Artist Spotlight: Tarzan in New York

Richard Rothstein's project works as both photography and performance piece as it suggests modern-day alienation with wit and wistfulness.

BY Christopher Harrity

January 04 2014 5:00 AM ET

Tell us about your Tarzan model: How did you find him? Was he on board with the concept? Was there anything you both backed away from as too risky or dangerous?
Rob Eco is a professional model, trainer, and competitive bodybuilder. We met through an agent about two years ago but quickly became very close friends. I’ve worked with plenty of models that “aroused” me, but Rob was the first and so far only model to truly inspire me. Rob has some remarkable gifts, beauty aside. He is the most nonjudgmental man I’ve ever had as a close friend, completely accepting of anyone and everything as long as no one is getting hurt. He’s also completely uninhibited and gives me the strength to try anything and everything artistically. I wouldn’t normally mention Rob’s sexual orientation, but it is relevant to your question. Rob is straight. And our friendship and interaction, our conversations about sex and men and women are completely without boundaries and judgment, which for me is incredibly empowering artistically. Most importantly, when I’m with Rob, I find myself not judging myself, and that gives me a new degree of artistic freedom. We haven’t and won’t back away from anything that might seem “too risky or dangerous.” And that includes shooting Tarzan in 5 degrees in a snow-covered Central Park or climbing up the front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  As far as being “on board” with the concept, we both considered that doing Tarzan would be challenging. We were worried about it being silly. We knew we had to jump into it fully committed — and that included a custom-made leather loincloth. It also included walking barefoot in places that would horrify any mother, and always staying in character. When we venture into the city, it’s not Rob, it is Tarzan versus New York City. Rob also gets the city and its dynamic, its energy, born and raised in the Bronx.

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