World Naked Bike Ride 2010

Posted on June 19, 2010 at 10:20 pm
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It’s World Naked Bike Ride day! Every year, in cities around the world, people ride bikes “as bare as they dare” to celebrate cycling and the human body. The ride demonstrates the vulnerability of cyclists on the road and is a protest against oil dependency. WNBR advocates and celebrates sustainable energy, environmentally-responsible living, human-powered transport and body-positive values. Check the F.A.Q., it answers questions you’ve always wondered about: “Isn’t riding naked uncomfortable?”, “What does it feel like to ride nude?”, “Will people photograph me?” (I can answer that one), “Will I get arrested?”, etc.

Photos below, or check the full-screen Flickr slideshow, or click on any of the thumbnails below to open a larger view.

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I took photos of this event last year, it seemed only natural to document it again this year. While this may not look too serious on the surface, this is a cause I wanted to give a few hours to. I have a thing or two to say about vulnerability; I was obliterated by a car while on my bicycle back in 2007, a painful encounter that is still affecting my life today. There is a huge communication gap between car users and people on bikes, a gap that we can’t fill by calling each other names. Bicycles *do* have a legitimate place on the road, but that place isn’t granted either, for it goes both ways: my blood boils whenever I see a cyclist running a red light, jaywalking or acting like a daredevil d-bag. Act responsibly, will you?

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As far as nudity is concerned, it wouldn’t hurt to relax the laws a bit. Says the French guy. Sure, I’m liberal, but don’t think I walk around the house in the nude actually. No, seriously, don’t think about it. There is really something about nudity laws and decency acts that rub me the wrong way though, so to speak. Same can be said about the ridiculous standards enacted by the FCC a bazillion years ago. The word “cat” doesn’t scratch, you know? Can’t common sense prevail? Look outside the window and gaze upon the legions of countries that couldn’t care less. Are French or German children any less polite, any more traumatized or perverted though? I don’t think so, I would even argue that the more you try to hide something, the more people will look for it.

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Back to the Albany. The 2nd Annual Capital District World Naked Bike Ride, organized by Bill L., took place last Saturday June 19, 2010. Twice that is: the original event actually happened June 12th but low attendance prompted Bill to give it another chance a week after that. That is unfortunate, really, since I was wearing my favorite Speedo by solidarity; maybe “unfortunate” isn’t the word you were looking for. I arrived early then waited with Bill and 2 or 3 TV crews for about an hour. A couple of brave souls showed up… and that was it. I left my Speedo at home for round 2. The weather was diametrically opposed 7 days later: beautiful blue sky, scorching heat, a perfect day to work on new melanomas and shoot the breeze.

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Yet, this was a bit of a bust.

Granted, 4 people showed up and that’s still twice more than the week before, but where were the 14 riders from last year? The TV crews didn’t really bother coming back either, was there another 30 pounds stray cat to talk about? With the Gulf of Mexico slowly dying because of our insatiable appetite for oil, you would think a few concerned citizen would dust off their bicycles and allocate a few minutes to manscape? Oh well.

Kudos to the 2 people who showed up June 12th and to the 4 riders who completed the event last Saturday. You guys are good sports and I appreciate you let me take a few photos to detail the event. Thanks to Bill for organizing this again and I might see you guys next year.

A few photos from last year below, or check the full-screen Flickr slideshow, or click on any of the thumbnails below to open a larger view.

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My photo tips. I used the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L lens once again. It is one of my fastest lens and has proven to be a solid performer whenever I have to shoot something passing by quickly (say, a bicycle, or a bull). It isn’t very useful for group photos, but I figured Washington Park would offer enough space to back up 30 feet or so. It’s a great lens to capture expressions or body art from a distance too. Now this is a double-edge sword in this case; a long zoom like this one can make a lot of people uncomfortable, especially if they are about to undress. There are, evidently, cultural differences at play and spaces to respect. I don’t have a magic recipe here, what I’ll usually try is to mingle early on, introduce myself, and explain what I’m doing here. Most protests need exposure and organizers usually do not mind I document the event. If there is an official photography policy I can find, I’ll give it a quick look too. In any case, I told the group I would put the photos online, link this post on the Facebook page for them to find, and assured them I would remove any shots they wouldn’t be happy about.

Update: see the comments below for more about this specific photography policy. To be a bit more clear: certainly not all policies should be followed to the letter. Photography rights is a topic that could fill a whole blog. This is something I take seriously, especially since we started shooting abandoned buildings. More about this later when I post about our little encounter with the law in Millbrook, NY. I carry a small leaflet in my bag called “The Photographer’s Right – Your Rights and Remedies When Stopped or Confronted for Photography” by Bert P. Krages II (you can find it here or here or a similar one on a lens cloth). If a policy steps on those basic rights this is most likely by ignorance; be prepared to mention what you, as a photographer, can or can not do in a public space. As far as I’m concerned other parameters have to be considered, including who you are taking pictures of and on what turf.

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Tags: Albany, protest, tips, World Naked Bike Ride


  1. B says:

    From the photography policy you linked to:

    “If it makes you uncomfortable, let the photographers know that they don’t have permission to photograph you.”

    Uh, really? I totally understand and am down with people being uncomfortable with having their picture taken in public and respecting that. But, unfortunately, if you are in public you do not have the right to deny someone permission to take your photo. It’s sad they post that on their official site.

  2. Sebastien says:

    Yeah that’s why I said: “I’ll give it a quick look” :) As in: “your policy is a bit ridic”.

  3. Bobf says:

    B is right about this. At least as things stand today, photographers retain the first amendment right to photograph what and who they choose in public places. A few weeks ago, while in Coney Island with the Albany Photography Meetup, one of our group had a particularly nasty interchange with a man on the pier. While she chose not to make a big deal out of it and deleted the shot at his insistence, the fact remains that so long as you are out in public you have no expectation of privacy. I glanced at the policy you linked to and found it kind of numerous. I wonder why anyone would go out in public in some state of near-nudity and then expect to be free from photography, or even to feel they have a right to limit photographic expression.

    If a person is “uncomfortable” because of how they are dressed, then maybe they should think about that before they go out.

    BTW, I love that last picture of the plane in the sky!

  4. Sebastien says:

    Thanks Bob. We are all on the same page, I’ve discussed that in the past with B. If there is a policy I think you should check it but it’s up to you to determine if it’s reasonable. In this case, it will at least tell you how much the organizers know about photography and if you should be ready to mention your own rights as a photographer. I do actually carry a small leaflet in my bag, I’ve updated the “Photo Tips” section with links to “The Photographer’s Right” by Bert P. Krages II. However, it is Smallbany, it is my neighborhood, that’s where I take most of my photos. I’d rather oblige that community than create ill feelings: that’s why I offered to take down photos, not because of rights or permissions. As I said above, for personal reason, my side is with the riders.