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On Saturday, April 11th, 2015, Coldstream Fine Art – a new player on Toronto’s art gallery scene – opened its doors to the public with its first exhibition.

To launch the gallery, owner Kariv Oretsky turned to New York-based photographer, Reka Nyari, with her bold new series “Nude York.”

The stunning black and white photographs capture the figures of nude female figures against the New York City skyline.

We caught up with Reka Nyari to hear more about it.

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Reka Nyari

Reka Nyari

What was your inspiration behind “Nude York?”
I actually was working on a series with a magazine about New York City and the way that a lot of rooftops in the city have become more organic. I was going around researching and looking at these amazing rooftops, and imagining so many great shooting locations in the process. I was working on this other project at the same time – one of my biggest passions is to shoot nudes. When you’re on top of these roofs, you see all these windows, but you don’t see any faces; you look out and it’s just these sheets of metal and glass. It also has that element that you look down, but nobody’s looking up. It’s this empty, urban jungle. It can be inspiring, but also very lonely in a way – very metallic and urban. I thought I would shoot beautiful skin, and soft, organic forms against that whole jagged edge of a city. It’s not about the body or the form, but what’s going on within that person, and their relationship to the city.

How long did the project take?
I shot this for about six months, using 15-20 people in all different locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan. It’s an ongoing project – I would actually like to do a book on it. This is the first show of the series, and I am showing in New York in September as well. I chose my ten favourite shots that I thought showed a range of things.

What were you looking for when you cast the models?
When you’re doing something like this, you’re shooting outside and you’re shooting at really difficult times in the day. The conditions aren’t ideal and it’s cold, so you want to work with people who are used to it, and who are passionate about the project. You don’t want to work with someone who isn’t comfortable. I actually have a working relationship with most of the girls that I shot. They respect my works and were on board with doing this guerilla-style. We actually broke into some of the buildings.

How did that work?
You check out the situation beforehand – it’s basically just the model and I, so there isn’t a big crew or anything. We see if there’s a doorman, how we can get to the top floor, and whether it’s locked. Sometimes you have to climb stairs. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. We originally had planned to shoot and my friend’s place because he had a great rooftop. But within a week, they had installed a padlock, so we couldn’t get in. We decided to go and find another roof, and tried 20 different buildings before we found another that worked. With a lot of old New York buildings, the roofs don’t have a safety rail, so that’s why they don’t let you up there.

Did you ever run into any trouble?
No, because most of the time, the people below didn’t even look up. There are all these people walking down on the street, and it’s sunset on Wall Street. But it’s so funny because nobody’s looking up. In some places, we’d have construction workers working on some of the roofs, and they’d be staring. They wouldn’t leave; they’d just set up a spot after work, crack some beers and watch.

What’s your relationship with Coldstream?
I’ve known Kariv for a few years, actually through a Burning Man connection. He’s been a fan of my work, and when he opened up the gallery, he asked if I’d like to do a show, and I thought, ‘amazing, I’ve never done a show in Toronto.’

How many prints are you producing in this series?
I am doing some smaller prints, but even with the smallest size I am only doing an edition of eight. The medium we’re doing five, and the large, three. We’re keeping them really exclusive. We’ve actually already had a few sales.

Living in New York as an artist is tough. What do you think you’ve done in your career to set yourself apart?
I love to shoot women – and I love to shoot edgy and erotic photos at times. But there’s not that many women doing this kind of work. I shoot with so many models, and a lot of the time they tell me that I’m the only photographer they’ll shoot nudes with. Most of the people interested in shooting women are sensual, not fashion-focused, and are guys. I used to be a model and I feel like, when I’m shooting a woman, I’m not shooting an object, but building a trust relationship. I actually let
them be part of the process in creating the art. It’s not me telling them what to do; we’re on the journey together. They’re really an important part in creating the piece.

What’s next for you?
I have a show in Hong Kong, and then I’m going to focus on a whole bunch of different projects I’ve started. I have a book that came out in 2011 and sold out within the first year, so it’s now a collectors’ piece. Now, I’m actually working on a few more book projects; I would love to do a sequel to this. I’m also working on another book project that I was in India for, which has been a massive undertaking.

I’m shooting the Kama Sutra from a modern woman’s perspective. Everybody thinks it’s a book on sex positions, but it’s actually a really small part compared to the overall message of the book, which is a guide to having an all-around sensual and fulfilling life with all your senses. This means relationships, the way you view your body, food, your environment, friendships, everything. It’s kind of a visual feast for the senses. I’m using models from all around the world of all ages. I’m kind of making a visual journey inspired by one of the oldest books on love.

When do you expect the book to come out?
I’m going to do a Kickstarter and take it from there. But the plan is to have it out by Christmas.

Have you done a crowd funding campaign before?
No, I have never done anything like a Kickstarter before. I know a lot of books have been really successful. With the successful books I’ve seen, a lot of them have done a lot of their work beforehand. You want to show them what they’re getting. I’m hoping that I can approach some publishers, to see if I can get somebody good on board. A lot of time, though, you can lose a lot of creative input when you have others on board. If it’s going to be a smaller publisher that’s not going to give me much control, then I might want to self-publish.

Finally, what lasting message do you hope to convey in this series?
There’s a movement in the US and around the world of woman really owning their bodies and choosing to be naked or not – whether that means breastfeeding their baby in a park or showing your boobs to be sexy. But showing your boobs or being naked isn’t necessarily sexual. Your body as a woman isn’t necessarily used to sell sex, or for men or anyone else to decide how you want to be viewed. I think it’s a great thing as women to own your body and sexuality. It’s in line with the whole ‘free the nipple’ movement too; it’s pretty empowering.

The exhibition runs at Coldstream Fine Art until May 2nd, 2015.

Photo courtesy of Coldstream Fine Art and Reka Nyari

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