The New York artist Spencer Tunick, who is known for his large-scale nude portraits taken in public spaces, recently returned to Mexico. This time, his inspiration was the sargassum that has been invading the beaches of Quintana Roo over the past few months.
It was a much smaller and more impromptu gathering than 2007’s photoshoot with 18,000 people in Mexico City’s Zócalo. But when Tunick invited a group of activists and people concerned about sargassum invasion, the idea was the same.
Sargassum seaweed had been a chronic problem for several years now, clogging beaches from North Carolina to the Caribbean.
Tunick, who for seven years took his family on vacation in San Miguel de Allende, now opts for Tulum. “My daughters grew up and wanted to know something new. Also, my wife and I had our honeymoon in Tulum 16 years ago,” Tunick said.
The backstory of the Tulum installation goes like this:
“I was in a restaurant for an early dinner before sunset with some friends I had just made in Tulum through Javier González, host and patron,” he told La Jornada.“At our table there were about 12 people. That was when José Antonio Silva, representative of the Makers movement, sat next to me, who began to tell me about the sargasso problem. He even wanted me to do a piece that night. It surprised me a lot, then I looked around and thought it was possible, as there were other diners who could be asked to participate to form a larger group.”
Tunick, however, was not completely convinced. Then, Silva invited him to take a walk on the beach. It was then that he realized the damage being caused by the massive amounts of seaweed washing ashore.
“It was incredible, José said that the moment to act was now and that I could help by doing a spontaneous work. I had a camera with me, good enough to create a good piece, which is expected to make people aware of the problem so they can suggest possible solutions in an immediate term.”
The wheels began to turn.
“I saw the sargassum that resembles a massive invasive organism that seizes the coasts and beaches of Quintana Roo and the Caribbean. What was once a pristine beach now looks like the Upside Down world from the Stranger Things series.”
For the shots, Tunick asked the participants sprawl out naked, as usual, partly covered with the fresher sargassum closest to the sea. The older seaweed was smelly and infested with mosquitos.
Spencer Tunick vows that his photos raise awareness about “the imminent situation disastrous for the environment and the tourist economy of the coasts of Quintana Roo” and invites the public to participate in solving the problem.
The 51-year-old artist has shot over 75 human installations in public spaces around the world since 1994. To see more photos taken by photographer Spencer Tunick click HERE.