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2015 PROJECT NAKED Chapter 10 – August – Angel of the North

Right from the start of this project I'd wanted to arrange a group photo shoot at the Angel of the North – Antony Gormley's landmark sculpture in Gateshead. It would involve many more nude volunteers than I'd previously organised, at a location hundreds of miles from home. I knew it would be complicated but never imagined it would take three visits to get the shots I wanted.

Part 1 – May – the practice

First there was one

My first trip was an opportunistic recce the morning after an unrelated shoot in the midlands with modelling friend, Nicola, and her boyfriend, Tony among ohters. These two were keen to join me on my venture to the north-east. So no sun at sunrise but grey sky and drizzle would surely add atmosphere to my images....

In my first shots the models were barely distinguishable beneath the Angel's mighty wings. We got better definition when Nicola stood directly in front of it, mimicking its stance.

Then there were two

Next I asked them to try walking further down the hillside towards me, facing away but keeping their arms outstretched. Yes! These would work well on a larger scale in the summer.

Part 2 – July – the wash-out

Fifteen would-be participants came from across the UK to meet me in the Angel's car park for a Saturday shoot at first light. With such an enthusiastic turn-out, we were desperately disappointed to have it spoiled by the weather. We'd known to fear the worst and hoped we might be able to work through it but we were wrong. It was atrocious.

Sitting disconsolately in our vehicles, we watched lightning flash around the towering iron figure while unrelenting rain pounded our windows to a blur. These were neither safe nor practical conditions for outdoor photography. All I could do was go from car to car offering my personal thanks, sincere apologies, and the promise of another invitation soon.

Part 3 – August - And then there were many

We tried again five weeks later. Far from being put off by the previous disappointment, my wonderful volunteers were back in even greater numbers. 21 converged on the car park this time. I felt bad for a few who were unable to join us for the new date – all those who supported this shoot at any stage have my utmost respect and gratitude.

We gathered at 5am. Rain had been forecast once again but it appeared to have fallen earlier than expected, leaving just an unthreatening mantle of thick cloud for us to work under. With sunrise due at 5:27am and not another soul about, it felt like we had all the time in the world to run through the full range of ideas I wanted to try.

After a clothed practice to create a scattered pattern of upright bodies on the hillside, we were ready. Everyone stripped, got back into position and spread their arms. They posed forwards and backwards, then standing and lying like the Angel's shadow, and linked as a silhouetted line on the horizon. A last few group and solo shots at the end were just for fun.

It was great to finish in such high spirits after so many challenges and setbacks. As always I look critically at my work and think what else we might have done, or what adjustments might have improved the images. Ultimately, however, this was a fantastic milestone both for me and for 2015 PROJECT NAKED. The Angel had smiled down on us after all.

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