Naked Bike Ride

The annual Naked Bike Ride through central London is to my mind a rather peculiar event, with some very mixed motives among participants, viewers and certainly photographers.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

I don’t have a particular hangup about nudity, but generally given our English weather I think clothes are a pretty good idea, and given the lack of ozone to cut down the UV, even on those hot days they make sense. It’s certainly more pleasant to wear a shirt than to keep having to smear nasty oily sunblock oils over your body, and melanomas (like Melanie Phillips which Google came up with when I was checking out that word) are certainly best avoided.

But I’m not that worried about ‘decency’, other than not getting arrested for indecent exposure.  After all, around 50% of the population have similar equipment to me and it isn’t something I feel any particular need to flaunt or hide.   Actually the ride reveals some pretty wide differences between people though I don’t find any great interest in this at least so far as the males are concerned. Women are of course different, and I can’t deny that looking at them unclothed has a certain attraction.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

But as an environmental protest, the NBR seems to me rather lacking, not least in that so few of those taking part show any great sign of viewing it in this way. In taking pictures I try hard to find ways in which people are trying to express some particular view – so anyone who paints a slogan or design on their body, or has some kind of placard or flag on the cycle is likely to get their photograph taken by me. But there are not a great many who do.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

The NBR also now suffers from being listed as a tourist attraction on various web sites, resulting this year in a very large crowd of viewers inside Hyde Park where the riders were preparing.  Perhaps this was part of the reason why this year there seemed to be many more clothed riders than on previous occasions that I’ve photographed the event.

Although I think it is clear that there are no privacy issues involved in photographing this event where people have clearly chosen exactly how much of their bodies they want to put in the public sphere, there are pictures that I have taken on this and previous occasions that I have decided not to publish, or at least not on the public pages on the web.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

There are various reasons for this. I have no wish to offend people, and have put a warning message on the links to these pages on my site as well as at the top of each page with pictures from the ride, and tried to chose carefully the images pictures people will see without scrolling down the page.

I also have no wish to attract some people to view my site, although I do want to make it available to a wider audience around the world. There are countries where the images I have used – including those in this post – would be considered illegal.

Shortly after I published the pictures from the first London NBR I photographed I had an e-mail from the director of a large educational project saying they would like to include ‘My London Diary’ in the links from their project – and would I please remove these pictures which made it an unsuitable site!  I replied saying that there were no pictures on my site unsuitable for children.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

However it isn’t coincidence that in many of the pictures I have published in My London Diary of the Naked Bike Ride* are carefully framed or that handlebars, bags, arms etc are rather conveniently placed to hide certain areas.  In some pictures I made these decisions as I was taking them, but more came at the editing stage.  I think it helps to make these images more about the event and less about the personal peculiarities of the participants.

* But there are still pictures that might offend the particularly straight-laced or might cause some embarrasment if you view them in the office, so only click on the link if you want to see photographs of people without their togs on.

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