An advertisement for a trip to Yellowstone National Park

Spencer Tunick, an American photographer who believes lots of naked people in unexpected surroundings makes for high art, held a mass photo shoot at the Dead Sea September 17. More than 1,000 Israelis stripped down for a floating photo during the two-hour shoot, according to Discovery News and the Washington Post (which has pictures).

Knowing the Orthodox would complain, Tunick — who grew up in a Hassidic Jewish community in New York —  scheduled the shoot for Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, when strictly observant Jews shouldn’t be out and about anyway.

Of course, anyone who’s been to any of the Dead Sea spas knows that an overabundance of flesh is a common sight. The spas are particularly popular with Russians and Eastern Europeans, many of whom favor tiny Speedos, without regard to body size or shape. Resort-goers like to cover themselves with greenish-black mud from the shallows, then wash it off at outdoor showers where they sometimes strip down and change clothes, too.

Tunick’s purpose in picturing “The Naked Sea,” as he entitled the project, is to raise awareness that the Dead Sea, one of the world’s natural wonders, is disappearing at an alarming rate, something I’ve talked about here before. With Israel, Jordan, and Syria tapping the Jordan River for irrigation, very little now reaches the Dead Sea, and the water level is dropping by more than three feet per year.

If some sort of corrective action isn’t taken soon, the Dead Sea will become a small relic of its former self, and that’s the sad but naked truth.

 

[The photo above was taken on the northern edge of the Dead Sea in 2009: in 2011, the water level had dropped more than six feet, leaving the pier high, dry, and blocked off to visitors.]

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