Hundreds pose nude for Spencer Tunick shoot to highlight shrinking Dead Sea

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Watch: Models pose nude for Spencer Tunick shoot in Israel

Hundreds of models wearing only white body paint have walked across a stark desert expanse as part of the latest photography project of American artist Spencer Tunick.

The 54-year-old photographer visited Israel as a guest of the tourism ministry to portray for the third time the shrinking Dead Sea via nude subjects.

It follows his installation in London where a crowd of volunteers gathered outside Alexandra Palace wearing nothing but face masks.

Models pose nude for American art photographer Spencer Tunick in the desert surrounding the southeastern Israeli city of Arad (AFP via Getty Images)
Models pose nude for American art photographer Spencer Tunick in the desert surrounding the southeastern Israeli city of Arad (AFP via Getty Images)

Dressed in black, Tunick stood on the roof of a recreational vehicle and directed across the rocky dunes on a megaphone.

“Everyone put your feet together,” he said. “Hands down.”

The artist is renowned for his live installations of mass crowds of naked people, of which he has staged dozens worldwide, including outside Sydney Opera House and in London’s Selfridges.

On Sunday, he posed his subjects on stony brown hills overlooking the turquoise lake in Arad, south east Israel.

The site was located 15km west of the Dead Sea (AFP via Getty Images)
The site was located 15km west of the Dead Sea (AFP via Getty Images)

Some 200 people followed his directions, both men and women, standing straight and stooped.

“For me the body represents beauty and life and love,” he said.

Israel and Jordan have diverted much of the upstream water for agriculture and drinking water. Mineral extraction and evaporation accelerated by climate change have made the problem worse.

Direction was given from a megaphone as subjects walked the stony landscape (Getty Images)
Direction was given from a megaphone as subjects walked the stony landscape (Getty Images)

One decade ago, Tunick depicted more than 1,000 nude models on the shores of the salty Dead Sea which is receding at about a metre a year.

By the time he returned five years later, the placid waters of his first shoot had receded, leaving behind crusty sand and gaping sinkholes.

The photographer said he chose to cover the models in white paint to evoke the Biblical story of Lot’s wife, who was said to have turned into a pillar of salt.

Doctoral student Anna Kleiman, 26, said she joined the shoot to bring awareness to the environmental crisis.

“It feels really natural, once you take your clothes off,” she said. 

“You kind of don’t want to put them back on. I think we just struggled with the rocks a little bit. Lucky it’s not too hot.”

It is the third time Tunick has portrayed the shrinking Dead Sea via nude subjects. (Getty Images)
It is the third time Tunick has portrayed the shrinking Dead Sea via nude subjects. (Getty Images)

Israel’s tourism ministry bankrolled Tunick’s flight and ground expenses, said Hassan Madah, the ministry’s director of marketing for the Americas.

The city of Arad contributed staff and other expenses, according to mayor Nisan Ben Hamo.

Some conservative leaders in Israel opposed Tunick’s project, with one lawmaker demanding the tourism ministry withdraw its sponsorship of the “event of mass abomination.”

However, Mr Hamo said he saw the project as an affirmation of Arad “as a liberal city” and hopes the shoot might bring more visitors, helping raise funds for a new museum about the Dead Sea.

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