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Photographer creates naked salute to Artscape

It may not be part of Artscape, but it's still art, says Joe Giordano, who spent Friday morning hanging 12-foot-tall provocative photographs of nude and clothed models from buildings along North Avenue.

"I doubt that Baltimore has ever seen pictures displayed this big," said Giordano, who started his morning hanging two photographs from the roof of the Load of Fun studio at 120 W. North Ave.

Giordano said he wanted to get in the spirit of Artscape, which will be going on all weekend just south of where his photographs were being hung. The portraits, he explained, are done in the style of and as a tribute to German avant-garde fashion photographer Helmut Newton, who unveiled his own "Big Nudes" series of photographs in 1982, the same year as the first Artscape.

"I wanted to do something colossal to celebrate the anniversary," Giordano said as he prepared to hang a third photograph, from the clock tower on a building at the corner of North Avenue and Howard Street.

Artscape officials, he said, turned down his request to be part of the free arts festival. "They said it was a bit too controversial for a family-friendly art event." Undaunted, he got permission from several building owners along North Avenue to display the photographs there.

The photos were shot in his studio space at Load of Fun about two weeks ago, he said. Five local models — Miriam Ault, Emily Wyatt, Jen Tydings, Danielle Robinette and Erin Nelson — posed for him. The plan, Giordano said, is to keep the portraits hanging at least through Friday. He fears they could get damaged if they stay up longer and remain at the mercy of the elements, and he hopes to auction them off eventually.

While no one hassled him while the first couple of banners were going up, Giordano said he was unsure of what the reaction would be to his photographs. For one thing, he admitted, the visual impact was proving less than he had hoped. Twelve-foot-tall photographs that dominate an indoor studio don't look nearly as imposing when hung from a building, he admitted.

"They look huge in the studio," Giordano said, "but when they're out on the building, the building just devours them."

Still, Giordano said, he was proud of his work and remained confident that it would be noticed. And while he wasn't looking to get anyone, including himself, in trouble, he wouldn't mind if the photos ruffled a few feathers.

"If hanging nude photographs from buildings isn't guerrilla enough for a photographer," he said, "I don't know what is."

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

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