For the May chapter of 2015: PROJECT NAKED, it was time to attempt a photoshoot in the very environment I'd been careful to avoid up till this point. I would try to place a nude body amid swarms of people without drawing attention to the fact.
Nowhere gets busier with crowds than London's West End, so I decided this shoot should start at Piccadilly Circus. My model's nakedness would be camouflaged by body paint in the style of a T-shirt and half-length shorts. It would be an exercise in representational realism: if a viewer sees clothes, and paint covers the body, then is the body naked?
Lee – who posed for my February shoot with the statue of Boudicca – is an experienced body paint model, and was the perfect choice for this shoot. Together with expert body painters Julie and Asha, we met at the central London home of our friend Cy. Lee stripped; Julie and Asha painted upon him with exquisite detail; Cy recorded our video diary which can be viewed via the link at the bottom of this page.
When his paint was dry, Lee slipped into an anorak and – with the help of a friendly taxi driver – we hit the West End. We remained keen to avoid unnecessary trouble but Lee is never less than bold, and soon we were getting lots of pictures around the statue of Eros and in front of the huge advertising billboards at Piccadilly circus.
I particularly wanted to capture the huge volume of people and traffic moving around. This meant Lee had to stand very still for what can seem like an eternity when that exposed!
From Piccadilly Circus we moved on to Leicester Square, getting more great photos in front of the statue of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare understood the naked body, as his King Lear cried before tearing off his own clothes:
"Is man no more than this? Consider him well. Thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, [...] Thou art the thing itself: unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor bare,
forked animal as thou art"
Our efforts didn't go entirely unnoticed, with many passers-by grabbing opportunist photos of their own. Most enjoyed what we were doing and had a laugh with us. In all, it was a great day and a great team effort. It would be the start of a series of shoots within 2015: PROJECT NAKED using body paint to develop new themes.