Former local model bares it all for anti-nuclear cause
By BOB AUDETTE,
Tuesday, April 17
She's bared it all for her art. Now Isabel Vinson is taking her clothes off to draw America's attention to a nuclear power plant, Vermont Yankee in Vernon, which has been operating since 1972 and is up for license renewal.
"There's no need for it anymore," said Vinson, a model and former Brattleboro resident who recently moved to Ware, Mass. She modeled sans clothes on the Hinsdale, N.H., side of the river because it's one way to make people pay attention to the issues related to nuclear power, she said.
"It doesn't matter who is in the picture," said Vinson. "They should just shut down the plant."
Living in Brattleboro for seven years made it impossible for her to ignore the dangers of nuclear energy.
"If anything happens, we're all gone," she said.
Vinson's picture isn't the only one of its type that can be found on the Internet, and much of it is due to the efforts of her photographer, anti-nuclear activist Remy Chevalier, who has started an online photo contest.
Winners will have their work showcased in major fashion, environmental and political magazines, both online and in print, said Chevalier, and a chance to exhibit at the Festival de la Photo de Mode in Cannes. There is only one requirement for the contest -- photographers have to use real nuclear power plants as a backdrop.
Chevalier and Vinson took their pictures from Hinsdale, sneaking around, said Vinson, to keep from getting into trouble with the law.
But they needn't have worried, said a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who said as long as they didn't take pictures of security measures in place at Yankee, they aren't breaking any laws.
"After Sept. 11, there was a lot of sensitivity about nuclear power plants," said Neil Sheehan, referring to the November 2001 arrest of Reformer photographer Jason Henske who was arrested after taking photos of Vermont Yankee. He was quickly released and no charges were filed.
"Since then, the hyper-sensitivity has eased off," said Sheehan. "There are no restrictions on someone taking a photograph using a nuclear power plant as a backdrop."
A spokesman for Entergy, which owns and operates Vermont Yankee, had no comment on the nude photographs.
For one photographer, who described himself as neither pro- nor anti-nuclear, submitting his photo to Chevalier was another way of getting his product out to a wider market.
"I do fashion photography," said Kim Taylor. During a photo shoot using clothing styles reminiscent of the 1940s, Taylor asked his models to stand in front of the Pickering nuclear power plant in Ontario, Canada.
Taylor said he found it interesting that both those for and those against nuclear power might use his photo subjects as "pin-up girls," and in calendars similar to those that hang in repair and machine shops around the country, full of scantily-clad models.
"Doesn't bother me at all," he said.
Chevalier started the photo project about nine months ago, and interest has been building ever since through word of mouth.
If he gets enough submissions -- and why not? There are 103 operating nuclear power plants in the United States -- he hopes to print a calendar or publish a book of the photos.
"Right now we are doing a calendar with electric vehicles," said Chevalier, who admitted he had about a thousand irons in the fire at any given time. But high on his priority list is getting Indian Point nuclear power plant shut down. He lives east of the plant on the Hudson River, in Wilton, Conn.
The intent, he said, of taking pictures of models at nuclear power plants "is to draw attention to these issues."
"People did not know about nuclear power are paying attention because of a pretty girl from Brattleboro," he said. "Never underestimate the power of a model."
Chevalier has also taken pictures of a model with Indian Point in the background.
"Remy has always felt the fashion community ought to become more conscious about their ability to contribute to this discussion," said Larry Bloch of Brattleboro, a long-time friend of Chevalier's.
Though protesting nuclear power is serious business, said Bloch, "there's no incompatibility between fun and activism." If seeing a nude model posing in front of nuclear power plant gets people talking, he said, then it's all for the good.
"There's a lack of education on a very serious subject," he said.
"That's really charming," said Deb Katz, of the anti-nuclear group Citizen Awareness Network. "I appreciate whatever actions that get people involved."
While she felt some might be offended by the picture of a nude woman in front of Yankee, she agreed with Bloch that poking fun at their subject, and even themselves, is important for anti-nuclear activists.
"Hijinks are just as important as legal action," she said. "It's going to take different things to wake people up to the fact that we have to close the plant."
For more photos from the project go to: