(directed by Arlene Donnelly, 2000)
(***+ out of 5)
> Wannabe sensation Spencer Tunick takes pictures. He longs to have his work noticed and acknowledged on the pages of prestigious art journals. Spencer found his milieu: posed human nudes. Now all he needs is an angle: and idea to hang his hat on- something to grab the public imagination…
. Bingo! Spencer will take his camera and travel across America and shoot nudes in all 50 states. Hence: “Naked States”.
. Spencer seems such an everyday schlub, kind of goofy and socially awkward, it took me a while to sense that he is in fact, a real photographer. This HBO documentary follows him on his quest, from big cities to small towns, from blue states to red, approaching strangers and asking them to pose nude for him at dawn the following morning. It is somewhat of a miracle that only one redneck threatens to bust Spencer’s jaw for suggesting such a thing to his woman. Along the trail, his exasperated girlfriend gives up on him and returns home. While we are not privy to all that lies behind this decision, we can hardly blame her. This guy is obsessed.
. Spencer never knows if he will get 2 people or 200, (some of the shoots become massive scale enterprises featuring hundreds of models), but gamely makes it work no matter what, even stripping down to his birthday shoot when his subjects are part of a nudist community. In state after state, Spencer’s artistic obsession pays off. He is able, by sheer force of personality, to find models in Bible Belt communities and inner city slums, in warm and frigid weather, from Maine to Hawaii, most of whom had never dreamt of posing in the nude! The people who agree to pose, and their individual stories, are the real meat of this story, and it seems to have been a good experience for all of them.
. We see a robust man is in his late sixties pose for the first time in his life, an obese woman who struggles with major body issues, a woman who has always wanted to appear topless in biker magazines, but had grown too old for it- it’s a diverse crew and all have backstories that are more revealing than the nudity. (One man quotes thoughtfully: “You think you’re revealing something by taking your clothes off, when in reality, you’re revealing more every time you put clothes on.”) This tour of our NAKED STARES is quite a wonder to behold actually, and by the end, the body of work speaks for itself.
. Spencer is a success! A major gallery wants to show his work! His face appears on the front of “Art Beat”. A simple photographer becomes an artist. Cool beans.
* * *
© Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.