So there I was, completely naked and curled up in a wooden box while a strange man on a ladder above snapped photos of me.
Aterrifying dream for some. But this was photographer Bruce Aoki makingart at the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival, so why not? I have zeroissues about my 285-pound reverse-hourglass figure and have reached an age where Ican’t be bothered with anyone’s body-shaming attempts. My biggestconcern during the half-hour session was getting stabbed by one of thebox’s nasty-looking splinters.
This is the third year Aoki isshooting nudes of ordinary, average, decidedly nonsupermodel-typeUtahns during the Fringe. He’ll be at it again this Friday and Saturdayif slots are still available. (You can reserve a spot by clicking this link.)
“Allkinds of bodies show up, and that’s the absolute joy,” said Aoki. “Thefirst year, a couple came in, they were best friends. She was fairlyattractive, and he was a very large man. He was very self-conscious, butonce we started shooting, he loosened up, and the resulting images werevery touching. That’s one of those images where in 20 years, they’ll pull it out and it’ll be a fantastic memory.”
Aokisaid first-timers are understandably timid, but once they get past thatawkward stage, strip down and let professional studio lighting takeover, it becomes a great experience for the artist and his subjects.
“Butwhat blows them away is when they see the final black-and-white print,”said Aoki. “That’s kind of thrilling for me. I love seeing theirreactions.”
Jeri Gravlin has posed for Aoki at all three Fringes.As a photographer who has shot nudes herself, the experience has given herinsight of what her subjects go through.
“I was nervous atfirst, but it ended up being tons of fun,” said Gravlin. “It helped melearn how to explain to people who I shoot to be comfortable with theirbody. Human beings are art, so photographing them where it’s notsexualized or fake, just people being fully who they are … it can beso beautiful and Bruce does a great job of showing that. And I loved theprints — I hung them up in my house for everybody to see.”
“It’swhat we’re born with and it’s what you see in the mirror when you getout of the shower,” said Aoki. “They all have character. Some arestereotypically more beautiful than others, but the perception ofnakedness is, that’s us. That’s our life.”
Get your Fringe on
You’ll pay $5 for a temporary tattoo, with proceeds earmarked for operating costs. Each show costs $10 (cheaper deals with three- and 10-ticket packages) with proceeds earmarked for performers. You’ll find the program at the venues, where you can buy tickets: Westminster College (1250 E. 1700 South, Salt Lake City) and at the Fringe Factory (2234 Highland Drive, Salt Lake City).
Family Fringe • Special shows at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday will be performed at Westminster College’s Jewett Center Atrium.
Schedule • greatsaltlakefringe.org.