group 2. He gave his usual pep talk about not being nervous, not smiling, and not worrying about the traffic.

Just after sunrise, we set off as the streets were beginning to come to life - people walking along the pavements, cars and buses on the road. Tunick was a lot more relaxed in this small group than he was on the previous times we'd met him. He was also - and this surprised me - all on his own: just him, his camera and his fold away tripod. (Although his project director was in his hotel room fast asleep.)

He still hadn't revealed where the installation itself would take place. We had guessed some sort of side road or in the shelter of a building. It was only when we stopped we realised where the models would be standing - in the middle of the road, their backs to the morning traffic, under a railway bridge.

Although not needed for the shoot itself, I made myself useful - I stood in for a dummy run to let ST test his light and composition. He also needed to time his shot with the lights to make sure he wasn't actually stopping any traffic. Once he was happy, group one took their positions. He'd chosen four women with quite distinct body sizes and shapes - including a friend of ours in here early sixties and a young black woman, 8 months pregnant - and, from where I was standing, the pose looked brilliant and the light was perfect.

We were attracting some attention the cars on the opposite side of the road, but no body seemed to mind. At once point, a number 35 bus pulled up immediately behind the models, stopped and waited till the shot was over. As it pulled out, we all got a slightly bemused wave from all the passengers. I suppose 4 naked women in the middle of the street is not something you see every day.

And then, disaster struck. I was standing immediately behind Tunick in the road and became aware that a police car had stopped on my left had side. The window wound down, the PC asked me who was 'in charge'. It was clear the police were very unhappy what was going on: they drove the car slowly towards the models, effectively forcing them off the road. Immediately, Tunick asked us to grab the camera off him and remove the film. I took it and passed it to a woman who stuck it into her enormous bag.

By this time, the two policemen had got out of their car and were questioning Tunick. Did he have a licence? they asked, A licence for what? Tunick asked back. A licence to take photographs in public, the said. (As if such a thing exists.) The police's attitude was ridiculously aggressive and they were obviously not going to let us continue. ST had clearly been here before - he remained perfectly calm and polite throughout and agreed to end the installation there and then.

Spencer with camera in Shoreditch
© Craig Mason
As we all walked back to the hotel, he said that he wouldn't risk continuing the shoot since the police would be sure to come back - and he didn't want to be in a police cell and miss his opening at the Hales Gallery. Nevertheless, he asked the four women in the second group to come back again another day.

An exciting if ultimately rather frustrating morning. But I must be one of the few people photographed by Spencer Tunick fully dressed. Hope he sends me a print: it'll be worth a fortune on eBay.

October 20 - Diane Wailes:


 

Four models and a Mini
© Craig Mason

It started with a 5.30am start for a 7.00am rendezvous with Spencer at a hotel in Shoreditch. As we left the house, it was pitch black, cold and raining. I had slight forebodings, after Friday’s drama, whether this go ahead at all. Would anyone else turn up? Had Spencer changed his mind after a late night at the Hales Gallery the night before? Luckily he hadn’t and he was waiting as we arrived in the hotel foyer, looking rather tired and – worryingly – also a little concerned that some of his four models might be put off by the rain.
I took my chance to ask if he would sign our copy of ‘Nude Adrift’, which he very kindly did. We had been concerned in advance how might take Emily’s presence. Just how child-friendly is Spencer and how would he feel about being accompanied on his shoot by an inquisitive 7-year old? Luckily he didn’t seem to mind as Emily explored the modernist furniture of the hotel.

Luckily, if a little later than expected, the last of the models appeared, apologising for being delayed. When Spencer was happy with the light, we left the hotel and headed to a side street that he’d located earlier. The houses were old four-storey East London terraces, and parked half way down the street was a red mini. Spencer said that he’d thought the contrast between the brickwork and the red car would give our bodies a warm look. I (silently) replied that he was bonkers - nothing was going to make me feel warm in a chilly London street in October.

 
A quick practice and when he was happy with the composition, off came the clothes and we took up our positions, leaning on the car and on each other. I must admit to doing a slight double take at this point when one of the women revealed herself to be a pre-operative transsexual. I was also secretly pleased as I figured that this would add some extra interest to our photos.
I think that Spencer’s original intention was just to take a few shots in the alley. But he was clearly very pleased with the result and asked if we would be willing to go on a hunt for some more locations. Well what could we say…..
So off we set into the streets of Shoreditch. We passed a tattoo parlour with a neon sign in the window which said ‘Prick Tattoos’ – would he pose us there? Luckily not! Then on past an old Police Station. Spencer hesitated and read the word ‘police’ above the door. Maybe thinking back to Friday this seemed to be a possibility but he changed his mind.
Finally, we found a place which interested him - an old mural on the wall of a boxer in silhouette, standing over his felled opponent. Spencer asked one of the women to lie next to this in the same prone pose. The rest of us stood behind her, holding onto an old rusty metal gate. This felt like a really good pose – we were all very relaxed and having a great time.
At this point we were immediately next to a parked bus whose driver was having a break before his morning shift. Out of the blue, Spencer asked us to lean against the front of the bus, in the same pose as we had with the car in the alley. A couple of us commented that it was a shame it wasn’t a Route Master as the pictures could be useful for the ‘save the Route Master’ campaign! I was on the left of the group, standing in full view of the traffic behind me. A few cars and vans were starting to appear but by this stage we were oblivious to the stares of passers-by.
And that was it. Off for a desperately needed cup of hot tea and a cooked breakfast.
Spencer is heading off to Santiago, Chile this evening. Interestingly, he told us that he tries to limit his travelling to around 4 big trips a year. In an average year he’ll do about 8 shoots. Not as many as I’d imagined. He didn’t drop any hints about when he’ll be returning to the UK but he did say that he would like to have an exhibition of his English photos at some stage.


Email your stories, pictures and comments to The Spencer Tunick Experience here.

Back

The Spencer Tunick Experience is managed by the admin team of The Spencer Tunick Forum.
Both sites are run voluntarily and do not profit in any way.
The Spencer Tunick Experience provides external links as a service only, and can not be held responsible for their content.
All contributions from individuals to this site hold the views and opinions of their authors, they do not reflect the views and opinions of this site or its administrators.
All material on this website is copyright and owned by the respective authors and photographers.