Beautiful Photos That Defy Vermont's Bizarre Nudity Laws

Beautiful Photos That Defy Vermont's Bizarre Nudity Laws

NSFW: NZ photographer Russ Flatt gets Americans to overcome their inhibitions in fearful times.
February 9, 2017, 9:57pm

In Vermont, USA, it is illegal to be naked in public–unless you were already naked when you left your house. Nakedness as a state is legal; the process of becoming naked, or "public disrobing", is not.

The law caught New Zealand photographer Russ Flatt's attention when he was in Vermont at an artist residency, and he began a new series, photographing locals nude in their environment. The resulting photographs—exhibiting this week as part of New Zealand's Pride Festival—are beautiful, slightly uncanny portraits.

"When I heard about the law after doing some research, it kind of helped anchor itself in something other than pretty pictures," he says. "When I arrived at the residency, one of the directors showing me around made this comment about, you know, nudity is legal here but make sure you leave the house naked. And I thought it was this kind of just passing comment; but after researching it I found it was part of their law."

Russ gathered some of his subjects off Craigslist. Others were artists, writers and poets  he met in the local community.
"There were people I met at the residency - specifically female black poets, actually - who were really fascinated with this brown gay guy from New Zealand, and also the project. They kind of saw it as a way for them to overcome their fears and inhibitions by being part of it.

His subjects didn't take advantage of the laws and wander the streets naked, he told VICE.

"No, they didn't leave the house naked. I guess in saying that we could have been fined - what the law does stipulate is that as long as the public are ok with nudity then it's ok, but if somebody is offended, you have to put your clothes back on."

Russ was in the United States for the election of Trump and the Orlando gay nightclub shootings, and said the environment and rhetoric had a strong impact on the work he eventually created.

"I'm a gay Māori male, and some of my previous series have touched on teenage suicide, specifically within the LGBTQI communities," he says. "I think with what is happening in America right now, and the fact I was there right after the Orlando shootings and during the presidential elections - the conversation is definitely is definitely coming from the work. It really was a direct response to where I was and what was happening within that space."

The exhibition, "Take Me to the River" opens on 10 February for Pride Festival at Tim Melville Gallery

You can view more of Flatt's work here.