Fashion acts as a language: it allow us to silently portray who we are or want to be, offering society an impression about us — whatever that may be.
Fashion also tends to segregate and place us into various social categories as well as communicate a certain mood or particular feeling. This tool is quite precious to civil society, and as most people, I naturally use clothing as a way of portraying my own image.
However, in a city like New York, the fashion industry has a massive impact: people often tend to be overly concerned with appearance and the materialistic side of it. This became very real for me while I was photographing Fashion Week a few years back. As I watched an image-absorbed union of people care more about the sales at Barney's than the homeless people they stepped over on the street, I began to ponder: "What would the world feel like naked? What if we didn't have clothing to portray who we want to be or feel as individuals? What if we couldn't show off our social status to demand the treatment we wanted from others? What if all we had were our bodies?"
These questions raised many various issues and these issues raised many various questions.
From there, my photographic project was born. With a tripod and a couple ounces of adrenaline, I took to the streets bare to see what a typical New York day would be like.
At first, I wasn't so sure what was going to happen or what was going to come of it all, but as the collection progressed, more and more issues became clear to me. For example: "Why can we be arrested for being naked in the street, when as human beings, we are born naked?" I can understand that it would be socially unacceptable or morally discouraged, but for it to be in some cases prohibited by law…? This all seemed quite bizarre and really more so a violation of human rights.
Another question that arose was that of sexuality. "Is nudity inherently sexual or is nudity just a part of being human? Why does society typically equate nudity to sex? And how does the variety of body types come into the equation when asking that question?" Each person’s answer is different.
To clarify, I'm not an exhibitionist or a nudist – I'm an artist looking to humorously poke at some interesting thoughts about society and question who we are (and how we'd like to be perceived) as human beings. It's now up to the viewer to answer those questions, as he/she likes.
However, for me, from Houston to Hudson and from Bowery to the Bronx, photographing Manhattan has never been such a rush….
— Erica Simone