If you’ve perused through the streets of New York and witnessed a naked woman with a tripod nearby, it was probably Erica Simone. Over the past few years, Simone bravely embarked on a project to photograph herself nude in the streets of New York. Her photos will be featured in her new book titled, Nue York.

The book, being released this Thursday, January 14, features over thirty images of Simone shoveling snow, jumping in a cab and even standing in the middle of Times Square. Resource Magazine sat down with Simone to ask her about her inspiration, her process and how cold she really was while taking these photos.

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What was the initial thought process behind the creation of this project? Was there an ‘aha!’ moment for you at some point?

I was shooting fashion week in 2007 and I was sitting there, watching everybody in this whole fashion absorbed world and so, just analyzing clothing and what people use clothing for and how fashion week has become a big part of our society. I started thinking it’s really interesting how we express ourselves through clothing and how we engage with others through clothing. We interpret others depending on how they’re dressed and judge people based on their clothing. Whether it’s something really basic like a business person walks into a room and he might be treated totally different because he’s in a suit and tie than how he would if he walked in wearing baggy pants or dirty clothes. It’s really the same person underneath these clothes.

I was analyzing this relationship we have with clothing and fashion and thought to myself it would be such a funny thing if everyone was just naked all the time. How would we be able to make friends? How would society be if we didn’t have clothing? So in my mind it started to structure itself as a photograph. So my idea, I started to say ‘I’d love to shoot that.’ Initially I was going to shoot other people. And then after thinking through it and talking to other people about it I got the idea that it’d be super crazy if I did it myself because it’d be more of a challenge. I’d be the photographer and the model, and also, in the same sense, it would kind of be easier because I could pick it up whenever I want. I could go do it and not rely on other people to do it and I know what I want to get out of the photographs. It just seemed like ‘aha’ this is a great idea.

 

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Walk me through a shot. Some of these photos, especially shots like the one of you getting inside of that cab in SoHo, really left me wondering how you managed to pull some of these off.

I don’t walk around naked – it draws way too much attention. I set everything up and I have a trench coat and basically, when the timing is right, I drop my stuff and I start shooting. That [her cab photo] was a very quick moment and I knew I wanted to get that atmosphere, the taxi atmosphere in that location, and all of a sudden there was a line [of cars] at the gas station. So I set my things up and I opened the door, dropped my clothes and I started shooting. The driver, a minute later, realized what was going on and turned around and saw me and said ‘oh, no, no, no! You can’t do that.’ But by then I had already gotten my shot so I just said ‘thanks’ and ran away.

At the beginning I had a self timer, then I started using a shutter release.

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I’m sure you had to do research to find out exactly how legal all of this was. What exactly are the laws surrounding complete nudity?

It’s legal to be topless in New York, as of 1992. Full nudity is not legal, at all. You’re supposed to cover your privates, basically. I was risking my arrest a lot. I’ve had some really interesting run in’s with the cops.

Once I had a cop car pull up and stare at me and I actually managed to get away with it. I was with a celebrity and he talked the cops into letting me do it.

Have you experienced any personal growth as a result of the project?

For sure, in all sorts of areas. Everything from the physical aspect of producing a book to putting myself through the photos themselves – being naked in the street time and time again in itself is an interesting thing. At first I was nervous and a now it’s more of an adrenaline rush and I’m used to it and not as shy. I don’t care that people are watching me.

And then there’s the aspect of the photos being out there. People always ask me, ‘what is it like to be naked in the street?’ but when I’m naked there are maybe ten or twenty, thirty, max, that see me for a split second but now my photographs are in magazines and online. So it’s so much more exposure than the initial people that saw me in the street.

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I know that some of these photos were taken in the Winter. Finally, be honest – how cold were you?

I try not to shoot too much during the winter. It’s a little cold. I try to not put myself through too much pain when I shoot these.

A private opening reception and book launch are being held this Thursday, January 14 from 7-10 at Castle Fitzjohns Gallery on 98 Orchard Street in New York. You can find RSVP information here and purchase the book here.

A portion of proceeds from the event are going towards anti-human trafficking organization, Beauty for Freedom.

You can check out her Instagram @ericasimone.

  • doliwaq

    There is one film who shows how “nude world” can look like: polish film named “Golasy” (Naked people). Everybody are naked, but nobody pays any attention.

  • Maybe its me but I fail to find talent in doing a nude project in NYC. Perhaps to get a reaction from shocked people or perhaps no one would even notice or care, why does this constitute talent? Admittedly her photography is excellent, so why was getting naked even necessary? I am confused.