The Power of Naked: An Interview With Erica Simone

| October 15, 2015 | 3 Comments

Interview With Photographer Erica Simone About Getting Naked in NYC & Her ‘Nue York’ Photo Series

Erica Simone is a New York based photographer who wonders what the world would look and feel like if we were all naked. In 2009, she decided to create her idea of a naked world with a new photography series entitled, “Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen.”

In her photos, Erica poses naked while engaged in ordinary everyday activities, such as shoveling snow, buying a hot dog, riding the NYC subway, window shopping, and more. By 2011, her work was making headlines all over the place and I myself wrote a short blog about it.

Her series slogan is, “Nothing Fits Like You”‬ with hashtag #ThePowerOfNaked. On her website she writes that this is “a campaign about being comfortable with who you are as a person, with your body, your mind and your role in society. It’s about being free from the confinements of society’s expectations and the media’s projections.”

Now after she has taken 50 naked self-portraits and has been compiling them into a new book, we thought it’d be great to interview her about her experiences getting naked in NYC, her thoughts on public nudity and why nobody really got arrested in the making of this series.

So tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? How long have you been a photographer?

I originally grew up in Los Angles and lived in Paris from the age of 8 to 17, then came to NYC to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I’ve been shooting for over 10 years.

How did come up with the idea to do this Nue York project? What was the thought process in deciding to do these quick snapshots in public places?

The idea sprouted from a philosophical questioning about clothing and fashion in society and their role and importance on the way people communicate with each other. I found it interesting to analyze how clothing dictates a lot about our self-expression with each other, in a silent way, and how we are able to judge one another just by the way we are dressed. So I wanted to explore the idea of what life would be like if we didn’t have clothing at all as a barrier. These thoughts and questions gave me the idea to convey this through a photography project, which led to Nue York.

The shots are done pretty spontaneously. I like to walk around, gauge a location and when I feel like there’s an interesting scene worthy of a photo, I set up my tripod, get ready and go right for it.

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Erica Simone window shopping naked at a Ralph Lauren store in the West Village for Nue York

So you did all the shots yourself? That must’ve been tricky, no? How quick were you, or felt you needed to be, about getting the shot? Did you worry about arrest or people filing complaints?

Yes, I use a tripod and a shutter release on a timer most of the time. It can be tricky, yes. I always have an assistant with me who helps and for moral support! I have to be very quick, but I also have to make sure that I get the shot I want. Typically, I’m nude for a minute or so per capture. Sometimes I redo a shot if I don’t like what I got. I do worry about the police, but I’ve also had very easygoing experiences with police too. I make sure that they are NOT around when I shoot, anyway. No one has ever complained to my knowledge…

How did the people around you react to your public photo shoots?

People usually are shocked but not bewildered. It’s NYC, people have seen everything here. I get a lot of laughs and applauds for the most part.

I remember seeing a shot where you’re being handcuffed by a cop. Is that an actual police officer? How did you set that up?

I choose to not discuss the arrest shot… :-)

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Erica Simone’s naked arrest shot in Nue York

Okay. Do you have any funny or interesting stories behind other shots? Among the many portraits of Nue York, which one is your favorite and why?

Every photo has a funny or interesting story to be honest. My favorite shot is the subway photo because it was the most challenging and the most rewarding. I had to ride the entire train line to the Bronx before I was able to get that shot—compositionally, it took forever and I was also the most nervous.

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Erica Simone riding the NYC subway naked in Nue York

The locations you chose – were they all spontaneous or were some of them pre-meditative?

The locations are mostly spontaneous, but some are pre-meditated or planned, especially the indoor ones. I typically like to walk around and gauge what’s going on in the street. I am very attracted to vivid colors, so my eye is constantly looking for great scenes and then I spend some time composing the image and making sure it works before I decide to shoot.

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Erica Simone eats a hot dog while naked in her photo series Nue York

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Erica Simone works naked at a NYC construction site in Nue York

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Erica Simone shoveling snow while naked in Nue York

Were these quick photo shoots the first time you were naked in public? Had you ever been naked among other people, friends or strangers, before this?

No, I had been nude on beaches before and, of course, among girlfriends. But doing these photographs were the first time I was truly naked in public.

Did your experiences with Nue York affect your self-image / body image? Were you comfortable with your body before, during, after?

I have always been fairly comfortable with my body. At times, more or less secure depending on my weight level, but overall, I love my body—all of its quirks and flaws included. I am definitely more comfortable today, having exposed myself to the whole world. It declared a sense of freedom I didn’t have before.

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Erica Simone takes a naked bike ride in Nue York

What were your thoughts on public nudity before and after doing this series?

I think nudity is completely natural and shouldn’t be against the law or such a taboo, but I do understand that 99% of the population is not comfortable with public nudity and that it can pose somewhat of a danger to safety in modern society, unfortunately.

This reminds me of the recent NEF U.S. opinion poll I wrote about. It actually found that most Americans – 52% – are not offended by non-sexual nudity. So there’s that.

Moving on…I remember an old interview where you said you were about to do one of your shots, and there was a mother and child nearby, and you felt the need to warn them so the mom would have a chance to cover her child’s eyes…Do you think your work is inappropriate for children? Do you think kids shouldn’t be exposed to public nudity?

I don’t think nudity is unhealthy for children unless it’s conditioned to be so by adults. I think children can handle anything that they are taught is OK and so if children grow up with the sense that “nudity is bad or scary” then that’s what they’ll believe. If they grow up with the sense that “nudity is normal and human” then they will be fine with it. Kids grow up in the bush all the time surrounded by nudity and I’m pretty sure they’re not offended by it. With that said, I don’t think men should go hang out on playgrounds exposed…

Have you had any issues with censorship in promoting your work? Or exhibiting in a gallery?

Galleries would never censor my work—that would be ironic! Internet magazines and certain conservative newspapers have for sure, but mostly American ones. The European press is much more liberal about nudity.

So you’re now turning “Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen” into a fine art photography book – that’s great! You’re self-publishing? How’s it coming along? 

The book includes 50 images and is being finished as we speak! It will be published by the Italian art book publisher, Damiani and will hit stores in the Spring. A limited edition, signed copy is currently only available for pre-order at nueyork.bigcartel.com, and I will have the books in hand around Christmas of 2015.

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Cover of Erica Simone’s new photography book, “Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen” coming out December 2015

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Learn more about Erica Simone and her Nue York project at www.nue-york.com and follow her on social media –
Instagram: @ericasimone
Twitter: @ericasimone
Facebook: facebook.com/ericasimonephotography

This Interview With Erica Simone was published by – Young Naturists & Nudists America

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Category: Art, Felicity's Nudist Blog, Social Nudity Blogs

About the Author ()

Author of Felicity's Blog. Co-founder of Young Naturists America. 3rd-generation nudie. Avid reader. Feminist. 70% vegan, 30% vegetarian. When I'm not busy eating, I'm writing about naturism, censorship, topfree equality, body image and other fun topics. I like feedback, so plz leave a comment when you've got something to say!