Fucking New-York

By - Meredith Adelaide

New York, to me, is insane, frustrating, beautiful, incredible, powerful, undeniable, sexy, disgusting. It’s where I wanted to live to soak up new energy and get my ass kicked. It’s everything BUT my West Coast passive upbringing. So, for me to physically have had an opportunity to fuck the shit out of it (allowing it into my personal and private head space via my body) while at the same time gaining artistic content within a book, of course, of COURSE I was going to make sure it happened.

It’s only once that I’ve emailed someone to offer my nude body to be photographed in public. What a terrifying thing to think about, I thought. What a crazy thing to do, I said to myself.

Shooting nude, even in the most private of places, is an incredibly personal experience for me, and those who have had access to this privilege are those who I have carefully curated over the course of my career. But here I was, June 14th 2016, emailing Nikola Tamindzic as quickly as I could, supporting his Kickstarter campaign with money I couldn’t really justify spending, throwing my bare naked 28 year-old body to the mercy of my New York experience. All for some photos.

I found his project through Instagram. The photos, to me, are undeniable. It’s the harsh reflections from the sun, the fact that these women were powerfully showcasing themselves on the open streets, the compositions, and the presentation of the project as a whole that blew me away. Every little detail. It’s not often I’m affected by someone’s work. I immediately donated to the book and followed up with an email to Nikola.

“Hey dude,

Yeah. I don’t have $ to spend on anything extra but I couldn’t not get the book. It’s so pertinent to my experience in life right now which is why I also wish to take part. Like, I know how I approached NY and I know how we [the city and I] fucked each other and I know how I wanna be presented (and have it be up for interpretation as well). If I don’t shoot with you I’m going to shoot my own interpretation and send it your way.”

We make plans to meet over coffee. I get to the café of his choice and unknowingly sit beneath a massive photograph of his. The owner shakes my hand. I’m in this guy’s turf and I realise I’m not even certain what I’m getting myself into. Nikola appears.

There is a surprising and refreshing lack of power on his part, a pointed effort in making sure that the women he’s photographing are not performing for the “male gaze.” I’ve never heard that come from a heterosexual male photographer’s mouth before, ever, in my years of creating. He told me how he wouldn’t shoot if the subject was posing, how he’d lead them toward getting what they wanted instead of trying to look the best they could. It’s why he didn’t shoot with “models.” So, pair that intention with the busiest location in the US and the harshest light and dirtiest streets, basically everything that scares me…

Then pair all THAT with my personal intentions of saying a final good-fucking-see-you-later to New York, the insane place where I had found myself repeating my old patterns in new spaces with new faces and going through such insane growing pains that I eventually came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to live anywhere for the next I-don’t-know-how-long. That’s where I’m at now. That’s to expand on another time.

Anyway.

The book launches January 21st, 2017. A poignant date for myself as an American. I don’t think he meant for that timing.

So, without the possibility of sharing any photographs yet, I took self-portrait polaroids upon returning home from the shoot. After the applause, after the cops, after embedding city grime, after showing parts of my body to both a camera and complete strangers, after burning my back, after I started spitting, as a hurrah to New York City, for being here two years, for getting what I came for, for asking for it…

Below are excerpts from my public journal, from Instagram @meredithadelaide.

A self portrait from today, still completely covered in dirt and street grime from lower Manhattan city streets. I smelled like summer here, but a new york summer, like sweat and garbage — my bare skin burning from rubbing on concrete and heated metal — exhausted and nude and completely thrilled. I shot through the last of this impossible project film, caught in development before turning to what it would be.

The dirt/pavement/grime on my palm in this self portrait was the same thickness over my entire back and legs. Taking a shower revealed all my burns and scrapes. I still have dirt embedded.

The cops came during our shoot. It was really fascinating to me — they pulled up silently, got out of their car and firmly and loudly asked “IS SHE ALRIGHT?” Not “what’s going on here,” not “sir, what are you doing?” I had just found a sweet spot of movement and pose along the edge of a curb, my body in the street behind a parked van.We had to hurry out, of course. Barely slept and my body aches so bad right now!

My wrists were bleeding from pounding chunks of broken concrete on white and Broadway. I had been on my knees between parked cars, flipping my hair and punching the ground. After I stood up, a line of construction workers on lunch across the street began to applaud.

We shot for four more house after that, then it was a half hour to get home. Then I took these polaroids for myself to remember. The milky film hides the grunge in its fully developed state, but maybe you can see it in my eyes.

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