ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - For most, standing naked facing the North Atlantic in the middle of December would be cruel and unusual punishment.
But for about 50 brave Newfoundlanders, baring it all for the cameras along the St. John's waterfront at the crack of dawn Saturday was an opportunity they couldn't resist.
"It's such a strange and interesting event," said 20-year-old Beth Fagan, an English student at Memorial University.
"How many times do you get to be naked in public in St. John's and not get arrested or molested?"
The unusual photo shoot, arranged by actor-director Mary Walsh, was intended to show people in their natural form without the riches and luxuries that separate them.
Walsh did not appear in the buff, but she said there was "a certain egalitarianism to us all being together."
"It's sort of like the Garden of Eden, but colder than I think it was in the Garden of Eden," said the Newfoundland comic, laughing.
The volunteers, from different walks of life, were arranged by height and stood with their derrieres cheek to cheek facing Signal Hill as the sun rose over the Narrows.
The temperature at the time was about -10 C, with the wind chill making it feel like -15 C. They wore boots, some wore toques - but little else.
"Halfway through I really started shivering almost uncontrollably for a few seconds," said Mike Flaherty, a 29-year-old artist.
"I really had to concentrate and just think, 'Don't shiver too much."'
The fierce winds and sub-zero temperatures that accompanied them didn't bother Chrissy Vincent, 24.
"(It was) not as cold as I thought it would be," said Vincent, who's pursuing a master's degree in psychology at Memorial University.
"It was a little chilly but liberating."
Bill Coultas said he couldn't miss the opportunity to take part in the wacky event.
"When Mary gets something on the go, you just like to be a part of it," the 60-year-old said.
But before the event, Walsh said she drew the ire of some residents.
"There was an enormous amount of hurdles to jump in order to do it, which was strange, because you'd think you can just dart down here, strip your clothes off and take a picture, but you can't," she said.
"People went, 'What are they doing? You can't do that.' It's against the law to be naked in Newfoundland apparently."
Walsh said she was inspired by the work of Spencer Tunick, a New York photographer who's famous for arranging large-scale pictures of people naked in public settings around the world.
She is planning to arrange similar photo shoots across the country, including stops in Vancouver, Calgary, Iqaluit, Nunavut and Toronto's Bay Street.
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