The conference I went to last week was pretty small — only 75 people and two days of sessons. Technically, it wasn’t a conference at all. It was an unconference, an event during which participants plan the sessions. And I didn’t have a roommate. But still, I felt I needed to do a naked photo shoot. After all, it’s a tradition.
That first morning of the conference, when I woke up hours before the conference began, the beachside town was hidden by a thick layer of fog. When I walked on the beach, I couldn’t see the boardwalk, the casinos, the hotels, or a single other person. Perfect, I thought, for a lovely naked photo. I liked outdoor shots the best. I just needed to find a willing participant.
It was the during the meet-and-greet session that I noticed Mermaid Woman. She had the kind of personality that turns a sleepy breakfast into a party, and she seemed comfortable with her body, ready to jump into a feminist discussion about body image at a moment’s notice. About five sentences into our conversation, I asked her to pose. She laughed, and I knew that meant yes.
Even though my hotel room had lovely natural light, I really wanted a shot on the beach. “I can do a yoga pose,” said Mermaid Woman. I promised her that if we met early for a walk on the beach the next day that we’d the privacy she might want. All my naked photo shoots are top secret, I assured her.
So the next day, Mermaid Woman obligingly met me on the boardwalk, bright and early, and we walked out onto the beach, where ocean water was surging up across the wet sand. As I squinted into the sun, I could see the steel pier, the boardwalk, the tall hotels — and various people walking along the water’s edge. No fog at all.
“Um, this might be less private than I thought,” I said to Mermaid Woman as we stepped off the boardwalk onto the sand. Nearest to us were a couple snuggled under blankets, near the edge of the boardwalk.
“Looks like they spent the night here,” Mermaid Woman said. She shrugged at their presence. No one who sleeps on the beach is going to be offended by a little nudity. We both agreed with that logic.
A fully-clothed man was walking up and down the beach with a metal detector, moving his instrument back and forth methodically. “He’s not even looking this way,” I said. “He’s busy.” In the distance, I could see other figures: a woman running, a man with a dog. Up on the boardwalk, I could see an old couple sitting on a bench and a teenager on a bicycle. Oh, and a police car cruising by, on an early morning round. Yes, a whole heavy police car right on the boardwalk: that seemed more shocking to me than any display of human flesh. And wrong. I decided to ignore the cop, who probably was too busy trying not to run over pedestrians to even glance at the beach.
“They’re all pretty far away,” I assured Mermaid Woman. “And it’s not illegal to take a photo, right?”
She’d come prepared: she pulled a long scarf out of her bag. “I can sit on this,” she said, tossing it to the ground as she quickly stripped off her clothes. Naked, she quickly assumed a yoga pose — and then began to improvise, stretching her arms towards the sun.
I don’t know whether or not my voice reached the other people on the beach or whether it was lost in the wind as I called out to her, “Oh, do that again – the thing with your arm! Perfect! Beautiful!”
Casinos usually don’t have windows, so all the customers inside the buildings, who had stayed up all night gambling were completely unaware that beautiful Mermaid Woman was posing on the beach, just a hundred yards away, stretching her naked body out in the morning sun.
Read more about the history of the naked blogging project and check out the gallery of photos.