David

 

Oh David, David, you've gone and left us scurrying about this silly planet! 

I strangely never had a sex fantasy about you. Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one on planet Earth that DIDN'T want to hop into your bed, although I liked what I saw in "The Man Who Fell To Earth." No, David. I wanted to hop in your mind instead. Unlock the secrets.

But there weren't any. You told us exactly how you worked in your own songs. You spoke truths to us and few listened. You even told us you were dying and few listened. 

But there are some of us who also understand waiting for the gift of sound and vision. That it's a divine collaboration. A tidal force, even. 

I hope on some level we occupy the same energy sphere.  I am so very grateful for the immense legacy you have left us. I know you're perfectly fine so I didn't even cry over your death - not until until I heard St Alban's colossal pipe organ bash out "Life On Mars?" And then I finally understood the fervour of a religious zealot, my own personal Jesus. I sobbed so hard to that tribute of your work like a woman disembowled. No Christian hymn ever moved me as much as that modern-day Blake poem. Blake is in your sphere too, Bowie. Him and Wilde and all those insane visionaries, and now you've joined them good and proper.

I ask the universe, if I can make any positive impact on others as you've done for millions of us around the world (and beyond), I wish to follow in your footsteps. To collaborate, encourage, generate, love.

The outpouring of emotion over your death comes from so many who owe you so much, little Alice included. I've always felt a kinship to you: a little dorky, a little out there, extremely prolific in many things, completely alien to all my surroundings. I saw myself reflected in you as countless others have. The world's mirror: be it darkness or be it light, you showed it to us. For me, the mirror only showed art. Light. Freedom and joy. I knew all about your wacky drug infused behaviour and didn't care. There was only Bowie, the slight, strange man who swallowed demons the rest of us have been too frightened to face, our Saint George. We knew. And in the aftermath you gave us misfits all a small place to hide, having faced the darkness for many.

But you showed us. Art is the answer. Beauty, love, creative energy. It is what the world will always remember, thank you, and love you for. I'll carry my artistic torch for you the rest of my life, Goblin King with the alien eyes. I'm sad I shall never meet you in person, but I sure as hell feel you in spirit. 

Even the night you died, when we were all still blissfully unaware, I thought of you, channeled you. For a split second I hope you visited when you slipped through the veil at last. This is the last tribute I could give you before your death, dearest David, with sincere thanks for what you've given to us.

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Joan

I had the pleasure of photographing my friend Joan on Halloween in Bellefonte. We had a really fun time roaming the park, drinking some good liquour, and pulling out masks and scarves. Autumn in central PA is very beautiful. We got some amazing surreal photographs!


Back To Nature

I'm currently at a crossroads both in life and in art. New York isn't cutting it for me. It's fun and all, but I'm reaching my breaking point there and am ready to move on to somewhere else. I haven't figured out what that step is yet.

New York is its own entity. When people joke about New York being "another character" on TV shows and movies, it's really not far from the truth. Each city has a personality. Chicago has a vibe. Madrid has a vibe. Philadelphia is pretty much a portal into the bowels of hell. New York is a living, breathing mass, comprised of people, energies and a constant churn. 

I am ready to hop out of that blender and see what else is out there. I'd like to visit Europe for a spell. I have little interest in the rest of the United States, except a vague curiosity in seeing the Plains, Yosemite and Joshua Tree. I really have no ties to anywhere else in the United States; all my people stuck to the East Coast and Canada. But Europe has been calling me for years. I'd like to jump backwards in time. I don't care where I go at this point, just out of Flatbush.

I do know without a doubt now that I'm meant to be in nature. I sprung out of it, and someday back to it I shall go, sprinkled as ashes. I'm happiest running through fields in my wellies and dwelling close to the earth. WHERE do I do that? Who the fuck knows? 

In the meantime, I've spent the past week shooting portraits in my home village. Recently some events have come to light that changed my entire perception of my childhood and the people surrounding it in the periphery. It was a terrible shock, but my friend and I decided we would much rather explore the resulting emotions through artwork. 

Last night Nina and I went over to her parents' place and shot a series of short films and photographs. Although it was a fun time, both of us certainly drew on the intensity we both had discussed several weeks ago, and the results were chilling.

We are planning a gallery show in the near future; more to come when that is revealed. We work very well together as a creative team, and the portraits I shot of her last night are wonderful. Here is a smattering of them.


 



Flatbush

I currently live right off the middle of Flatbush Avenue, on Avenue D and 23rd. It's a neighbourhood comprised mostly of Caribbeans. 

As has been documented so much by so many street photographers, Flatbush is ripe for gentrification. It fits all the qualifications; indeed, my neighbourhood was profiled in the NY Times as the next big shift. 

I have mixed feelings about this. The danger here can be palpable, especially during heated arguments on my block that I now casually wonder will escalate into gunfire. Someone got shot outside my front door this week, in fact. There have been at least two gang-related murders right off my subway stop. 

Not to say that it's always terror and darkness around here. Far from it, in fact - and that's where my mixed feelings come in. I don't feel that uneasiness around, say, 5th Avenue in Park Slope, but there's a sinister quality about whitewashing a neighbourhood, for lack of a better phrase. Day to day, it's actually quite pleasant here. But then something will happen and it sets off everyone.

I hate that there can't seem to be a balance between race relations, class struggle and people's day to day lives. Sometimes I look at a pitiful pile of rags, items stuffed in granny carts and the screaming owner lunging at passersby, and I admittedly wish, even fleetingly for the safety of conformity, a Starbucks oasis with free wifi and indulgent caffeine buzz.

But ultimately, conformity is an illusion. I don't like the imbalance of class, and I especially don't like race being mixed into it. I realise that being a white woman in this neighbourhood is an unwelcome anomaly. I represent to my neighbours the change that's about to come, whether or not it's deserved. When they see me, they see a mass forced exodus followed by a sea of basic bitches, hipsters and overpriced vegan brunch joints. I want to tell them, "I'm very poor, I live in an 8x8 room I can barely afford, I qualify for food stamps and government help." But I know it would fall on deaf ears. My skin is automatically an undeserved status symbol. I'm just another white girl.

I don't want to be. I want to understand my community better. I wish I could get to know people better. I've met many nice, kindly people on my block. The family who own the bodega downstairs. The pot smokers in the first floor apartment who sit on the stoop. The sweet elderly woman across the hall. I say hi to people, hold open doors, try to be friendly without being a sitting duck. It's all I can really do. But by and large, there is an air of suspicion from passers-by. I don't belong here, and I know it.

I dislike being immersed in a culture of suspicion and fear, but that's the climate of this neck of the city; what "progress" and "gentrification" cause. Likewise, I can't stand it when white people in my situation see themselves as "brave" or "pioneers." Pioneers of what? Living in a shitty neighbourhood? I moved here because it was the only place I could afford, not because I wanted to be seen as some kind of courageous maverick for daring to live around black people. But it creeps up in conversation all the time. People will be too afraid to come to my neighbourhood (and let's face it, with all the damn guns, they're probably right). A black actor I worked with recently asked where I lived. When I told him Avenue D and 23rd, he shook his head in disbelief and said he thought for sure I'd say Albemarle or Rugby, simply because I was in an indie film and had on a nice (hand me down) dress. I was disgusted and embarrassed. But about what? 

I don't pretend to understand the black experience. In this country, it's a very touchy and very upsetting subject. I have no idea what it's like to be a black woman, or a black man. But I do sympathise, and I do understand class struggle. The two are not mutually exclusive in New York City, and racism only fuels the fire.

White/affluent people think there's a problem to fix in the real estate market of Brooklyn - and that problem is called "How Can I Possibly Make More Money?" Instead of actually meeting others and coming to a sensible compromise about all this real estate, they barrel through, with complete disregard to anyone's history, life story, or situation. Families are displaced with tax hikes and rent increases, adding to the resentment between classes and race. I know what these neighbours of mine feel like. It's an unwanted invasion; it's a fear of change; it's both warranted and unwarranted.

I know that I don't want to live in Flatbush long term. It's a food desert. While the affluent people of Park Slope stand in line casually contemplating what kind of organic kale they want to massage for their salads, my neighbours fight over half-rotted potatoes at C-Town. In Park Slope you can't walk ten feet without nearly being run over by a Cadillac stroller pushed by a Lululemon-clad supermom; in my hood there's a store covered in WIC stickers that sells discount Similac and dusty-looking Gerber jars, clearly for all the "babymamas."

The disparity of class in this area would be shocking if I hadn't grown up in a very poor, "white trash" area of Central Pennsylvania. In the past couple of years a group of affluent outsiders bought up abandoned property and rebranded a crummy small town as a getaway destination. The fights between the locals and newcomers were dreadful. I could see both groups' points: yes, the place was a shithole, but people started moving in and discredited everything that had come before. There'd be snide comments about the hillbillies, snide comments about the hippies, you name it. I see the same thing, large scale and even more sinister, here. For the gentrification is not just well meaning dreamers, it's corporations. It's Just Another AT&T store next to a Planet Fitness next to a Starbucks. The erasure of humanity is even more brutal here.

Not to say I want a place to live in terror or in complacency. If you ask me, city life is not really something I'm into. But I understand this gentrification very well, and I see the wiping happening within my neighbourhood. I decided to start documenting not just the change in buildings, which most gentrification documentarians seem to focus on, but the people. I wanted to show what daily life in Flatbush is like, and what it's like to be an outsider witnessing it. 

My flatmate and I went on a walk one Sunday morning and I simply photographed what/who I saw. I didn't want to paint anyone as sinister, or saintly, I just wanted to document what goes on day to day and the people who live here, so I shot these all on my phone while talking to my flatmate. These are those photographs.

Brooklyn Gas Explosion

The other morning, my friend Matt suggested I go down to Lenny's Pizza in Bay Ridge to recreate the iconic John Travolta pizza stuff in the opening to Saturday Night Fever. Little did I know that this would be the preamble to one of the most surreal and creepy days of my life.

I hopped on the D train and picked up a slice, decked out in a 70s tab collar shirt with Bianca Jagger heads all over it. The pizza was delicious. I do remember that. After that I decided I didn't feel like going home, and decided to go stroll down on Coney Island.

The weather was cold, windy, and damp, just the way I like it. There's something really invigorating about autumn chill. The ocean was churning, there were seagulls everywhere. It was really lovely. 

I remember walking back to the train station feeling very refreshed and happy, having been along my beloved Atlantic ocean.  As I got to the train platforms, however, I looked up at the signs and decided I didn't want to take the Q Train home...I opted for the D instead to go back up through Bay Ridge. I've been seeing the same old stuff over and over and wanted a new route. It would take another hour out of my day, but I didn't care. 

I got on the D train and proceeded to watch out the window as we passed through the graffitied neighbourhoods on the elevated platform. As we rounded the turn, suddenly I saw a giant black cloud of smoke erupt over the rooftop of a hardware store advertising Dutch Boy Paint. 

I don't know what possessed me to hop off at the next stop, but something told me that cloud of smoke was very important and that I needed to see what was going on. Without a clue where I was or what the smoke even was, I hopped off at 72nd and walked through the streets.

I grew up in a very Germanic/Scots Irish Central PA and admittedly have very little understanding of Jewish culture. As "outsiders" always displayed curiosity about the Amish in my neck of the woods, so I feel about Hasids, with their curious curls and weird hats and bizarre customs of eating in tents and chasing people clutching what appears to be corn sheaths. I don't know what any of it means, and it was even more confusing when I found myself in the middle of a Hasid neighbourhood with hundreds of people scurrying either toward the gigantic cloud of smoke or screaming as they fled away from it.

Because sound can be a massive emotional trigger for me, I decided to keep my headphones on and observe what happened solely through visuals. I didn't know what had happened - something told me gas explosion - and the whole ordeal was like watching a film. I instinctively grabbed my phone and started snapping photographs of everything happening in front of me.

I rounded the corner, ambushed by crying children, men in circular fur hats covered in plastic bags, young boys with their curls flailing about their faces, women in head scarves. A little girl suddenly sprawled on the sidewalk crying, her legs splayed in ways that make my adult knees wince. Suddenly the crowd swallowed me as I hit the block where the fire was blazing. I stood and watched, frozen at times, trying to process what was in front of me. Almost as if by magic, a child got shoved in front of me and he pointed at the car to our right. A hole in the back window, small and round, almost the size of a human fist. Shattered glass, bird shit, and spatters of building material. At that moment, my stomach lurched. Yes, it had been a gas explosion. Thankfully, the community was having Shabbat and only one person had been killed - had these people been in the streets when it happened, there surely would have been more injuries and fatalities. 

Hundreds of people gathered in the corner, almost all attired in their Jewish holiday clothing. I felt like a strange intruder in my pleather jacket and Travolta shirt. I clearly stuck out and endured a lot of curious stares as well.  I just kept photographing, until we got corralled on one block by police tape as the fire got worse.

I didn't know what to do at that point. Every fibre in my body cried out "Go the fuck home, Alice, why are you here?" But at that point there were dozens of police keeping people from crossing the street so fire trucks could safely park. I was frightened but also very bored, a curious combination. I texted my friend Joseph and showed a photo of where I was. I don't know why, I just needed to talk to someone. 

"It's like a fucking war zone."

"Oh my, keep safe."

"Not sure where safe is at the moment."

It was true. The fire was raging even more, the stench of smoke and fumes choking us as the wind picked up. People, mostly placid and awestruck, were getting agitated at this point. A lady in a woodshop face mask started bawling. I had my scarf over my face. A woman stood in front of me, her jaw dropped in horror. I looked to my right as a kid of about ten fell off the street pole into his dad's arms. A woman started scurrying her children as a police officer started screaming at a young Hasid father pushing a baby stroller. I did hear this exchange through the headphones.

"Why the HELL would you bring a baby to a damn fire?" the policeman shouted, clearly not giving a rat's ass about social niceties. I admit, I had to agree.

The young man got angry and started arguing that he and his family had to go to their synagogue, as if an Angry God might explode them too, if they didn't get to services on time.

"You and several hundred of these others. Do you not see this fire? You just take that baby home. Jesus christ, what the hell's wrong with you?"

That last statement, ironic though it was in many ways, struck me hard. Baby, hell! Why the hell was *I* even there, gawking? I decided as soon as I saw a break in the tape, I'd leave. I looked through my photos and, almost automatically, I had been posting them left and right on Instagram. I don't know why I did it, other than a means to keep calm and also to tell people what was happening. I wasn't trying to be artistic, I was trying to sort out what the fuck mess I'd gotten myself into. My godfather sent a link from Philadelphia news saying it was indeed a gas explosion. It was so bizarre that a news link from 100 miles away knew more than I watching it unfurl live, just 100 yards away. 

I asked Joseph the only thing I could think of at this point. 

"Jesus. What the fuck should I do with these photos?"

 He suggested only showing the most compelling ones and reminded me that I could get work through Instagram, and to remember photography is ultimately my business. Finally, after a frenzied afternoon and being in panic mode, some actual solid advice. As soon as I responded to him, a photographer friend sent me a link to the right people. I removed most of the photos except for a couple, because by then I'd already been tweeted. 

I tend to take my work for granted and get so wrapped up in creating that I have no idea how to promote myself. People want to pigeonhole me, or advise me to specialise in one thing. I'm not interested in that. To me photos are photos, no matter what. It's like music. I don't see a difference between an opera aria and a smokin' guitar solo, both access our brains the same way. Sticking to one photographic genre would kill me with boredom. But I'm also so prolific it's absurd. It's almost a mania.  

I realised during this day, however, that I am NOT emotionally cut out for photojournalism. I might be good at reading people, but it's a difficult line for me to tell a story without exploiting people's vulnerability in real tragedy. I don't like that darkness, and I'm uncomfortable profiting off of it. I don't want to knock those who do it for a living, I suspect they've worked that out for themselves. When we get down to brass tacks, I'm a storyteller. I just want to choose the stories I tell, I think.

As Joe said, photography is certainly my business, but it's also a direct connection to my brain. I have to figure out how to reconcile the two peacefully. Although this tragedy was a harrowing experience, I am ultimately grateful for the opportunity to be in the midst of something so uncontrollable and simply visually react to what I saw. I won't forget it anytime soon, and I am haunted by the woman who lost her life in that stairwell for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Who was she? Why was she there? Did she know what happened to her? 

I struggle with this a lot. I often am drawn to photograph the downtrodden and disabled, but I don't want to tell a sob story about them, just draw awareness through empathy. It's a delicate line. How can I tell a story respectfully, without exploiting anyone's memory or condition, or the raw emotions from the people who witnessed this event? Does anyone have a good answer?


Wedding: Natalie and Dave

Basically this was one of the best and (likely last) weddings I'll ever shoot. I got to ride around State College in a 1933 Studebaker Knute, shot some funny photos on campus, ate a lot of cookies and got to gawk at Natalie's amazing homemade dress that her mother created. Congratulations to the Harrisons and thanks for such a fun time! I'm so glad to have been a part of the celebration from engagement to drunken celebratory dancing.

Trashing The Dress

My friend Heather messaged me a few weeks ago asking if I would like to do a session with her trashing her wedding dress on her fifth anniversary. Heather's had quite an intense five years since she last wore it: she has given birth to three children, two of them twins, and has found herself in the role of stay at home mother.

She's got a great sense of humour, and thought it would be fun to run around our friends' farm in a $1200 gown demonstrating a life that has now grown to incorporate forever doing tons of laundry and always being interrupted in the bathroom. On top of that, she also wanted to set a healthy, fun example for her children, and thought it would be fun to do some yoga poses in the dress as well. What a legacy!

Heather came up with many of the concepts in this shoot and the whole process was a delight from start to finish. Her family is incredibly sweet - a wonderful testament to her hard work and devotion. We had a blast. I discovered the "Trash the Dress" concept can be a wonderfully cathartic experience, for better or worse. If anyone ever wants to hire me for one of those shoots, I am ALL IN.

Lesley Barth

My friend Lesley is a very talented indie singer-songwriter, who happened to have a free day off yesterday afternoon. We threw caution to the wind and trekked out to Far Rockaway, a beach neither of us had visited before. What a beautiful place. It's just breathtaking. The view is so much nicer than Brighton Beach, and it's really relaxed. 

I told her to bring some funny props so she hauled along a mirror, a cute little two piece suit that looked a bit "Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island," a Stevie Nicks style floppy hat, a bright pink umbrella and a wooden mannequin. I brought my flatmate's Halloween dress, some flower crowns and the (now quite filthy) curtain material.

Lesley was such a great sport! She hopped right on into the ocean, twirled around, leapt in the air and stoically held a mirror toward the great beyond. We had loads of fun on this shoot, despite the Atlantic trying to swallow my backpack. Afterwards we chilled on the beach and chatted about the creative process. Some strange gentlemen came by and asked what we had been doing. Apparently they were betting wagers on whether or not it was an overly-artistic Etsy shoot, or an art class project. "Follow us on Instagram" is now the "call me maybe." They were pretty amusing. 

Anyway, here are some of my favourites from the shoot yesterday. We definitely want to do another soon! Check out Lesley's music here

 

Rhiannon

The other day my friend Rhiannon and I shot some head shots in Central Park. It was super fun and we goofed around a lot, which is the best kind of shoot. If anyone is interested in booking a session with me, set up an appointment!

 


Vinny

My friend Vinny is working on his modelling portfolio so we decided to spend a couple of days running around the city doing some photos. The other night we went to the High Line, which was the first time I saw it at night. The views are stunning. We were very excited over the fun architecture, crazy lights and the general atmosphere. Highly recommended to any NYC visitors or residents. It's gorgeous.

The next night we went down to Coney Island and shot there. I wanted to go for more of an editorial feel, so we wandered around the park, shot, and then rode the Cyclone. It's so much fun at night. Or any time really. But night is the best.

Wish my friend luck! He's going to be very important.


FeatherFace

For those of you familiar with SoHo, the Pearl River Mart, a longtime department store filled with everything from Mao jackets to cartoon cat spoons, is about to meet its maker over rising rent prices. Pearl River is great fun and a good place to pick up weird shit for props.

I got a feather mask for a dollar and ran a double exposure. I like them, I look a bit like a Joel-Peter Witkin corpse sculpture. 


Back To Nature

I had a massive breakthrough this weekend. I'm currently back in central PA, called back unexpectedly (and gratefully) to photograph two conferences held at Penn State. I'm staying at my parents' place during this interim and spending a lot of time alone in my head. 

I never really have been cut out for city living, so I'm not planning on living in New York for long. It's a reset period to shake off the PTSD from working in academia for so long, I think. Another thing happened: two young men were gunned down just outside my subway stop in the last month. Ditmas Park isn't exactly a hotbed for criminal activity, but I am so close to it now, and I can't concentrate on my art. At home, a double murder is grounds for legends lasting generations. In NYC, it's just another day. I'm more disturbed by the apathy than the murders themselves. It's a defining moment, though. Sweet Victorian, wealthy white Ditmas Park borders on Newkirk Ave and the "ghetto," and the animosity can be palpable some days. I'm too poor to live anywhere else in the city, and to be fair, Flatbush is mostly quite pleasant. But it's not a forever home. I think I'll hit my limit around the time my lease ends in December. I'm appreciating it now, and taking from it what I can. So many lessons to learn.

I don't know what the next chapter is, so in the meantime I'm just learning to exist. There is no future, the past is past. Part of me wants to continue living in the city; part of me really just wants to be in the woods in a shed next. This isn't a romantic whimsy of mine, either; I know fully well what it's like to live isolated in the woods with wild animals. My entire childhood was spent avoiding rattlesnakes and rabid coons. 

 I have been really interested in William Blake, Wilhelm Reich, Aldous Huxley, and Alan Watts, and suddenly I found myself very interested in small patterns. 

Their direct influence has made me suddenly hyper-aware of plants. My parents are huge gardeners and the back yard is a veritable jungle of wildflowers, bumblebees, birds and their food for the year. I spent the past couple of days roaming the woods, stripping topless in the sweltering heat; shooting portraits and being eaten alive by mosquitoes; crawling on the ground photographing insects, dewy spiderwebs, tiny clover leaves, cosmos flowers, sweetpeas, the veins of a flower petal, whatever I could find. It was the same kind of excited delight I felt as a child. What was there to discover? Butterflies, beetles, caterpillars, dead centipedes being devoured by ants. I learnt today that ants carry their dead back home. Did you know that?

Blake and Huxley both talk about discovering "heaven in a wildflower" and "infinity in grains of sand," and I think to really appreciate this concept, you have to be completely alien to it for a while and return. In New York, I am completely distracted by being swallowed up in the hugeness of a city; being and feeling alien to surroundings, and being small in comparison. Here, in my familiar surroundings, suddenly I am swallowing my surroundings, I am alien to the tiny world outside, I am tall. I never appreciated that juxtaposition before. Now it's exhilarating. I find a lot of joy in looking for pretty things to photograph and explore.

I have a hard time explaining the feeling other than it is so much like being a little girl again. I had a flashback today of myself at three, roaming the backyard of our farm in red wellies, talking to my imaginary friends, surrounded by cats and birds and butterflies and bees. Thirty-three years later, I am roaming the backyard once more, this time in green wellies, talking to spirits, surrounded by the same animals. It's the very core of Alice. No one else will ever understand, but I'm delighted to be back there. I hope others can find their inner child; their songs of innocence and experience together in harmony.


Vincent

Last week my sweet friend Jess generously treated me to lunch at Breslin's, and a couple of doors up there is a perfumerie called "Le Labo." It's a very high-end place with some famous clientele. Jess had received a bottle of their perfume as a gift and wanted to pop in and check it out. It sounded fun and I love perfume. 

The store clerk was a lanky, gregarious young man with striking grey eyes. He complimented my dress and declared my scent as "vetiver, definitely vetiver," and we hit it off. He mentioned wanting to really focus on his career as a model. He'd been doing some runway work and fashion spreads and wanted to do more of that work. I said very cheerfully, "Oh! I'm a photographer!" Which I'm sure he hears allll the time. But we kept chatting and I showed him my work, and he flipped out and said he wanted to work with me. 

A couple of days later he texted me and we set up a meeting to do some photos. He needed some head shots for his portfolio and I wanted some work with an actual professional model, so we decided to meet in Midtown and bum around for the afternoon. We met up near Macy's and immediately had a bonkers afternoon running and laughing around Central Park.

Vinny is a self-described "American mutt," with Puerto Rican, Italian, Irish, and Jewish ancestry. I found his face fascinating because he is such a chameleon. He can play gay, straight, urban, urbane, comical, angelic and frightening. He really does have an innate talent for understanding how to use his face and body for a compelling portrait, and for such an outgoing, funny guy, he really can throw a stony gaze. 

We did a bunch of straight-up head shots, and then did a series of experimental shots and short videos. I brought along a lace shawl that I thought would be fun to play shadows off his face. He immediately seized it and stuck it on his head and sashayed up the road. The results were stunning. Vinny inherently got what I was looking for and vice versa, so it was a really brilliant combination.

I am so grateful to have met someone to work with who gets what I'm going for. I hope to work with Vinny again in the near future, we had some fun ideas for another shoot. But be on the lookout for him - I have a feeling he's going to be big.


New York

I returned to New York a little over a week ago. The transition between central PA and the city has been pretty arduous at best, but I'm hanging in there fairly well.  I've gotten to see a few friends, meet new ones, and check out a few things. Having no money might seem limiting, but if there's one talent I have, it's finding free fun.

Still, I consistently feel as if I'm not 100% present. I don't know my place yet. I definitely have clear ideas of some things, but am methodically ruling out others. To be quite honest, I'm also throwing my hands up in the air and just letting things happen. My nana had a print in her dining room for years that said "Let go and let God," which was rather ironic for a woman so obsessed with routine. I never understood what it meant until now. It's chaos right now, and the only real advice I've been taking is finding signs like coins and feathers. So far it's working. Soooo maybe I'm just a half-assed Buddhist/born again pagan. "Let go and let feathers!"

Rotten advice I've been getting, for instance, is the oft-parroted trope that I move to a more artist-centric neighbourhood where "things are happening." Flatbush is pretty quiet on that front, so I visited the open studios in Bushwick the other night....and wanted to pull the hair out of my skull. It was like wandering through the desert dwelling of those creepy kids in Thunderdome. The rampant snobbery, artistic temperaments, blasé sarcasm, and general post-art school frippery is not my scene. To be sure, I'm not sure I exactly fit into the Jamaican rasta scene on my block either, but at least the people here are genuine and interesting.

At one point during this foray into Bushwick, I was photographing my friend Erica in a tinfoil room. After a minute someone walked up to me and said snottily, "Ohhhh. Do you consider yourself an iphonographer?" I turned to him and said "Don't worry, kid, I know what I'm doing."

WHAT THE HELL IS AN IPHONEOGRAPHER? Buncha horseshit, if you ask me. These people are so self absorbed and more concerned about the role of art making rather than the art itself. A camera is a camera is a camera. You can make photos out of anything from oatmeal cans to x-rays. It's so narrow-minded and sad to put yourself in a specific box, but I can see now how the corporatisation of art schools have utterly ruined the joy of art MAKING. Everything they do, from their clothes to hair to where they appear, is a self-absorbed performance rather than a process. It is repulsive to me, listening to these people whinge on about Instagram followers and playing the game.

Luckily, I hate games and I hate rules and I am going to use my damn phone. Who cares? I love it. And schlepping around a cumbersome Hasselblad or Mamiya C220 won't yield what I'm attempting: selfies on the fly; a quick moment of reaching out and then disappearing again. 

One of the parents of a girl I babysat recently was friends with the photographer Tseng Kwong Chi, who did self portraits in the late 70s-early 80s in a Mao suit. One of his photos hangs in their flat (the same one is currently on display at the Met). His work fascinated me from the start because I understand that alienation and feeling like a square peg; certainly not for the same reasons as TKC, but that social isolation definitely hits home. I want to make friends and experience new things, but I don't think the Bushwick hipster scene is the right fit. It's a cheap shot to make fun of them as a lot because there's always diamonds in the rough, but I'm selective about where I go for that. If I'm going to be serious about my work, I need to stay in Flatbush for the time being.

What I started doing was stuffing a $3 sheer curtain in my handbag and whipping it out at various tourist traps. I usually wear all black or solid dark clothing when I'm out and about because it's easier to blend in. I figured everyone is taking photos at tourist traps. I realized the value of the much-maligned "selfie stick" quite quickly and bought one a few days ago at a Brooklyn Bridge vendor table. The stick allows me to have more of a full body shot and movement. It's a little annoying to set up, but as soon as I put the curtain over my head, I'm in the zone. If I wear headphones, even if they aren't plugged in anywhere, people generally don't interrupt me. I was pretty chuffed when some Arab tourists in Times Square thought I was an attraction and they asked to get selfies with me. I just stood there like a ghost. Next time I should charge a buck like those bogus Buddhist monks with the bracelets!

I have decided to take this idea all over the city. I used my flatmate Monica in a couple of shots, but most are of me. So far I've ghosted Queens, Coney Island, midtown, Soho, and Brooklyn.

New York Public Library

New York Public Library

Grand Central Station

Grand Central Station

Unisphere, Queens

Unisphere, Queens

Union Square

Union Square

Brighton Beach

Brighton Beach

Grand Army Plaza

Grand Army Plaza

Times Square Station

Times Square Station

Times Square

Times Square

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Times Square

Times Square

Radio City Music Hall

Radio City Music Hall

Atlantic Avenue Subway Station

Atlantic Avenue Subway Station

Arboretum

Yesterday I felt divinely inspired to rip a curtain off my wall and stuff some masks in a bag and walk up to the Arboretum...in pouring rain. The clouds yesterday were amazing, and after a few days of complete isolation and despair, a little rain didn't seem so bad.

I shot a few photos wearing the feather mask I'd created a few months back. It's still one of my favourite things to shoot with, just because it looks so bizarre on camera. I definitely want to make another one, maybe with a different surface. Fur would be interesting.

My friend Melanie came by later to drop off a lens cap, and she decided to stick around and play hooky from work. I asked if she felt like modeling for me, given that selfies weren't going to convey the drama I was hoping for, and she said sure. 

Melanie is about five feet tall on a good day, and I thought it would be fun to use her petite frame. There's a manmade cave on the grounds that has a little bench, so I had her climb on that and gave her the directions to "look feral."

Later I had her wrap herself in the curtain and put on the feather mask. I wanted her to look frightening - Melanie in real life is quite pixie-like and cheerful - and the clouds behind her really did the trick. I edited in Mextures.

I also had her flap the cloth around her body while I shot from the ground up, which got some interesting results.

After this we ran off and got milkshakes and had a lovely afternoon sitting in the grass chatting. It's funny to think about how much fun I have on shoots, and then compare them to the bleak imagery I seem to keep producing. It seems to be a funny balance - often the "happiest" photos I take, weddings for instance, are when I am at my emotional lowest. I'm either exhausted or feeling a bit poorly or lonely, and they're supposed to serve as memory keepers for people's joy. It's a bit unfair, but there you have it. I've decided I never want to do weddings again, however. I say this all the time, and the money is great, but it's too touchy a situation for me to really want to stick my neck out in ever again. Unless you want wedding pictures that involve some sort of aboriginal theatrics, I politely decline.

Kaplan-Vines Wedding

Last night after a frenzied mad rush 60 miles away in Williamsport, my friend Melanie and I barely made it to our friend Heather's wedding. The ceremony had to be postponed a half hour while we frantically tried finding this elusive "historic mansion."

Imagine the frustration of Google maps failing, stopping in a store to be told "never heard of it," stopping at a church where the minister's wife shrugged her shoulders, and finally calling for directions only to be told "turn left at the top of the hill onto a dirt road."  WHAT HILL? 

Luckily we made it, and the ceremony was lovely. 

 


Performance Art

I admit my snottiness! For years, I honestly had no idea what performance art was. There was always some kind of stigma, confusion and snottiness attached to the concept at my school. It took me years to understand it and break out of my prejudices of what it was, without understanding.

As I came to realise, it's really another form of communicating to an audience, taking theatrical elements, storytelling, and other forms of performance and using them to tell a story using your body as canvas. In a sense, I've been working on it all along without realising or understanding it.

I feel like a major door has been opened in how I relate to others, as a result. I took improv comedy classes after college and loved performing in front of an audience, but the pressure to be "on" all the time as far as being quick witted can be a challenge for me. I often get lost in a moment and prefer to engage in a more introverted manner. 

My friend Nina invited me to a performance art festival at a place in Bushwick called Grace Exhibition Space, and I will say right now that the experience was absolutely life changing and inspirational. I saw four or five performances that night that really spoke to me. I can't explain how, or what made them inspirational, in the same way no one can really explain what they see in an improv Harold show. You just feel it in the moment. All of these performances were ethereal, surreal, and emotionally charged. I finally understood what it was about, and all I had to do was witness it. 

I'm primarily a photographer, but I've been trained in acting, dance, music, video, juggling, and drawing - and I feel like I can create more interesting photography stories if I start treating photography as an extension of my eyes rather than simply a means of documentation. I started creating pieces to interact with - found feathers, masks, headdresses, plants and herbs, etc, and contorting myself. Some of my photos make me look like an angel. Some make me look like a monster. I don't see the photos as me, necessarily, but rather a character in a story. It happens to be a story I'm living, but thinking about it in the context of an observer allows me to step out of my own ego and see what paths are possible. It's a half-assed Buddhist approach to life and art, but so far it's working.

Right now I'm going through a massive change in my life, and I feel like I would like to document this process as true to how I feel as possible. It's a lot of confusion, a lot of confidence challenges, and most of all, a feeling of possibility. I don't think ahead much, I usually look to see what's in front of me and make something out of it, and interact with it somehow in an image. It's all highly personal and I don't feel it's necessary to spell out for others in words precisely what each image means; I just want a reaction without thinking. The motto for Upright Citizens Brigade is "Don't Think." My challenge is to tell the story with my face, my body language, and most of all my eyes. Part of me always wished I could have been a silent movie actress. Might as well do it now!

I am grateful for the opportunity to find this path and to explore it. The human body; humanity as a whole, it all fascinates me. How can I tell a better story? How can I relate better to others in an interesting way? And how do individual reactions change my perception of the story? It's a two-way street.


Jane and Dave's Wedding

Last weekend my friend Andrew and I shot my sister Jane's wedding. It was a lovely day and a fun time. Unfortunately, I don't remember much past the reception...Vodka Red Bulls might not be for me, just saying. 

These are some of my photos from the event. I'm terribly happy for my sister and my new brother Dave. I am fortunate to have an awesome family and to have been able to capture a very special day with all of us together. And thanks so much for your help, Andrew, I appreciated having a second shooter who could include me with them.