Mar 8, 2011

L.E.S. Artistes

pleather shorts/boyfriend blazer, Forever 21.  black tank, Express.  watch, Target. 

Photography by Benny Pinto

It was a cold cold night, way back in, I dunno January or something.  I parked my ridiculously unnecessary SUV on one of the garbage bag infested side streets downtown.  I think it was beside a Crazy Mocha, but who knows, those things are to Pittsburgh what Starbucks is to Manhattan anymore, could’ve been on any street.  Dialed up Benny and proceeded to walk, wind blown, arm laden with a bag full of shoes, bits of black clothing and a bottle of hairspray, until I found the studio tucked away in Market Square and Benny standing outside shivering in nothing more than a hoodie.

Though we were all merely playing, so to speak, Tak and Benny with their respective lenses and lighting equipment, and me with the black clothing and tableau blanc of the studio backdrop, we were all also working.  Tak asked me how much time I had; I responded as long as he needed, my longest shoot has gone on over 3 hours.  “Oh, I won’t need 3 hours,” he says.  Three hours later, we were still playing.

I really think that the fuel to these shoots that go on and on and no one notices the clock, or the sun setting, or their stomachs growling, is the music.  Yeah, that sounds like some creative person cliché, I know, but it’s an absolute truism; if the music being pumped during a shoot makes me move, makes me dance, then I’m going to model better.  If the music is something I can get lost in, then I’m definitely going to forget that I didn’t eat dinner yet, forget about being under 90 degree lights in a sterile white studio, forget that I have a hundred pages of reading to finish, forget about the pain of heels or the discomfort of holding a pose.  For this photography duo it was all alt-metal and Santigold, indie-pop-dance-metal…changed up, made me dance, made me groove, and made me angsty.  It’s like some sort of inverse Brechtian drama, instead of the songs interrupting, the songs made everything flow.

Each photographer I’ve worked with has introduced me to new music, their tastes, which translate into the kind of images that they want.  The music played becomes an equalizer between photographer and subject, a universal language that says, “hey, this is what I’m feeling right now, go.”

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Feb 21, 2011


moto jacket, H&M.  rose jean leggings, Express.  scarf/knit gloves, Old Navy.  boots, Harley Davidson.

Photography by Jeremy Zerbe

This was probably one of the stupider outfits I could have been wearing in a twenty-something degree snowstorm; some sort of thin drapey sweater, noticeable holes indicative of its thrift store origins; a faux leather moto jacket, cheap-shit-hip thanks to H&M.  I added a pair of knit gloves, which helped but are never practical if a cigarette is involved, Bic lighter functioning, operating an iPod, pretty much anything involving hands is out of the question.  The scarf too, it has its drawbacks, snags on everything.  As with anything that resembles the softer side of Velcro, it’s attracted to everything burr-like, or zippers, unkempt fingernails, and rings shaped like snakes.  I’m really starting to wonder why I wear pain-in-the ass articles of clothing sometimes.  Why would I wear a pair of jean leggings that are difficult to remove and are meant to be difficult to remove?  Why wear a deep neckline bodysuit if I have to perpetually make sure that there’s no Janet style accidental exposure?  Why wear anything not warm enough or anything not chill enough or anything without pockets?  What exactly is the point of it all?

These are not questions that I always ask myself when I get dressed.  Sometimes I succumb to a uniform of sorts that shifts slightly depending on the weather and what I’ve got that’s clean.  Sometimes I literally do wear a uniform.  Sometimes my goal is only to avoid one color that day, or to wear a piece of jewelry from my sister, the rest doesn’t matter much.  All of these considerations, or lack thereof build some semblance of a style, a mish-mash of varying factors that rely heavily on mood.  It's a series of questions that range from ‘what’s the weather going to do by the end of the day?’ to ‘will I be able to slip this dress back into my sister’s closet before she gets home from work?’ to ‘am I going to run into that one obnoxious guy who only hits on me when I’m wearing red?’  The answers lead to style.  

Fashion, I’ve concluded is relative and in fact the clothes sometimes chose us.  You know that dress that looks absolutely ridiculous on the hanger, might involve a weird pattern or weirdly cut hem or strangely shaped neckline.  You put it on in some florescent-lit fitting room as a joke.  You’ve got every intention of walking out into the store and showing your friend how absolutely garish and disgusting it is and low and behold, you look back at yourself in the full length mirror, and you look damn good.  You buy the formerly ugly garment and it becomes your favorite for a few months.  It gets looped into a cycle of favorites, takes a break when you’re not going out as much, or when the weather turns it inappropriate.  Might get lost in the bottom of your closet during a period when you have no time to keep such things organized.  One day when you find the time to dig through the hanger droppings in your closet, the piece resurfaces and you might question it again.  The questioning leads to an instant desire to know what it looks like.  You try it on again, and fall in love again.  Fashion is relative to the questions you ask.

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Feb 10, 2011

The Beautiful & the Damned

The Beautiful & The Damned from stylestalker on Vimeo.

I'm a sucker for horror films.  I'm a sucker for dark, weird, damsel heroine figures with dark dark costume make-up and a really good, blood curdling, horror movie scream.  Stylestalker's The Beautiful & the Damned collection has a toned down gothic edge with film noir glamor that toes the line between Marylin Monroe and Morticia Adams without overreaching into the arena of costumeness.  Compared to Desert Fox, the collection is overtly feminine, however compared to the mainstream (box store) field of design trends, the new collection from Stylestalker offers a version of femme that balances the elements of innocence, sexiness, and edginess.  I was disappointed on the lack of their signature laced/grommet detailing that is highlighted on the snakebite pants from Desert Fox, but in the context of this collection, one that essentially lacks complexity in many ways, the detailing would most likely have felt forced had it made an appearance.  Simplicity is not normally a term I can apply to Stylestalker's designs.  With them it's either brightly colored and oddly textured fabrics, or utterly unique detailing that subtly plays with the eye.  The collection is a step into effortless for them.  The detailing is there but in a way that is hardly noticeable when looking at jpegs of the clothes, this is a collection that you need to touch to get shivers over.

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Feb 7, 2011

Cool vs. Camp

bodysuit, AA.  cargo leggings, Express.  boots, Harley Davidson.

Photography by Ian Tak Momyer

Back in the ‘aughts, American Apparel, or AA as bloggers have ironically shortened it, held a luster, a brightly colored, tight fitting, cotton jersey, gay friendly luster.  The bravado of their Terry Richardson-esque marketing campaign, raccoon-eyed prepubescent looking models bearing skin like credit card wielding daddy’s girls had become some sort of visual definition of hipster cool.  ‘Hipster’ itself is a slippery term, stigmatized by some and embraced by others. Who even knows what ‘hipster cool’ means anymore (I’m not going to attempt to define it here)?   I don’t think AA had any idea; otherwise they would have bottled it, mixed it with new ideals and remained cool to this day.  But they didn’t.  They’ve gone from ironically fashionable with their over-priced organic tees, nylon fanny packs, and multi-functional dresses to a tragic display of soft-core porn.  AA is crotch shots next to close-ups of cute girls with nerdy plastic frames, most likely housing fake lenses.  It’s fashion retail’s version of the virgin/whore dichotomy; sometimes the AA girl is all tutus and innocence, then she puts on the metallic gold bodysuit, arches her back, lets her hair hang down, and puts her hands places unacceptable for the ten-year-old at the bus stop staring at an upturned copy of the City Paper, lewd whorish spread on the back cover.

There’s been a porno edge to AA since it’s inception, but it worked in the beginning, it was just shocking enough to make you say “hmmm,” and promptly enter the jersey knit and lamé wonderland to find yourself enthralled by the sheer quantity of t-shirt reversions and tops, dresses, and scarves that had a zillion different ways to be worn.  They went for comfort, and economy; a $38 jersey knit dress could become a halter-top, a skirt, and five different dresses.  I’m poor, sometimes sartorially inventive, and downright fickle when it comes to clothes…I was AA’s target consumer, and they won me over with not-so-basic basics.  It all started with a navy blue jersey scarf, the gateway drug.  That was followed by slinky U-back dresses that promptly became a mainstay in my daily dress code…next came leggings…thigh-high socks…bandeau bras…and bodysuits.  Those were the days when everything was functional and had no message aside from “legalize gay.”

Flash-forward to the present day, AA has been through some shit, some badmouthing by the very slew of twenty-somethings who, just a few years earlier, were eating their stock up.  Their hiring practices came under scrutiny when some sort of dictatorial by-laws surfaced that said ‘No’ to things like gauged ears, tattoos, and bangs (?!), all aesthetic elements present on my local AA staffers.  I read a story on Racked NY about AA’s line of nail polishes exploding on the shelves; never good for the gauntlet that is the blogger/consumer rumor mill of free marketing.  And now, they’ve taken the porno ad campaign thing to a whole new and weird level.  The ads can best be described as watercolor porn, sketches of blonde, 80’s style women with exposed breasts wearing AA lingerie, mostly in the act of removing said lingerie.  Poignantly described by illustrator and fellow blogger Claire Napier as being “like a Judy Blume Nightmare,” it’s hard to discern if AA was going for camp, or if they actually think that these comely women are tastefully portrayed.  As a culture we’ve been so jaded by commercial sex via photographic impressions and video capture of the “real” that it takes a sketch artist who happens to be really good at drawing one thing, naked women, to make us say, “WTF…this shouldn’t be so commonplace!”  

Props to Boris Lopez (the artist) for his mad skills with the pencil and watercolors, I mean, the guy’s got talent.  And I really don’t have a problem with pictures of naked girls; we’re all so far beyond squeamishness as a result of an exposed nipple at this point.  But is that the danger of oversaturation realized?  It’s all familiar and clichéd, even for that ten-year-old at the bus stop.

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Jan 28, 2011

Sontag's Impetus

white button down, Gap.  bracelets, vintage.  celtic knot ink, Brian Holton

Photography by Dave McKelvey

“In the open fields of American experience, as catalogued with passion by Whitman and as sized up with a shrug by Warhol, everybody is a celebrity.  No moment is more important than any other moment; no person is more interesting than any other person.” – Susan Sontag

Photoplay, modeling, the very concept of being placed in front of a camera lens and expected to look a certain way, move a certain way, be a certain version of yourself, leaves me searching for words that make it all commonplace, that make it less of an event.   I like to think of the process as being similar to painting.  In photography the paints are the shadows, the wrinkles in the clothes, wisps of out-of-place hair, doe eyes and angled body parts, the brush is the lens that refracts the light and captures the paint that’s lying on the three dimensional canvas in just the right way.  It’s easy to understand how staring into a mirror, high on LSD, turned Jerry Hall’s tripping groupie mind onto the idea of modeling.  It’s beyond vanity, it’s not just looking pretty, it’s looking interesting, and to echo Sontag’s invocation of Whitmanesque judgments, anyone, and in fact everyone, can look interesting.

The man’s body is sacred and the woman’s body is sacred, No matter who it is, it is sacred – is it the meanest one in the laborers’ gang?  Is it one of the dull-faced immigrants just landed on the warf?  Each belongs here or anywhere just as much as the well-off, just as much as you, Each has his or her place in the procession. 

-Walt Whitman, “I Sing the Body Electric”

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