A theme I entertain often or, visit, is self identity. Its a universal process we all struggle with. Some on a regular basis, some more than others. Each individuals experience with the journey(s) varies to a wide degree. I have personally seen the process make and break lives. This varied, unpredictable nature is what draws me to this complex subject.
My own adventure through discovering myself is one I choose to believe is constantly evolving. I find a quote from Chuck Palahniuks “Invisible Monsters” to describe it best, ” We have to keep constantly recycling ourselves. ” Every new bout with self identity requires you to take yourself apart. Rebuild from the rubble, being sure to keep the things you learned from the previous identity. Thus recycling in full circle.
This sometimes vicious circle can force you to touch base with a range of emotions. I am a emotionally charged and motivated person. So taking these little journeys is something I enjoy. Coming out the other end wearing a different skin is the main draw for me.
Now I don’t want confusion that this is a physical change every time. It can lead to that and has before but this is a core change I’m talking about. Yet it tends to almost always manifest itself in some degree in the physical. Right in this realm is where I get to play with the idea of self identity.
I have never attempted to explore this idea with anyone other than myself. I find this to be the most appropriate. It is SELF identity after all. not self identity through the eyes of another….that’s a whole different beast. I have found every attempt at exploring this idea with my camera and myself to be a bit medicinal. I experience the same feeling as when you put yourself into any form of self expression, a sense of relief and pride.
Not by accident, I dive into these projects when I need them. We all have our devices to help achieve clarity. Art is mine. Photography in particular.
A common occurrence in these photos is distortion of the face. Be it mask, stocking, digital effect etc. The reason for this is that the face is the main tool of physical expression we have. Its also the main difference we all have from one another. Our faces are a pivotal part in creating our identity physically to others as well as ourselves. I distort this important piece to help portray the inner struggle becoming outward. To help convey that metamorphosis from one identity to the next.
I have taken multiple sets expressing these same steps of change throughout my life. I even have paintings showing the same ideas. From previously before I discovered photography. I use them as a illustrated diary. I can look back at them all and remember the who’s, what’s ,where’s, when’s and how’s . They are very personal projects to me for obvious reasons.
I wont climb any further into specifics of what they mean to me. I allow any of the questions you may have further regarding these to be answered by you. They are for your eyes to feast upon and mind to stir about. There must always be room for the viewers personal interpretation. I’ll provide the visual, if you’ll provide the emotional.
I hope you enjoy this batch of photos as much as I do.
Tomorrow, Friday the 13th not only brings us shenanigans hoopla and strange happenings. It also brings us the hip shaking, foot stomping release from Juana Ghani. Tomorrow “Shall We Live Forever” will be available to hold in your hands. I consider this a perfect opportunity to shine the light on a group of wonderful people and musicians.
I have had multiple opportunities to point my camera in their direction in a live setting. Live music is one of the most exhilarating things for me to shoot. To be able to capture an entertainer or group of entertainers doing what they love is a great honor. The energy I get to feed off of from a mixture of the performers and the crowd alike is my favorite aspect. You get a certain brand of adrenaline running around trying to fit all this life into a single frame. Not only is it a great challenge to freeze moments, but lighting can also be a challenge. Both of which I wouldn’t have any other way. It makes uploading that batch of photos much more fulfilling. Nothing matches the personal satisfaction of having felt the energy of the show. Then looking at a photo you took that has successfully frozen all that into a moment that can be looked at forever.
That being said. I have honestly never shot in a more powerfully potent environment then that of a Juana Ghani concert. They make my job have a certain amount of ease to it. 13 band members can help that fact. Always presenting some sort of animation to point the camera at. That number also helps contribute to the energy level being projected into the audience. Which is really what makes my job easy, the intensity. I get lost in a unique state . All that get-up-and-go being projected allows me to share the same vigor.
If you have never had the opportunity or for some reason have not been able to make it to see Juana Ghani, do it! You CAN NOT substitute the experience with that of another concert. There is loads of zip, zeal, zest and zing bursting from the venue!
Any Juana Ghani show offers a great bang for your buck but Fridays show at Bar Deluxe offers much more than your average serving of Juana. A magically talented group of dancers and belly dancers alike can usually be seen when attending. However this show is in cooperation with The Underground G.y.p.s.y Cabaret, as has become tradition for every Friday the 13th. The UGC has your usual beautiful belly dancers that are joined by other dancers performing different unique variations of dance, a magician, sword swallowing, and more madness! Its as if a band of gypsies have parked their wagon just outside and your lucky enough to be invited to join them.
That last sentence is important because that is the environment they build for you. Its not like your going to a venue, handing a doorman your money, standing shoulder to shoulder, room full of strangers, enjoying the music. No. Its as if you’ve been transported to a entirely different space. Surrounded by hundreds of friends and family. Singing, dancing, whooping and hollering together. Almost as if you’re all off in a distant space around a bon fire, collectively. There is a strong sense of family and unity that can be found in the air. Which when breathed in gives all in attendance a sense of belonging.
I am so appreciative and thankful for a group of musicians and performers who not just aspire to create such an experience but excel in delivering it. All of their individual efforts being put forth is an amazing gift they are offering to anyone. The time they put into organizing, rehearsing and entertaining us is greatly appreciated. Its all available to us for a small price as well. I believe tickets for tomorrow’s cabaret are $7. Do the math and you’ll soon come to the conclusion, its not for the money, its the love of it.
There is many paragraphs more I could fill with praise and admiration for this wonderful family of musicians but there are many future opportunities to do so. You can depend on me taking advantage of those as well.
Below are links to Juana Ghani’s FB page, Underground G.y.p.s.y Cabarets FB page, a direct link to purchase the “Shall We Live Forever” Album as well as Band Co-founder/singer/guitarist Brian Bonells book “Kasojeni Bay”
Redrum Pikchures Live Music Photos (There are 4 albums total full of Live music photos, please browse)
One last thing to ponder . Do you Juana Ghani?
Its been awhile since I last posted in the Old Saw. My apologies for the gap in posts. Its been a chaotic couple of months since I last posted.
Anyway, I’m back and the set of photos I have today is one of my favorite I have had the opportunity to do.
They are based on the novel “Invisible Monsters” by Chuck Palahniuk. Specifically the main character of this particular novel of his. Before we get into it Id like to take some time to tell a little about the author, Chuck Palahniuk.
Weather you are familiar or not with him and his work, allow me to indulge. Most have come upon his most famous writing, “Fight Club”. Yes, yes the fantastically gritty story of a middle aged man going through a bit of a mid life crisis. Adapted to film starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. On a personal note, if you have seen the movie I recommend still picking up the book and reading it. The way Palahniuk uses words and weaves sentences together is something you cant get from watching. You have to read it.
The first thing I was drawn to upon reading my first Palahniuk novel was his talent with words. I know sounds silly, “of course he has a way with words, he is a writer”. His talent is different though. He has the ability to make one sentence just dance in front of your eyes or sink down your throat and sit in your gut. My personal copies of his novels are riddled with highlighted and underlined sentences. one liners, if you will. I cant begin to count how many of those sentences fill my mind with visuals instantly. It creates an urge in me to get these visualizations out into some sort of physical, tangible sense.
If his magic with word tangling doesn’t grasp your attention maybe his characters will. Palahniuk creates and has created the most unique and original cast of characters I have ever had the pleasure of discovering. I am under the belief that ANY character from his novels could be plucked out of their stories and be made into a feature length film by themselves alone. Regardless of the supporting cast. The people he chooses to spotlight are commonly perverse in some manner with a very natural real human appeal to them. Often living in slightly tweaked worlds based in strong reality. Some may find his brash sometimes crass subjects and opinions to be hard to swallow. personally I find the blunt, at times vulgar subject matter to be refreshing and appealing.
Palahniuk Does not apologize for the worlds and characters he creates. He allows them to live and breathe in a space free of boundaries within the pages he writes. This attitude is what I find refreshing about his work. Some areas of life are seedy and gritty. As a society we tend to put those things into a corner and obstruct our view of it. When there is beauty in some aspects of the dark spots. I think they should be exploited more often. Placed in front of our eyes more frequently. Let our eyes drink it up and our tongues will follow. Allowing discussion and ultimately finding beauty in the ugly.
To pull it back around to the photo set being presented. The novel “Invisible Monsters” was my first exposure to Chuck Palahniuk. Given to me as a gift I soon became engulfed in the pages rather quickly. I completed it in little time and my hunger for his writing hasn’t stopped since.
“Invisible Monsters” is in the words and point of view of a former model who has recently lost her jaw. yes, her jaw. Shot off from a gun blast , she is missing her entire lower jaw. Below her upper lip is nothing, just her tongue which hangs freely. The story follows her life post jaw incident with her two friends Princess Brandy Alexander and Alfa Romeo. Both of whom have multiple aliases throughout the book, as well as our main character. Who I will refer to as Daisy St. Patience seeing as this is my favorite of her personas she takes throughout.
Brandy Alexander is the dominate of the group with Alfa acting as her personal assistant and Daisy playing a similar role. It is clear early on that Daisy is in awe of Brandy Alexander. Idolizing her and her beauty. Alfa has a similar attitude towards Brandy. He kisses the ground she walks on. Without diving into plot too much the story mainly follows these three as they travel around finding large houses for sale. They approach each house and Brandy acts as the potential buyer. She gives the impression she’s a celebrity of sorts while Daisy and Alfa act as her personal assistants. Alfa will distract the real estate agents as Brandy and Daisy
raid the rich home owners medicine cabinets. Taking whatever drugs they can find. Brandy reads the names off the bottles as Daisy tells her what they are taken for.
The story covers a wide range of topics from fashion industry, the effect of television, homosexuality, the effects of self perception, drug addiction, feltching, etc. Overall creating an addicting read.
I would love to one day visit creating my vision of each three main characters some day but until then I have visited Daisy St. Patience in this set. The model is my dear friend Allison Martin. Taking just a glance over my range of work would show you we have worked together numerous times. She’s a wonderful person to create with and makes my job as easy as possible. Allison was the one who gave me “Invisible Monsters” so it seemed even more natural to create this vision together.
Because Daisy is missing her jaw she often hides her face as best as possible. Using large sun hats and wrapped tulle to hide her face. Being a model up until this incident she is clearly self conscious and uncomfortable with her new appearance. With that in mind I wanted to create a situation where Daisy, post accident, would have felt comfortable revisiting her modeling roots. I imagine Brandy would have been the one to do the convincing. Building up Daisy until she agreed to it. With certain concealers still in place of course.
I imagine the three of them visiting a mansion for sale just as they would have before. Brandy Having a short, intellectual conversation with Daisy while driving. All about how Daisy needs to find her beauty again, to give a big fuck you to a missing jaw. In typical Brandy fashion minimizing the impact of Daisys
situation. Daisy as usual is impacted by Brandy’s words. They arrive at the house and begin with their routine. Upon reaching the home owners bedroom Brandy notices a camera and convinces , on the verge of demanding, Daisy to let her take pictures. For Daisy to own her condition. All of this while Alfa asks menial questions to the real estate agent , having nonsense conversation until Brandy gets her fix.
These photos are what Brandy would have taken of Daisy.
A down and out woman realizing her beauty again. However fleeting the moment may or may not have been. Daisy being a former model goes through the struggle of finding new identity. She was a model, that was her identity in her mind. I like to believe in this purposed scenario through these photos that she got the opportunity to feel whole again. She got to reclaim her identity in order to continue on the path of creating a new one.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you have never read “Invisible Monsters” , I think its clear I strongly recommend it. If you like what I do with a camera, you clearly like things a bit different. Thats why if this is the case you will love “Invisible Monsters”. Then go read the rest of Chuck Palahniuk’s novels. I promise this Character of his is far from the last I will visit in photography.