Thursday, March 31, 2011

Follow-Up Visits

(Snapped on 3/07/11)

In case you haven't noticed, I am absolutely ga-ga over old buildings...and the more dilapidated or neglected they are - the more helpless I am to KEEP OUT!

Only a few months into my obsession with self-portraiture, I began featuring the patina of creepy, crumbling structures - either by posing against their exteriors, or scuttling through broken windows and the occasional, conveniently open door - in order to stage my pictures inside. Both scenarios are intimidating in their own right - and just as the reasons for such, greatly differ - so too does the degree of corollary anxiety. 

Although it is thrilling to stage self-portraits in public spaces, knowing any number of people might witness my antics - the spike in my blood pressure, and endorphin-like high that occurs from the more covert of my shoots - is thrilling to the nth power.

Posing in plain-view of passersby, has its perks - but in general, I know what to expect. What really gets my heart pumping, is fear of the unknown - when I enter abandoned buildings...alone. I'll tip-toe around, while trying to determine if someone else just might be in there, but even when I'm sure I have the place to myself, I never stop wondering if a stranger will appear to find me naked in the midst of a shoot. I also worry about things like...falling through rotten floor boards, or worse yet - causing a catastrophically crippled building to completely collapse (there've been times when I believed this could actually happen). Also (now that it's Springtime) the hibernating critters are slowly coming out of their slumbers. I've been preparing myself to be startled by snakes (eep!) and whatever else might lurk where I'm shooting...

(Snapped on 2/17/11)

(Snapped on 3/16/11)

It was bad enough to come across these dead creatures, recently...but the thought of being mauled by a live animal? Huh uh...I'll take a human predator over that, any day. Wouldya look at the fang in that poor raccoon's mouth...and god only knows if the damned thing was rabid...

(Snapped on 3/07/11)

The self-portraits in this post were taken on two separate days, at an arrestingly grungy 4-room hovel - with which I fell madly in love while snappin' pics. with my phone and my Holga, one day. During that first visit, I was neither mentally geared-up, nor logistically prepared to photograph myself among the abundant debris, but before I'd returned to my own house that evening - the cheesy French Maid shoot was all but mapped out...

I had everything I needed except the feather duster (those things are surprisingly scare, fyi) but as soon as it appeared in my mailbox - I packed up my gear, hopped in my car, and returned to my new favorite hovel.

It's hard to pinpoint why I like the place so much. I mean for starters, the smell of urine nearly knocked me on my ass, like..."filthy" doesn't begin to describe that type of nasty. There are spongy spots in the floor where you couldn't pay me to step, and walking barefoot through all that garbage had me wondering which would happen first: exposure to an horrific disease? Some sort of parasite boring into my body? Or a savage attack from a wild animal I'd disturbed. And although it was 50 or so degrees outside, and even with the windows and doors open or broken - the temperature inside of the house remained considerably cooler than it was outside. After posing and snapping for only an hour, the damp, chilly air took its toll...I was shivering and couldn't feel my feet anymore, so I thanked the little hovel (for allowing me to be there) and went home to get warm...and clean.

(Snapped on 3/14/11)

I couldn't stop thinking about the hovel and its treasures, and so a week later - I went back to take self-portraits in the two rooms that I had yet to exploit. 

I arrogantly strode in through the open backdoor, and this time I wasn't nervous at all...unTIL! I heard something big (I the size of a possum?) zig-zag across one of the rooms, before clambering up to the attic. So much for not being nervous. The blessed thing (whatever it was) stomped around above my head, for the duration of my third day of pics. at the hovel. I was so relieved that it never fell or jumped down through the gaping holes in the ceiling - and onto or at or even near me at all. 

I know this is gonna sound crazy, but - it was almost as if the hovel had protected me. By now, I've spent tons of time in lotsa forsaken buildings, and where some literally make me feel like I'm intruding or unwelcome, the hovel always seemed to want me there...cuz it was lonely...and grateful to have the company, perhaps? I was never harmed by the big, scary beast...far as I know I haven't contracted any wicked diseases...and believe it or not, I even trusted the old hovel to let me step safely on the spot where earlier I claimed I couldn't be paid to step. Miraculously, I didn't fall through that part of the floor - which has caught buckets of rain for years, I'd imagine. The trade-off though, was having to repeatedly sludge through the grodiest crud (I shudder to think what it was) which squished through my toes - sorta like play-doh...except for this stuff was brown...and it stunk.  

(Snapped on 3/14/11)

So after three safe and productive trips to the hovel, you would think that I'd gotten the silly thing outta my system. But I like that little dump with its eerie assortment of contents, and I sincerely enjoy being there...aaand knowing me, and my ongoing affliction with addiction...I'll probably visit it again...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Quick Change Artist

(All pics. snapped on 3/05/11)

Ooohhhh...I can see the looks of disappointment on your faces, right now. Go on, admit it - you're bummed...because just when you thought I was finally maturing in my art - experimenting with the contrast of light and shadow, hanging up my goofy costumes in favor of juxtaposing the contours of my naked body against harsh angles and severe colors - I go and pull a stunt like this...tsk, tsk, tsk...

Please allow me to explain this recent (and temporary?) regression back to where I started out with self-portraiture - the pin-up. It goes kinda like this: When the opportunity to photograph myself among an entire shed full of antique farm trucks presented itself - naturally, I jumped at the chance. The only trouble was - the whole thing came about so suddenly, that I was to be going to the site right away, sight unseen. With no knowledge of what the venue was like, very little time to prepare, and in my haste to just get to the derned place - I settled on perhaps the easiest, most cliche of photographic themes - "girl washing truck in bikini"...*yawn*

I packed up my car, drove to and then through my friend's several hundred acre apple orchard. I covered what felt like every square inch of his property, searching aimlessly and in vain for the well-hidden truck shed. Right when I was about to give up completely - I spotted it (yesss) shining like a beacon in the distance. 

The shed stood in plain view of a tenant house, and when I saw people talking in the driveway - I thought it best to go over, introduce myself, explain why I was there, and make sure they were aware that I'd obtained permission from the property owner to be there - that way they wouldn't come to me asking questions. But the indifferent couple just shrugged - as if to say, "It's along now, honey".........Huh. Well...that went better than expected.

The next order of business, was to go back out onto the property - to try and find a water source with which to fill my bucket full of dish soap. Mission accomplished, I was rawther proud of myself for successfully navigating the rough and bumpy drive back to the shed, without spilling a drop of the cold, sudsy water. And finally, I swapped out my jeans and my sneaks - for the neon green bikini and I was all set to get down to business.

The first set of truck pics., didn't really work out. In trying to keep a large wooden post out of frame, I minimized the space in which I was able to pose. In almost every picture, either my butt or my shoes were truncated, and in the few where I was completely visible - my body appeared restricted and crunched. So, I tried my luck over by the red truck instead, but after 20 painfully mediocre attempts - I decided to throw in the towel.

Honestly though? I was okay with wrapping the truck shed shoot, since I'd taken tons of pics. with my iPhone, as well (which frankly, I liked more than the self-portraits I'd snapped) but that wasn't all. Thing was - the moment I'd been given free reign to take whatever pictures I wanted, that day at the orchard - I resolved to kill two birds with one stone. Which meant - doing another self-portrait shoot, in a different building elsewhere on the farm.

You guys might remember the Looks Can Be Deceiving entry, in which I posted a photo where I dangled from the peak of a barn roof...yeah? Well, that little barn has a dank, dungeon-like cellar, and as soon as I saw it - my eyes glazed at the thought of staging self-portraits there...someday. Lo and behold, that day was upon me!  

Working outta the trunk of my car, I transformed myself from the robust (yet vacant) pin-up gal - to an ashen-complected, sickly-looking wretch. I mercilessly teased my poor hair, and covered the cheery pink make-up (that made sense for the truck shoot, but not for the next one) - with dark grey shadow on my cheeks and my lips. I immediately identified with this sullen, new character - and was itchin' to see how she'd fully manifest, once I banished her to the little barn's cellar.

In comparing the two shoots from that day at my friend's orchard, one thing is glaringly apparent - the amount of energy that I put into any shoot, is a direct by-product of the level of difficulty therein. Matter of fact, most times I associate how much I like my pics. - less with the content or quality necessarily, and more with the amount of effort that went into taking them. The truck shed shoot had been too easy to excite me, and because there was nothing especially challenging about it - I gave up after barely getting started. 

The dungeon shoot on the other hand, was a whole 'nother story. I was naked from start to finish, which was disquieting mostly because - I could hear the voices of the apple pickers who were working very close by, for the duration of the 30 minute shoot. After climbing up the ladder to set the timer for each frame, I had to perch in an open doorway right by a well-travelled gravel road. Although no one ever spotted me, I never stopped worrying that someone might (which I loved).

The ladder itself upped the ante a bit. Once I concluded that the pictures might be more sinister without it, I came up with a way to nix it from the pics.. It wasn't as simple a task as it might seem...but it was clearly a change for the better.

This just in! Soooo...while writing this entry, I was informed that I'd been refused permission to shoot on a nearby farm. Reason being - the owners were leery of fostering an artist whose work is viewed as "scandalous within the community". And you know what? I'm good with that. Why? Because there are plenty of other people in my life (like my wonderful orchardist friend) whose generosity more than makes up for the setbacks...and that's one thing I hope never changes...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Big Pig That Couldn't

Hey, so guess what today is? That's right - it's St. Patrick's Day...but that's not all - it also happens to be the one year anniversary of my first official, cheap cam. 10 sec. timer self-portrait shoot - that's HUGE! And to celebrate this festive occasion, I have decided to deviate from the dark side for a spell, by completely fabricating sharing the lighthearted(ish) story, that corresponds with the pig, er um - pics. that I've included in this post. goes...

Once upon a time, a wayward and directionless circus performer, met up with a large and lugubrious pig. Within moments of first introducing themselves, the two became fast and famous friends.

The unemployed circus performer quickly learned that Miss Piggy was more down on her luck, than even she was - cuz ya' see...Miss Piggy had mere days before she'd be hauled off to slaughter (this part of the story is true...)

After dabbing their tears, the perpetually optimistic circus performer, formulated (what she thought was) a promising plan..."I know...let's run away and join the circus  - together! I'll teach you some tricks and the whole world will love you...and instead of becoming someone's breakfast, you'll be coming V.I.P. - to every seated dinner!"

But Miss Piggy was a realist, and skeptical of the circus performer's hair-brained idea...not to mention highly insulted by her ridiculous requests...

...and she (understandably) retaliated with redoubtable rage!

Having reached a bitter stalemate, Miss Piggy sunk deeper into her rightfully-deserved depression...while the circus performer sulked on account of the sow's unfathomably unshakable insouciance.

But in no time at all, they were back on their feet - determined to spend Miss Piggy's last days...together. Two new, but dear friends...doing the things that they loved to do best...


 Happy St. Patrick's/Self-Portrait Day!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Old Red Barn, in Black and White

swear if it wasn't for my kick-ass, close friends...I'd have no fresh ideas for places to shoot. But the latest trend has kinda caught me by surprise...cuz it's the very youngest of my friends who've not only given me good leads, but have pointed me in the direction of remarkable venues - some of which have brought me tremendous good luck.

(Snapped on 2/28/11 - using an iPhone and an Instagram effect)

For instance...a little over a week ago, my good girl friend's 14 year old son mentioned that he'd ridden through some property on his horse, and the first thing that came to his mind (as he made his way across a beautiful, broad expanse...and past a run-down, red barn and a few other cool buildings) was me. in the context of my pics., specifically. He told me, "Oh mah gosh, Lauralyn...I found the most awesome place. I think you might like it for your pictures." Now...I wasn't sure if he meant my self-portraits or my square pics., but that was neither here nor there - cuz either way? I definitely wanted to hear more.

As soon as he started explaining how to get there, I knew exactly which property he was talking about. I myself, have ridden there on horseback (but that was absolutely ages ago). I believed that my young friend was correct in thinking that the old barn would be a great place to snap great in fact, that I decided to go there the following day.

(Snapped on 2/28/11)

I awoke the next morning, knowing two things for certain - where I'd be shooting, and that the weather was stellar - especially considering it was the last day of February. It was sunny, and warming up nicely, which was fortunate - since I'd have to park my car where it wouldn't look suspicious, and the closest place that I could think of to do this, was about a mile away from the property with the barn. I was looking forward to walking though - warm sun on my face and fresh air in my lungs, would make schlepping my gear, much more pleasant.

What I wasn't quite as clear about, was what to do, or who to become - once I finally arrived at my destination. It's a little tricky to map out a shoot, when I haven't seen the location with my own eyes in years. And because I wasn't terribly familiar with the barn or the property on which it stands, I also didn't know how much privacy I would have, how likely the chance that someone might catch me, or how much warning I'd have before they did. 

Still unsure about what themes I would adopt, I rifled through my costumes and chose two neutral garments: a simple, black, velvet dress, and a vintage, white slip. I also tore a length of fabric from a worn-out, white sheet (nondescript wardrobe elements like that, do come in handy - more often than you might actually think) I didn't bother fussing with my hair and face much...I left my messy mop mostly alone, and drew heavy, black lines around my eyes. 

Rather than become anxious about wingin' this shoot, I eagerly awaited facing the unknown.

(Snapped on 2/28/11)

After walking up the road from where I parked my car, I cut through some woods, and then came out onto the vast, wide-open field. It was plain to see that I would be completely exposed while hoofin' it the long(ish) distance over to the barn...and the probability that someone would see me, was fairly good - because dotting the southernmost property line, were a number of houses overlooking the field...I could even hear voices coming from the yards. My vivid, red camera bag would most certainly alert anyone who should happen to glance my way, of my presence...whether they cared (or not) would decide my fate. 

I made it to the barn without incident however, and while I waited to see if someone might still show up - I loosened up by snapping pics. with my Holga and my phone. 

Right away, the old barn and its adjacent structures spoke to me. Curiously, I felt comfy and welcome - like I was actually supposed to be there. As my nerves dissolved, I thought to myself, "Might be best to get the naked stuff over with first, that way if someone does find me, there's a better chance I'll be clothed, at least." 

All I really remember about the first two groups of pics., is that I took off my clothes, and let the barn dictate what I oughtta do next...I know this'll probably sound completely cuckoo, but...there was no elaborate thought process behind the two self-portraits above, nothing deliberate at all on my part. They were the product of something organic, or amoebic? It was this very sort of natural fusion with my surroundings, and a little bit outta my control. I gelled with that barn. You a person can bond with a building...I did.

(Snapped on 2/28/11 - using an iPhone and an Instagram filter)

When I was just about ready to try something new - the most fantastic storm blew in from out of nowhere. 60 degrees and sunny was suddenly - 50 degrees and windy with thunder and lightening and torrential downpours...I absolutely loved the whole thing of it, 'twas thrilling! This strange, new weather situation (I bargained) would surely prevent anyone from interrupting my shoot, and at that point I felt truly free. I didn't worry about intrusion, or how much time was passing, or walking to my car in the pouring-down rain...I wanted to get as much as I could out of the maximum amount of time possible - spent there in that wonderful barn. I felt protected and safe, immune from repercussion - almost as if I'd acquired temporary ownership - simply because I wanted to be there so badly...It was the oddest sensation that I've ever experienced on any self-portrait shoot to date.

(Snapped on 2/28/11)

The abrupt change in the weather cued an apropos change in theme. I zipped myself into the long black dress...and continued to go with the semi-lucid flow…


(Snapped on 2/28/11)

I don't know about you guys - but I'm a color person...seems to me a break from the somber palette of this post is definitely in order (plus this shot was taken in a different red building - so it's exempt from the black and white theme dictated by this post's title)

(Snapped on 2/28/11)

The longer I stayed in the old barn, taking tons of self-portraits while gladly taking shelter from the storm, the deeper I dove into my fantasy world...

As a grown-up, I feel so lucky to have mandatory make-believe as such a huge part of my life...I mean, not many adults come home after work, and gloat about how much fun they had - running barefoot through cow shit, dodging inhabited gopher holes, and climbing hay loft ladders repeatedly - all the while pretending to be someone they are the midst of an imaginary scenario... 

But that's precisely my idea of the perfect workday...and why I truly love this strange thing that I do.

(Snapped on 2/28/11)

I took about 20 frames climbing up the ladder - and then attempted to get situated in the hayloft before the shutter clicked. I did it once (the picture sucked) but after surveying the loft before climbing back down - I scrapped the ladder shoot altogether, in favor of taking pics. all the way up in the hayloft - on a crate set precariously on rotting floor boards, amid inches of pigeon poop, and directly under a leak in the roof. My costume was nothing more than the length of cotton fabric, wrapped several times around my sopping wet hair. 

On the very last frame, before my camera battery died - I knelt on the crate, heard the snapping of wood...and for a halfa millisecond, I thought, "This is gonna hurt"...But I didn't crash to the floor down below - I only crushed the poor apple crate (thank god)

I was sad to have to leave, but intensely happy just the same...I couldn't have asked for a more rewarding day. I packed up my stuff and walked to my car, while the driving rain revived me from my trippy, euphoric fog... 

So, again - big thanks to my friends for lookin' out for me...particularly the young ones - who ironically treat me and my pics. with a more mature mind set, than many adults that I know. Maybe most young people relate to my refusal to grow up, where most grown-ups refuse to relate to it…

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

More Than One Way to Skin a Cat

(Snapped on 2/17/11)

When I first threw my hat into the analog photography ring, I worried that the nifty, square pics. that my Holgas and iPhone produced - might unseat my self-portraits as the current governing body of my work. But what I've noticed instead is - that rather than oppose or compete with each other, these two dissimilar forms of photography have managed to meld their staunch differences, and in doing so have forged a seamless, symbiotic relationship.

(Snapped on 2/14/11 - using an iPhone and an Instagram effect)

Over the entire (almost) year now, that I've been doing my self-portraits - there have been many times when I've come up with a theme, specifically to suit a chosen venue. In other words, it is not uncommon for a particular location to cause the spark that ignites the shoot. 

Something my Holgas and iPhone have taught me, is that it's absolutely okay to take pictures of people and places and things, without always putting myself in the shot. Before discovering the panorama mode on my Cybershot, I used self-portraiture as my excuse to photograph those things that I normally would've felt silly about capturing with an inexpensive point and shoot camera. Oh, and speaking of my "inexpensive" point and shoot camera - it's funny to me that the combined cost of all my "toy" cameras, equals that of my most recent Sony when going on dollar value only, my Sony holds rank as my most valuable piece of equipment. But defining "value" can be somewhat arbitrary, and much as I love my trusty Cybershot (cuz you and I both know that I do) my Holga and my iPhone have proven to be invaluable, not only because they've helped me branch out from self-portraiture, but in some cases they've actually enabled and encouraged me to take selfpics that I mightn't have otherwise...

Take for example, the image above. It shows the interior of an out building that sits on the same property as the creepy house that I wrote about last post. Taking Holga and iPhone snaps around that property, gave me time to get used to the unpredictable environment. I dunno, I guess there was comfort in feeling like I might be forgiven for poaching, if I was caught taking innocent pictures of stuff...rather than half-naked pics. of myself. 

By the end of this little photography spree, I was proud of myself for not pussin' out, and terribly excited to finally sit down and study my newest batch of self-portraits. The real surprise though, was how much I was diggin' on a few of the pics. that I'd snapped with my phone, while warming up to the sketchy situation...including the photo above. What I realized and liked, was although I do now enjoy taking pictures of things that aren't me, some of those pictures actually give me ideas for future self-portraits to stage...i.e. - the photo at the top of this post. 

(Snapped on 2/17/11)

Here's the thing...where my truly cheap cameras have opened my eyes, so much wider that I literally see more - it's those people who continue to comment on my pics., offering wise suggestions and sound advice - who have opened my mind to concepts that I hadn't given serious thought before.

Someone left a comment on a recent post, that totally inspired me to experiment with simply juxtaposing the curves of my body against the more severe and/or graphic of the backdrops I pick. All too often in my self-portraits, I lean on the crutch of becoming a caricature of myself....and that, coupled with the comment on my blog - led me to approach (certain of) my self-portraits in a less literal, more abstract way. And as soon as I saw the Instagram image of that gloriously light-filled, slatted shed...I knew exactly where I wanted to start.

Now, what I found interesting - was the commentary from folks with whom I shared the shed pics.. After noticing the nails sticking up through the boards, one friend skipped the critiquing and expressed concern instead - asking if I was up to date on my tetanus shot...I am relieved to say that - yes. I got a tetanus shot last summer while in the E.R. for some other injury...and it's a damn good thing too, considering I sustained puncture wounds in my feet and one ankle, while taking the slatted shed pics.. 

Another friend visualized photos very different than the ones that I presented to him, saying he thought I should've stayed upright and exaggerated the length of my limbs, whereby mimicking the lines from the shadows and light...rats.

And the last friend thought that by actually being in the picture, I made it nowhere near as good as the original that I showed her on my phone (I can't say that I totally disagree with her there) Her complaint though, was one that I hear often and mostly from women - that the nudity is just too distracting...that it detracts from what could've been a much more interesting pic.. She would've liked the photo better if either I'd stayed out of it completely, or if I'd told more of a story by wearing a costume, and affecting a persona - thus creating more of a scenario (lord I cannot seem to win for losin') She stated however, that in her opinion, being naked in the picture above...did make sense. (Hmmm...could be to some people, nudity is tolerable - when it's not quite soooo "in your face")

(Snapped on 2/19/11)

Clearly, it's not possible for me to please everyone, and what I've come to understand in my post-social network time of solitude - is that as grateful as I am that people take the time to look at my pics., and as much as I appreciate and always hope to get feedback, I make these pictures first and foremost - to satisfy something in me...

I've continued to and will continue to pose nude in some of my's my most favorite costume, after all - so versatile, convenient and (almost) always relevant.

But I am fully aware that the nudity can get just as tiring as my goofy costumes tend to do.

I also know that sometimes it works... 

(Snapped on 2/23/11)

...and other times ^? Mmmmmm...not so much (heeHEE!) 

I've said it before, but it bears repeating, since it seems to mean more to me now...this whole thing is all just one big learning curve...and honestly? I'll never learn anything unless I am open to trying most everything...