Thursday, January 20, 2011

...Aaand STILL Another...

(Snapped on 12/31/10)

The day after my second visit to the burned-down clubhouse, I forced myself to take a break from obsessively ruminating over just how to make the foiled swimming pool shoot - a reality, by sifting through the dress-up pile in search of a jolt of inspiration for a possible interim shoot. I found an ensemble that I hadn't yet worn in any pics. (see above) but after I got into the costume, and did my hair and make-up - (including applying mascara to the 1/2" long grey roots of my hair, ugh) I wasn't at all convinced that I had become the character that I'd intended on portraying. 

I don't know what the matter was, exactly. Was I just so fixated on the swimming pool idea, that I couldn't focus properly on anything else? On one hand, it was a welcome relief to be wearing shoes and (so much) clothing...but the prospect of not freezing my ass off, wasn't enough to temper the fact that I felt so prudish, or...dowdy? I couldn't picture my character radiating any semblance of je ne sais quoi, while buried beneath that much fabric...and I definitely couldn't envision her behaving in a manner that would be considered at all provocative. Right from the get-go I was bored by the whole thing of it, and consequently - prepared to disappoint not only myself, but also my readers. Damn.

I was however, excited about the location that I'd decided upon for the shoot. In order to get to the delectably derelict disaster area, it would be necessary for me to visibly trespass. But it was New Year's Eve I figured by three o'clock or so, most people would've left work early to go get ready for the festivities that night - rendering that part of town virtually deserted. Not so. When I drove by to case the location and map out my strategy to shoot there, I could not believe that the neighboring Feed and Seed was still open for business. I did the right thing, and pulled into the parking lot, walked up to the men who were working there, and asked what the deal was with the property next door. Did it belong to the Feed and Seed? Would it be ok for me to take some pictures there? No, and...probably not. Rats. So now what?

I got in my little car and just drove. Certainly I'd find someplace that would work equally as well...wouldn't I

Eh, not so much really. I mean - I did find a place to take some pics....and the shoot overall did turn out to be as blah as I'd predicted - BUT! Something good did come out of this otherwise worthless excursion. On the drive back home, I passed a beautiful, old cemetery and noticed the telltale signs of a recent graveside service and burial. Oh goody! Right away I was formulating a back-up plan, should the pending swimming pool shoot fall through.

(Snapped on 1/01/11)

Simply spotting that fresh grave had somehow greased the cogs and wheels in my feeble brain and I felt my mind start to synapse with a bit more precision. During the 8 minute drive from my shoot back to my house, I had not only fleshed out the deets for the surprise cemetery shoot...but I'd also come up with a potential solution to my swimming pool shoot dilemma, YIP!

(Snapped on 1/01/11)

After swilling a couple of drinks early in the evening, here at the house with a close friend - I rung in the New Year my my desk - doing the thing that I love second best to taking pictures...writing. The only way that my New Year's celebration could've possibly been any better - would've been if I coulda had my kids here with me... 

I greeted the first full day of 2011, bright and early, well-rested (i.e. - no hangover!) and itchin' to find out how the day (as well as the year) would unfold. I did chores while I waited for the temperature to reach it's peak, put on my face, packed up my car - and instead of making the 30 minute trek up the road to the pool at the burned-down clubhouse (with an 8 ft. step ladder fastened to the roof of my car) I drove a scant 2 miles to where (fingers crossed) I'd be given permission to shoot in an easily accessible, empty backyard pool... 

It's a little scary to walk up to a stranger's house, knock on the door, explain who I am and what I do - and then petition the owners to grant me access to their personal property. But check this out! The gal who came to the door, was one of the awesome employees at the convenience store where I recently photographed myself pretending to rob the clerk at gunpoint...remember that? I was ecstatic! There was no need to go through my usual spiel - she knows about my blog, and she's seen firsthand, exactly what it is that I do. was no big shock really, when I asked if I could (pretty please?) snap some self-portraits in the pool. She said , "Sure" I screamed, "THANKS!" was truly just as simple as that. 

(Snapped on 1/01/10)

Adding to my bliss, was the good fortune to not have to strip naked and slip into my dress right there in the (mostly) drained pool (as I'd planned). Although there was a very good chance that the neighbors might witness at least some of what I was about to do - I spared them from having to endure the entire peep show, by changing clothes in the privacy of a handy, dandy pool house...

I loved every aspect of this shoot, quite frankly. The owners were true gems to let me shoot there - no questions asked, the presence of neighbors in their yards and upper floor windows made it just the right amount of thrilling, the air temp was tolerable, wearing clothing (this time) in no way made me feel like a prude, my gorillapod had enabled me to experiment with funky camera placement, and I got a kick out of little things that happened, like...when in the frame above - I lay down thinking that my head and shoulders would sink down into the water...but as it turned out (blessing in disguise?) that murky, dark water was frozen, Ha!

(Snapped on 1/01/11)

On my way back to my car, I stopped by the house to thank the owners one more time before I left. It wasn't until I was back home and freshening up for the cemetery shoot that I realized I had a giant maple leaf stuck to the side of my head, and pine needles poking out of my hair. (That might explain why the other woman looked at me funny, when she answered my knock on the door...)

I was plumb tickled with how New Year's Day had played out thus far, and I was just about to make it even better...

I didn't actually know the poor soul, who was now laying to rest in that freshly dug grave - but after reviewing the grim images from the swimming pool shoot, my mindset was to mourn for them anyway... 

Friday, January 14, 2011

...And Another...

(All pics. snapped on 12/30/10

I could not believe how late it had gotten, by the time my camera battery reached a full charge, and I was finally behind the wheel of my little car - tearing up the highway towards the burned-down clubhouse for the second time in as many days. I'm not sure how it happens exactly, but lately it feels like whenever I've got plans to do a shoot, I find myself in some sort of race to beat the clock...and darkness...and plummeting temps...

It was around 3:30 when I arrived at my destination - so not too too late, but considering the fact that I'd come prepared to stage three different shoots (two of which were to take place within the confines of the crumbling clubhouse walls, and the other - in the nearby, empty swimming pool) which meant there'd also be three correlating costume/makeup changes - I knew that if I was gonna tackle everything before dark, I would really havta hustle.

While I was shooting at the clubhouse the evening before, the only other signs of human life in the vicinity - were the voices of a couple of heating contractors working in a neighboring yard, and the cars which drove along the road, clear on the other side of the lake on which the old clubhouse is situated. This time however, I was met in the parking lot as I unloaded my junk - by a man who was having no luck at all - catching and tethering his unruly dog.

After trying in vain to capture the beast, myself (in order to try and hasten their departure from the site) it quickly became apparent that the man and his renegade pooch weren't going anywhere, anytime soon. It looked like I had no choice but to get started regardless. Fortunately (for everyone involved) in my first set of pics. - I was to start off fully-clothed. Unfortunately, upon reaching the slated conclusion of my photographic short story, I would have shed a good bit of clothing - even if the guy and his dog continued to circumnavigate the building. 

Later on, while reviewing the pictures from this shoot, I nearly deleted the photo seen above. But when I shifted my eyes up and away from how dumpy I look in it, I realized that it's the only example in the whole lot - that show's that dude's close proximity to and his bird's eye view of me and my little photo shoot...neat!

(Soooo...Ok with you guys if I delete it now?)

Before long (thankfully) I had all but tuned out the ebb and flow of the man's intermittent pleading with the dog to come back to him. As the pace with which I darted back and forth between camera and set accelerated, I became more and more comfortable in less and less clothing. I just didn't have time to let myself worry about being spotted or even watched by that guy, or anyone else for that matter...I was getting in "the zone", man - and I couldn't afford to break stride.

The whole time I was snapping self-portraits in the shady graffiti corner - I was salivating at the thought of posing in front of a partially destroyed wall across the way, which appeared to have been part of a bathroom or kitchen during the clubhouse's heyday. The sun was shining brightly on that section of the semi-demolished structure, and knowing full-well that the exquisite natural lighting would soon be history, I decided to relocate from the graffiti walls to that sunny patch with the sparkly plumbing pipes and the mound of broken concrete blocks and tile. 

It was admittedly a bit unsettling to get fully naked in an area of the building where I was even more exposed to potential onlookers than I had been in the graffiti corner, but I had brought nothing extra to wear, and I was not about to pass on photographing myself amid such scrumptious wreckage, simply because I didn't have a costume. 

The synthesis of near terror brought about by the thought of getting caught posing nude, and my oftentimes unapologetic defiance of quitting, especially whenever the threat of danger lurks - courses through me like a damn drug, I tell you. I can't think of anything else in the whole wide world that affects me quite the same way...and I love it!

All righty, up, was the swimming pool shoot, right? Negatory. I had made the mistake of assuming that gaining access to the fenced-in pool area, would be no problem. It was only after I'd eaten up a bunch of precious time getting dressed and tweaking my hair and makeup, that I went over to actually scope out the situation. At which time I realized that all of the gates were securely locked and to climb over the 8 foot fence with my stuff in tow would be nearly impossible without a ladder. I was forced to abort the mission. But! There was still one more shoot on the schedule, and there was just enough time left to do it.

Costume change was a snap, I got naked (uh-gin), put on some tacky jewelry, a wig and even more black eye-liner, and proceeded to proudly parade around the place as if I'd claimed ownership of it or was somehow invisible to the sudden influx of car traffic - neighborhood residents who were returning in droves, presumably back to their homes after work...   

When I heard a large truck screech wheels as it sped into (or past?) the clubhouse parking lot, something queer happened. It was almost as if Cocksure Cleopatra, self-appointed Queen of the Clubhouse - had suddenly been cast out of my body, and what was left was the real Lauralyn - alone, naked and far more vulnerable than my most recent character incarnation had been. I raced over to where I'd left my street clothes inside-out and in a heap, and I spastically tried to get dressed and collect my things before being accosted by whoever was driving that truck...

Turned out it was a false alarm. There was no truck in the parking lot, thus - no irate neighbor coming to do bad things to me, and judging by the absence of irritated shouting - I deduced that man and his dog had reunited and left to go home. 

At first I was perturbed that I'd packed up to go prematurely, but I decided that it was just as well...the sun was setting, I was much colder than I'd realized, and it was probably time for me to head on home, myself.

Overall, I was pleased with my afternoon at the clubhouse ruins. I drove towards my house, hypnotized by the most divine sunset. And you know? I would say that I even felt content...that is - if I hadn't already started conspiring. I simply could not get my mind off of the failed swimming pool shoot...I knew that I had to see it come to fruition, some way...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

One Thing Leads to Another...

(Snapped on 1/02/11)

(Do ya' see those little Army men glued to the fence post? Not really sure why they're there, but I was super glad that they were)

So, after a seemingly endless string of mediocre (mostly birthday and Christmas-themed) shoots, the pictures that I took at my kids' school, were a welcome relief and helped me to feel like I was finally finding my groove again. Not wanting to lose the sudden surge of momentum, I was eager to make the most of the remaining 5 days that my kids were to be away on vacation with their dad - by snapping as many self-portraits as I was able. There was however, one teeeensy weensy problem...I was kind of at a loss for what to shoot next. Before I had time to get all wiggy about it though - opportunity (glory be!) came a knockin'.

You guys may remember a post from October (Freaks Come Out at Night) in which I wrote about and included a couple of self-portraits featuring the handiwork of lauded body/face-painter Brady Neher. Well, as blind good luck, or fabulous timing, or serendipity (or whatever) would have it - Brady contacted me out of the blue, and invited me to come to his place on his next day off from work - so that he could paint just my face, while we hung out for the first time in months.

I have driven up the highway that leads to the town where Brady lives, many times before (although not since becoming infatuated with self-portraiture and panorama photography) and I've always found that particular stretch of roadway to be a nice blend of scenic meets quirky. But this time all of that seemed even more pronounced. I guess because by now, I am programmed to be more observant than I used to be. Nowadays I scour every route that I travel - searching for "long" and "tall" things to shoot in panorama, as well as venues in which to photograph myself.

Along the way I passed by the long-since shut post office at Gaylord (see above). I've seen this tiny landmark dozens of times in my life, but until the day that I made my maiden voyage up to visit Brady, I'd never really paid much attention to it. Now don't forget it, okay? Because before we reach the conclusion of what will be four consecutive, related posts - it will make another appearance...

(Snapped on 12/29/10)

I had no idea what Brady had in store for my mug, but I brought along a couple of costumes that I thought would be generic enough to compliment whatever character I became, in the event that I did end up with enough time to take pics. of myself sporting my dramatically altered visage. Turned out, Brady hadn't settled on anything specific, he'd decided to just wing it, which was fine by me...

After working his trademark magic for a little less than two hours (a fraction of the 9 hours he spent painting my body, this past summer) Brady let me have a look at the finished product - and I loved it! In veering away from his usual vivid color palette and sticking with gradations of flesh tones only, he exaggerated my facial features and transformed me into a monster-like version of my real self! I was 100% totally stoked. 

Before saying "Goodbye" and sending me on my way to do whatever I wished with my new identity, Brady mentioned that someday I oughtta do some self-portraits at a nearby, burned-down clubhouse and the adjacent, empty swimming pool. There was still about a half an hour of daylight left, and so I asked if he would take me there right then. He said, "Sure". I hurried out to my car and stood in his driveway, teasing the hell outta my hair while simultaneously considering my costume options (I decided to go nude...real shocker there), when a slow-moving vehicle stopped right in front of Brady's house. I turned around to ask, "May I help you?" and oh my gosh! The look on that poor guy's face as he was startled by mine? Priceless, I tell you...positively hilarious!

Aight so, I followed Brady to the burned-down clubhouse and, both of us well aware that I had very little time left to shoot before it got too dark (and too cold!), we bade each other a quick farewell, I removed all my clothing and got busy taking pics.. 

My naked body and bare feet, could only stand about 10 minutes of the torturous cold which radiated up from the frozen concrete slab, and became more crushing as evening evaporated and nighttime took over. It was frustrating to get so few pictures featuring Brady's artwork, but I made a pact with myself to return the next day, and tackle a completely different topic (or several) - during the hours of prime time sunlight.

(Snapped on 12/29/10)

The heartbreaking thing about face and body painting - is that it's cursed with an extremely limited life expectancy. Just like the time that he painted my body, I felt it was a tragic waste to have to shower off all of Brady's hard work, especially after having only gotten a few (crappy) snapshots with which to record it for all time. 

As I drove back home, I remembered that I needed to pick up certain key ingredients, if I was to indulge in my ritual evening cocktail(s). I pulled in to my neighborhood Food Lion to stock up, and to possibly sneak some more pics..

I asked the nice man who was bringing the shopping carts across the parking lot to the front of the store, if he thought it would be cool for me to go inside with my face the way that it was. He said, "Honey? This is Berryville. We've seen it all here before". I thought to myself, "Uhhhh...yeah. Summah dat was probably me"...

(Snapped on 12/30/10)

It's gross, I know...but that night I did not take a shower. I was hellbent on getting the most out of my Brady face and so I slept on my back, barely moving at all, and awoke the next morning with it (mostly) intact (you can kinda see where my dog licked my forehead). I got up bright and early, schlocked together a wild beast outfit, and went outside to photograph myself as an imaginary troll who presumably lived in the 7 year old burn pile in my yard...

(Snapped on 12/30/10)

I took pictures in the 30 degree, overcast late morning, until my camera battery finally died. By this point though, I'd pretty much run the gamut, in honoring Brady's generous contribution to my own art. I didn't let myself feel guilty about taking that much-needed shower, partly because I was fairly well frozen to the bone, but more importantly - it was time to get ready for my sophomore shoot at those captivating, charred clubhouse ruins...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Teenage Angst...and All That Jazz...

(Snapped on 11/11/10)

After a friend suggested it recently, I decided to try something new on my blog. My friend and I agreed that it might be interesting to my viewers, if every so often I feature pictures that vanity(?) or pride(?) would not normally allow me to post - examples of how certain specific frames or even entire shoots can go so terribly wrong, that I either banish them to the dud bin, or delete them without hesitation. Now I realize that if I'm to share any of the real loo-loo's in the future, I'm gonna havta restrain myself from reflexively discarding the biggest losers. (I'll be curious to see how much humiliation I might actually be willing to withstand...*gulp*) 

Anyway, as soon as I began writing this entry, all set to implement a "novel" idea - I remembered that I'd already done this very thing, once before - way back in September: photo-fail...soooo...not such a novel idea after all, it seems. Anyhoo...

...thinking that it might be best to break us all in easy (again) to this (slightly daunting) new addition to The Big Ugly, I chose the above image because although it does make me cringe, it doesn't make me wanna drive my car off a cliff. It is by no means the absolute worst photo that I've ever taken, however - what makes it so pathetic is the fact that it does royally suck - and it happened to be the best pic. of this particular bunch. Ya' gotta admit - that is pretty sad.

I was disappointed that I never succeeded at freezing the movement of tipping the chair, but I also hated how my body looked in each and every one of these pics., including the static ones where I just stood there and posed. My legs appeared to be (as) short (as they actually are) and my torso looked (just as) long (as it unfortunately is) Not to mention, what tha hell is up with that gut? The freaking thing made an unwanted appearance in nearly!

The main reason that I picked this particular photo though, is because of its relevance to this post. You see, after downloading the pics. from this shoot in November, and immediately accepting that I would never do anything with any of 'em (or so I thought), the one ray of sunshine was that the concept and costume were still fair game. This meant that I could revisit the idea, some other time. And so, while my kids were away over Christmas break with their dad, I took one final stab at the "All That Jazz" theme... 

(Snapped on 12/28/10)

My two dance-obsessed daughters urged me to keep my jackleg dance skills confined to a stage where no one (who matters) would actually see me - rather than mortify them by pretending like I knew what I was doing, in front of their respected instructors and the friends that they so admire - at the dance academy they attend. Feeling just a smidge insulted, my middle daughter consoled me by coming up with a reasonable solution, "Why don't you just do it in the auditorium at school, Mom? There's hardly ever anyone in there" - GRRREAT idea!

I figured there'd be even less chance that anyone would have to witness my silly shenanigans, if I staged the shoot sometime over the holidays. I picked a day randomly, and arrived at my kids' school - both arms heavily-laden with: a big bag brimming with costumes, my sack of camera crap, the little table cum "quadrapod", and the chair for the "All That Jazz" chair-tipping sequence. Once there though, I was shocked to see so many people, and so much hustle and bustle around campus. I'd kinda banked on having the place all (or mostly?) to myself...poo.

Nevertheless, I confidently strode up to the main building (as if I was actually supposed to be there, hee hee) and cheerfully greeted the first faculty member who approached me. They looked at me confused and asked, "Well, hello Ms. Wilkins. What brings you here, today?" I explained that I had come to do some self-portraits in the auditorium and - although still clearly perplexed, the nice person offered to let me into the locked building. On the outside I was calm as a cucumber, but inside I was jumping for joy! Gaining access to the stage had been far easier than I'd looked like - THE SHOW WOULD GO ON!

I first went to the light booth to get myself familiar with the spot lights and all that (nuttin' to it - was a total cinch) and then went backstage to change into my costume. When I returned to the stage, ready to get started, I was startled by a maintenance guy who had showed up to work on some wiring...dangit. Referring to my out-of-dress-code attire he asked, "Huh. S'the first time I've seen something like that here at school...what's the occasion?" I told him that I had come there to snap some self-portraits while the kids were on break, and even though he assured me that I definitely would not be bothering him, I opted to hold off on the dance pics. until he was finished with what he was doing.

(Snapped on 12/28/10)

Luckily, I'd had the good sense before leaving my house, to pack up a couple of extra costumes. Since most of my recent shoots had taken place outdoors in the cold, I was eager to take full advantage of this somewhat rare opportunity to shoot inside...where it's warm, for cryin' out loud!

The first set that I took while the maintenance guy did his thang, turned out pretty awesome f'I do say so. And although I thought it prudent to omit them from this entry, chances are if you haven't already unknowingly come across one - you will, before too terribly long... 

When I checked to see if the maintenance guy was done yet, he wasn't - so I went back to the dressing room to put on my other outfit, and then - summoning my inner teeny-bopper - I giddily skipped up the stairs to the little girls' room and proceeded to amuse myself with this carefree, lighthearted shoot. A bit of a pity about the heavy stage makeup (as it does sort of annihilate what should be a more youthful, innocent feel) but hey, sometimes a gal's gotta have her priorities straight - and in this case "All That Jazz" had top billing...

It was funny because, I wasn't exactly doing anything wrong in the bathroom, but the whole time I was messing around in there - I had the feeling that if I did get caught, I was gonna be in some kind of trouble...(felt just like I was really back in school)

I did not get caught, and so I didn't get into any trouble, but there was something mega-thrilling about the chance that I might (and I know it may sound screwy but)...that's a big part of why I keep doing this shit...

(Snapped on 12/28/10)

Once I made my way back down to the auditorium, I was relieved to see that the maintenance guy was finishing up. I went and got ready for the day's final performance, hopeful that the finale would be as rewarding as the first and second acts...

(Snapped on 12/28/10)

If you ask me, the bathroom scene (even more so - the mystery shoot) in the end - truly stole the show, however. Cuz yet again - "All That Jazz" was nothin' but a flop. The chair-tipping pics. were even worse than the last time, and the stationary posey ones were well, I dunno...(again with the gut?!) Bottom line, I think my wise, young daughters made an accurate assessment of my lack of natural dance-ability. I'll just say this - if there had been an audience, I suspect I'd have been booed off the stage…

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Friend or Foe...Happy NEW Year, Yo!

(Snapped on 12/28/10)

I don't know about you guys, but I kinda liked 2010. It was my favorite year in quite a long time, for a number of reasons - not the least of which - my discovery of and subsequent fascination with 10 second timer self-portraiture...

Since first launching the new Big Ugly this past September, many of you have been beyond supportive of my accidental obsession with perhaps the most narcissistic hobby conceivable, and I don't know if I'll ever find a way to properly express my deep and humble gratitude to you all! But also, for those of you out there who disapprove of my "unorthodox" behavior as an artist who also happens to be the mother of four thriving, well-adjusted, happy children - consider this a virtual "Thank You" note...

"That which does not kill you, can only make you stronger" - Truth. Although you haters comprise a miniscule contingent of folks (mostly people right here in my community) who visit (or don't - but still whisper amongst yourselves, or to my friends and my ex about) my blog - the impact of your underhanded detraction is surprisingly great. Great in that it has confirmed that what I'm doing is controversial, and after years of churning out lackluster, "safe" artwork, this is a most welcome feather in my cap. In your feeble attempts to derail my endeavor and to deride me and my actions behind my back, you have instead equipped me with fierce determination to hold my head that much higher, while delving ever deeper into my craft. 

Nothing that I'm doing with my self-portraits affects any of you directly, so why on earth do you take it so personally? And if you're so worried about the well-being of my children, why not man-up and talk directly to me about your utterly ludicrous concerns. While we're at it - we'll take a good look at your kids. I guarantee you that mine have far fewer "issues" than the majority of your children do...

It's really just a matter of "live and let live", you know? If you don't like me and what I'm doing with my art, then maybe you should just stop looking. Although I'm happy to do it, it's not actually my responsibility to provide the excitement in your otherwise painfully boring lives. If however, you insist on voyeuristically meddling in mine, just know this - I would appreciate it very much, if you would air whatever grievances you may have with me and my work - directly to my face - Thanks in advance!

Ok, enough with the ranting already...let's get this 2011 thing started, why don't we! GIDDY-UP!