Photographer Erica Simone's 'Nue York', a series in which she criss-crosses the Big Apple in nothing but her birthday suit, evolved into a recent solo exhibit with Lower East Side gallery Castle Fitzjohns.
Simone strips away her clothing to explore the societal hang-ups fashion holds in contemporary life. Her photographs show her participating in mundane tasks like shopping, shoveling snow, riding the subway, and taking a selfie.
I spoke with the artist to get a deeper understanding of 'Nue York' and what she hopes to achieve with this passion project.
Konbini: On a personal level, how freeing was this experience?
Erica Simone: This project has been quite an experience — on many different levels! When I first started it, going nude in public was very challenging.
Since I am not naturally an exhibitionist, it took a lot of strength and conviction, but over the years, I've become extremely comfortable shedding my clothing in public, just by nature of repetition.
In that, it's been extremely freeing-—to not even pay attention to the fact that I'm being observed or care what people think has been a really wonderful learning and personal growth process.
I know ‘Nue York’ was a personal project a few years in the making. How did it evolve into a book and lead to an exhibit at Castle Fitzjohns?
The idea of making this project a book was always in the back of my mind. It needed a good amount of images to create a compelling story, so by the time over 60 images had been produced, I knew it was time to make it tangible.
It took a year, both financially and physically, and to celebrate its launch, I wanted to do another solo exhibition showcasing the new, unseen images. Castle Fitzjohns Gallery was introduced to me by a dear friend, Monica Watkins, and from there, the show was crafted.
How did you pull this off, logistically? Did you work with a small crew, use several cameras, scout locations beforehand, shoot during certain times of the year, etc?
The shoots are actually very modest. Typically, I set out with one other friend/assistant, a camera and a tripod. We walk around and scouted locations on the spot. Sometimes the interior shoot locations are planned in advance, but for the most part they are spontaneous. The camera is set up strategically on the tripod with a self-timer. The key is timing and when it feels just right, I strip down and shoot as many images as I can get away with.
It’s pretty hard to shock a New Yorker, but I’m curious: How did people respond to you? Are there any memorable moments you're able to share?
Most New Yorkers don't even notice me to be honest. People are so busy on their cell phones or simply in their own world... but the ones that do typically laugh or applaud. No one ever seems THAT shocked.
New York is a vibrant place where crazy people linger on every street corner – what's another naked girl taking pictures of herself? To be honest, people are more shocked when they see the images after the fact, than the people in the street are.
What has been the digital dialogue about ‘Nue York’, has #thepowerofnaked sparked an ongoing conversation online?
The project has received a lot of press and definitely attracted commentary of all kinds. I think nudity and public nudity, specifically, are a controversial topic that raises a lot of opinions and curiosities.
It's nice to see people in dialogue about it in all different types of communities, whether shedding my project in a positive or negative light, I think it's good to just get people thinking.
The goal of my project was simply to inspire people to stop and consider our self-expression in a different way. Clothing establishes a lot of who we are and I found it interesting to question what human interaction would be like if we didn't have it to express ourselves and instead had to be 100% comfortable in our own skin.