I wasn’t having a good day, and photographing the London World Naked Bike Ride turned out not to be a very pleasant experience either. Not because of the majority of the riders, but because of the unpleasantness of just of few people concerned. There has always been a small minority of those involved with the event who have had some very odd attitudes to photography – and today I met several of them.
I’ve photographed the naked ride through London most years since I first became aware of it in 2006, and still find it a rather curious affair, something between a protest and a bit of fun, attracting some strange characters both among those taking part and those watching.
If you decide to take off your clothing and ride a bicycle through the tourist-packed streets of London, you obviously expect people to notice you, to look at you and nowadays when everyone has a camera of sorts that means most of them will photograph you. There wouldn’t be much point in it as a way to protest unless this was the case. So for some people associated with the ride to harass and insult photographers seems rather odd.
There seemed to be rather more of this going on at Marble Arch than I’ve experienced in previous years, though I had no problems with the riders I photographed. But even before the event started, I’d photographed one of the event stewards having some kind of fight with a largish group of young people who independently had picked the same location for an Internet meet-up. Then there was a truly weird character walking around with a video camera standing in front of photographers and recording them.
With hundreds of people all trying to take pictures it does get difficult to work sensibly. At the start a man standing next to me kept easing his way in front of me and holding his phone camera out in front of my lens, while other people simply squeezed in front holding up their phones.
There did seem to be rather more problems this year, perhaps because rather than a single starting point the riders were split between five, and there was less organisation than in previous years. Marble Arch was probably not a great choice, with so many tourists around, and while starting through the centre arch was a nice idea, it wasn’t too practical because it was too narrow and led into an area of heavy traffic. What really should have been a mass start took more like 45 minutes.
I took the tube to Westminster to photograph the ride as it came past the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge. The first large group of riders stopped there for a few minutes, mainly I think to take photographs of each other, and seemed happy for me to take some too. At one point I did get a slight shock when I found the Eiffel Tower appearing in the viewfinder.
But I blinked and it really was London after all.
I wasn’t particularly happy with the pictures I took this year – I think I’ve done rather better in previous years.
There are still some problems with publishing nudity, and perhaps this year I spent a little too long trying to get saddles and handlebars into suitable positions to make the images more widely publishable. And although it would be hard to take pictures that anyone sensible might object to, I still felt it a good idea to put a warning on the web pages that have the pictures. The pages load with the title and a large amount of white space with the line of text:
All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated are by Peter Marshall and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.