On a cooler October afternoon, five others and myself made our acquaintances while wearing naught but our birthday suits and (eventually) a thick coating of (we hoped) non-toxic paint. The primary reason behind all of us gathering in this exceptionally vulnerable state? We all wanted to be part of something bold, something off the beaten path, and something we all thought might contribute to a greater self esteem and appreciation for our differences. That "something" was "The Human Spectrum."
What precisely is “The Human Spectrum” you might wonder? To put it concisely, the project is an artistic endeavor conceived by South-Florida based photographer Aaron Ansarov during which total strangers willingly (albeit not without some anxiety) eject themselves from their clothing, allow themselves to receive a generously colorful coating of tempera paint, and, last but not least, to be photographed while being posed while water sprays from behind. Yeah, that’s “The Human Spectrum” in a nutshell. However, Aaron’s mission is something far more whimsical and beneficent.
“When everyone is covered in vibrant colors, we can all be the same. The water represents commercial society’s need to wash this color away in order to catalog us again.”
This brief snippet from “The Human Spectrum” webpage indicates that Aaron’s purpose behind the project isn’t strictly about art, although the art is an important component. Following Aaron’s cross country gallivanting in pursuit of adding to the Spectrum, many of the photos will find their way in a gallery, but you also receive a high quality print of the photo you find most awesome.
Want to see my favorite shot Aaron captured of me? Of course you do! In fact, I'm in all of the photos featured, and my female companion is a new friend with whom I posed several times over.
Rather than the material photograph, the project’s most significant reward comes by way of the cathartic experience Aaron provokes, a prompting that focuses our internal lenses onto self esteem deficiencies that plague us. This reflecting pushes us to consider why we feel the way we do, to itemize the factors compelling us to feel this way, and it encourages us to see ourselves as the unique and special little snowflakes that we all are.
Getting naked was the easy part. Not to suggest my own innards weren’t doing cartwheels, and I even questioned my sanity a few times. No, naked was easy, in hindsight. Difficult was remaining silent and keeping my eyes closed for nearly 20 minutes as I was led to prevent the paint from getting into my eyes and mouth. The challenge was trusting others while I was led, positioned, photographed, posed with another person, and photographed some more, all the while remaining silent and not being able to communicate for fear of tasting the paint.
Tasting the paint was unavoidable, I suppose. Also, for days afterwards I sneezed vibrantly chromatic snot and removed equally colorful earwax with Q-tips. Surprised me that I didn’t expel colorful clouds of paint through regular body processes.
Memories surfacing, I remember encountering two participants just outside the privacy tent (where the artsy magic happens). One of the women offered wine to embolden us with liquid courage. The other immediately launched into tattoo complimenting as my clothing came off, and – in the excitement of tattoo discussion – I neglected to wrap up with my towel. In fact, the only time I felt self-conscious at being naked in front of others was in the immediate timeframe before I was actually naked in front of anyone.
Asked what inspired me to be part of “The Human Spectrum,” my response was something along the lines of “to be part of an adventure,” my voice no doubt adopting my best Bilbo Baggins impression. Adventure and body positivity advocacy were my most concise reasons for joining up. Others’ responses ranged from wanting to love their bodies and others interested in a new avenue of artistic expression. In one friend’s case, she didn’t originally know what she was getting into until the drive there: “my friend signed us up, and I trust her.”
Something that still resonates occurred after the event. Inviting us to his hotel for drinks, and to view the photos on a larger screen than his camera provides, Aaron interviewed each of us, encouraging us to share our motivations for participating as well as requesting to hear our stories of how we’ve been made to feel inferior. Stories were shared. Tears were shed. Words of comfort were provided via our host. Perspectives were changed.
Speaking very personally, for days following the event, I felt privileged to have witnessed so many beautiful people spill their emotions and reveal weaknesses. I felt the fly on the wall, an observer to someone’s private catharsis. I was an invited interloper, and were it not for embraces from everyone, as well as ongoing conversations from our group, I’d have believed that I didn’t belong. But I was there, and they’re emotions became mine. Even now, memories of the rawness of the event provoke the growth of a big lump in my throat.
Final thoughts? I loved it. I loved meeting such lovely people. If Aaron and “the Human Spectrum” come ‘round these parts again, I’d sign up with not even the slightest bit of trepidation. The sensory stimuli bombarding a covered, yet still naked, body was incredible. Not feeling any sense of shame or worry was a pleasant turn of events for someone who usually avoids mirrors. Making the acquaintances of such charming people was beyond exquisite. Ultimately, the good vibe I have from the entire experience bordered on that of a spiritual awakening.
Would I do it again? Resoundingly, emphatically and with gusto, yes! The real question isn’t “would” I do it again, but “when will” I do it again. Aaron is already plotting his 2017 “The Human Spectrum” tour, so I merely await word of any Michigan stops along his journey.
Do you want to know more? Just visit “The Human Spectrum” on Facebook, or search for it, along with the name Aaron Ansarov, via Google and decide if Aaron’s project is something in which you’re interested.