Philly Naked Bike Ride 2011

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I love a good ALT event, and this one certainly fit the bill.  The Philly Naked Bike Ride, or PNBR as it is known, took place in Philadelphia September, 4 2011.  This is the third annual Philly Naked Bike Ride and it’s gotten bigger every year.  The event is a well guarded secret until a day before the ride when the official route is announced.  Riders then meet at the “meeting place” an hour or two before the ride to meet up, meet fellow cyclists, listen to music, etc.  This year’s meeting was Fairmount Park Handicapped Boat House, (coincidentally where I park when I run West River/ Kelly Drive).  Shooting such an event was a first for me.  The organizer was very helpful and recommended I get to the Assembly early, camera packed away, to meet riders and get permissions for photos.  The PNBR is open to press and photography in general, but ask that photogs ask individuals on a case by case basis, prior to any photos being taken.  So I got to the area early…

I have been to that exact area 100’s of times, only this time the Schuylkill banks were covered with 100’s of naked people at 4:00 in the afternoon.  It was a very surreal sight.  I knew that riders would be naked for the ride, but I did not anticipate they would disrobe SO early in the day.  Fairmount Park looked like Woodstock.  At every turn of my head there was another rider strolling the grounds naked as the day they were born.  And before you picture the SI Swimsuit Edition naked on bikes… think again… it was real, regular folk of all shapes and sizes.  (Although PNBR is a BARE AS YOU DARE event, so not everyone was naked, even for the ride.)  But enough were.  And I got to go up to dozens and dozens of them…me in full clothes…with a giant camera…and a press badge…and have that “mind if I take your picture” awkward conversation, time and time again…

Only, it really wasn’t that awkward!  People were really, really nice, whether they wanted their photo taken or not.  Sure there were a few people that were just not friendly at all, but the majority really were.  I came to the event pretty neutral but left with a much greater appreciation of the event.  The three basic principles of these rides are Cycling Advocacy, Fuel Conscious Consumption and Positive Body Image.

That last one, to me, was the one that made the day something more than I anticipated.  I work in media and I know full well how skewed body image has become in this country.  But to see men and women of all shapes, and ages and levels of hygiene and grooming, in the thousands– bare it all, proudly and without shame or embarrassment and ride 8 miles on bikes in a major city was very moving and beautiful.

Here are the images I shot for WPHL.  They are safe for work!  Just a few butts and pasties… I could not publish any with full frontal nudity so I had to do a clever mix of Austin Powers opening title sequence type shots and other creative compositions… but still, you will get the idea…

The image of the blonde photographer (pictured above) was my favorite of the day.  It really captured the playful spirit of exactly what I was there to do…tease the nakedness but still tell the story.  There were other photographers there, but few of them, and none from the press, got into the spirit of the event like this one did.  I am giving serious thought to covering this event next year and getting into the spirit a little more, sans some clothes!  I think  it would make for even cooler shots and a different level of cooperation and trust between me and the subject.  Maybe just my station badge on a lanyard?  Or maybe just a belt with a lens bag , strategically placed to cover the bare minimum of me and to keep eyes from looking downward!?  Luckily I already own the giant white canon lens bag pictured here…   😉    ha ha…

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