Talk about candid camera.
Photographer Zach Hyman has made a name for himself snapping shots of naked New Yorkers (all volunteers) from Times Square to Chinatown for his portrait series -- and his new exhibit opens today.
Straphangers got a free peep show in June when a young woman disrobed on an L train and posed for the camera -- a performance that likely had some passengers in a state of disbelief.
But before they could take a good look, the show was over.
Hyman gives himself just 30 seconds to take 10 shots of nude models with his Hasselblad 500 C/M film camera and conducts his shoots in all natural light.
The 22-year-old photographer said he usually has an easier time taking pictures of naked women in public than he does naked men -- the women tend to get warmer receptions.
"I chose this motif because I wanted to feel the excitement of a crowd witnessing a naked body and to dissemble the thought that nudity equates to sex," Hyman said. "But more because it excites me as an artist."
It can be difficult to find participants, however. Hyman says he hopes to be able to pay his subjects one day, noting they're currently all volunteers. He said that of about 30 potential nude models, only 11 came through.
Hyman's photo shoots require more precautions than most, however. Wary of arrest, he keeps bail money handy, takes along a lookout for police and keeps his lawyer on speed dial. Fortunately, he's never had to use the bail money.
His last shoot in Times Square was particularly risky, though.
"I was wholly prepared to be arrested, but somehow managed to walk away with the image and no cuffs," Hyman said.
Hyman says he's inspired by Helmut Newton, David LaChapelle, and Guy Bourdin and a series of nude paintings at the Met. Like those images, he insists his photos aren't pornographic.
People's private parts, he says, are "one of the unifying aspects of being human.''
The northern California-born photographer grew up with aspirations of becoming an astronaut, which he says caused him to have a pretty wild imagination. And New York City has enabled this young photographer to burst into his own cosmos.
An exhibit of 14 of his images -- "Decent Exposures" -- opens today at Chair and Maiden Gallery in Manhattan. Its his latest collection of images celebrating nudity in all of its modalities -- from the sexual to the comical, from the isolation of the country straight into the public eye of New York City.
"We all have an inherent desire to oppose and comment on societal norms and trends, to break barriers, to seek excitement and joy, to create something new and original," Hyman said. "All of these feelings have been the catalysts for my photography and art."
Get more information on Hyman's Web site.