TRUTH LOVES TO GO NAKED

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The Independent Culture
Naked New York by Greg Friedler (Bloomsbury, pounds 12.99). "Closet queen - 47 yrs old". That's what it says across the bottom of the plate, stamped out on an ancient Dymo, slapped on not entirely straight. And that's all we have to go on. Is it special and unusual for this man to be wearing a set of women's frillies, or does he do it underneath his street-clothes every day? Does his posture or his undies express his closeted and/or queeny nature? Or neither? Or both? For a man who spends his everyday life in the closet, the women's underwear quite possibly represents for him a "truth" far deeper than even his nakedness. And yet, which picture appears the more intimate? Is the hidden penis in the right-hand image a gesture of modesty, or something even more revealing?

Greg Friedler, born in 1970 in Louisiana, studied photography in New York City. Naked New York is his first book so far. It's a simple idea, tenderly executed: each page a diptych of a single New Yorker, identified as the subject chooses to be identified, naked in the right image, and in the left one, clothed. "For this project," the author in his preface explains, "I wanted to photograph 'naked' people rather than 'nude' figures. As I see it, photographing someone naked is about trying to get at some kind of truth, whereas photographing someone nude is linked more to sexual gratification, eroticism, or our conventions of beauty ... Nakedness is a great equaliser. We can focus on a naked person and not on the expectations - both ours and theirs - that clothing produces about their occupation or their place in society." His most memorable sitting, Friedler writes, was with "Man w/Parkinson's Disease - 55 yrs old". "He told me that he was a grandfather of three ... and that on August 14, 1996, he was going into the hospital for controversial brain surgery to try and alleviate his symptoms." There is no trace of the freak show to this book. The images are warm, and funny, and humane. Genevieve Francon

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