'Naked in New York' photo project asks: 'Why the hell do we need clothes?'

A photographer simple wondered 'what the world would feel like naked, without the empowering or disempowering effect of clothing.'

Some social practices are so ingrained in our culture that it’s not until you take a step back, as though an alien observing Earth for the first time, that you realise how absurd and perhaps unnecessary they are.

Human beings’ wearing of clothes is arguably one such thing (warmth issues aside). Does attire help us construct an identity, or prevent us from displaying a more truthful one? Does the ability to ‘disrobe’ heighten sexual desire and its inherent beauty, or does it limit the body to merely a sexual thing? Why exactly is nudity in public against the law?

Photographer Erica Simone recently put herself on the front lines of this fascinating debate with Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen.

The photos see her doing day-to-day things like shopping, commuting, catching a cab, buying cigarettes in a convenience store and taking a phone call in a cafe - except completely, utterly, brazenly, gloriously, rebelliously naked.

The project was “born out of an initial questioning about clothing and the importance of fashion in modern society,” she commented.

Acknowledging clothes’ function, Erica explained: “Clothes do so much more than just meet our physical needs. What we wear acts as a silent language, allowing us to convey who we are and want to be to the outside world. Fashion reveals our moods, our social standing and establishes dynamics between people. Nowhere is this more evident than on the streets of this fashion capital we call New York City.”

But she countered: “As I watched an image-obsessed society care more about the sales at Barneys than the homeless people they ignore as they parade by, I began to wonder what the world would feel like naked, without the empowering or disempowering effect of clothing.  What if all we had was our natural state to express who we are? Could we overcome our self-consciousness and become fully confident in our own skin? How would we assimilate or dissimilate? Could being naked in the world transcend sexual connotations and why is nudity so taboo that it is against the law?”

Most passers-by seem fairly unperturbed by her nudity, which was not intended for shock value.

“From there, my photographic project bloomed,” she said. “With a tripod and a dose of adrenaline, I took to the busy streets to get a taste of New York in the nude. The point is not to be naked for shock value. I am simply an artist looking to humorously explore some interesting thoughts about society and question who we are and embody as human beings.”

New York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen is being launched by Castle Fitzjohns Gallery and is now available as a book. You can follow Erica on Instagram here.