Sunday, September 18, 2011

Will Nudity Save the Dead Sea?

In a covert pre-dawn operation that was nearly as well-organized as a military strike, 1,200 Israelis stripped off their clothes on the shores of the Dead Sea. American photographer Spencer Tunick aimed the lens of his camera at them and another of his artistic mass nudity installations was created.

"I hope to raise awareness about the place and help it to become recognized as one of the seven new wonders of the world," Tunick said, referring to his decision to stage the installation at the Dead Sea.

The photo shoot almost didn’t take place, as Israeli right-wing and religious politicians deemed it “artistic beastliness” and one Knesset member called it "Sodom and Gomorrah", referring to the depravities of the Biblical cities that were once situated in the area.

Other than the threats of religious politicians that they would “do everything to ensure that this display does not happen in the Land of Israel – forever”, the only things that disturbed the early Saturday morning installation were the late arrivals of some of the buses and the bothersome mechanized gliders circling overhead.

The Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, is one of 27 natural sites around the world that is competing in the finals of the New Seven Wonders online global campaign.

According to publicity for the campaign, “tourism to the Dead Sea and the entire Middle East is expected to increase by hundreds of percentage points in the event that the Dead Sea is among the seven winning sites.” The winning sites will be announced on 11.11.11.

The Dead Sea has been rapidly shrinking in size and its level has been dropping due to diversion of Jordan River waters and the mineral extraction evaporation pools in the south. A range of possible environmental efforts to restore the natural conditions of the sea have been discussed but so far nothing has been to done to prevent the swift decay of this natural wonder.

According to Yisrael Hayom, the “idea to bring Tunick to Israel came about two years ago as part of a final project by five students in the communications program at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.”

Tunick, who is Jewish, said, “I’m very honored that they wanted me to come and photograph in Israel. The more I thought about it, the more I felt that it was the right thing for Israelis who wanted to cooperate in something that was very liberal, enlightened and representative of creative and artistic freedom.”

After all the participants had gotten dressed yesterday, Tunick told reporters that Israel was the only place in the Middle East where the photo shoot could have taken place.


  1. Hello,
    I saw this on Goodreads and came over to read this article. I thought perhaps nudity was going to replace some element of what was missing?
    I don't understand. Well, for
    1. WHY would the 7 Wonders of the World even be changed? They still exist and ARE 'the wonders of the world', so why the 'need' to change them?
    2. What did the nudity do to 'help' the Dead Sea remain the Dead Sea?
    3. Or was this to take a stand to request something to be done to help KEEP the Dead Sea?
    What I personally got out of this article was that Israwl did not want this photo to be taken. That's it. How did the nudity help?
    Just curious?
    I just saw a TV show where people went to visit it, and nothing was said that it is in trouble.
    Laurie Carlson
    laurieisreading at gmail dot com

  2. Hi Laurie,

    Thanks for stopping by to read this article, and to leave your comment.

    In the article, I didn't stress what is happening to the Dead Sea, and why this unique wonder is in danger of dying. Each year, the waters of the sea are evaporating faster than nature can replace them. The shoreline is receding rapidly. From some of the tourist beaches you need to take a train to reach the water! There are dangerous sinkholes opening up in many places, similar to what just happened in Florida!

    To explain why this is happening would require another article.

    The "nudity" photo shoot of Spencer Tunick was intended to raise awareness of this problem, and to the special beauty of the Dead Sea. There is a "new" wonders of the world classification, so why shouldn't the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, be included? It would be a great honor to Israel and encourage tourism.

    The Dead Sea is in trouble. We can't afford to lose the Dead Sea.