Plush Decay means dying with fullness.
May's theme was inspired in part by Dilaru FIndikoglu, a bold designer based out of London, and a short fashion video directed by Ryan McGinley titled "shade never scrubs off", starring models and performers such as @thatgirlsussi and @slickwoods. It was also inspired by one of the models themselves - I met performer Pagan Holladay one night, and asked to take a picture of their outfit. Pagan was wearing a pair of pastel horns and was so ornately put together but it simultaneously seemed so effortless.
This relationship between performance and the comfortability of being a chameleon has always been something I try to address when curating these shoots. A few of us are most like ourselves when we play with our outward appearance - not being able to recognize us becomes a stable part of who we are, and how we interact with the outside world. What we wear, how we create a look (or disrupt a classic look), is one of the few things we can directly control in our day to day existence.
Branching off of these thoughts and into perspectives, I thought about what plus size model and writer Minerva Siegel told me about her experiences with posing for a couple photographers at the same shoot. It's a great way to provide different viewpoints, to see the same group of people through two different (literal) lenses.
So, I asked Rachel Lapow - college student and talented writer as well as photographer - and Cade McGown, young photographer and creative - to shoot the group. A quick glance below (Rachel's photos are the first set, Cade's the second) will show you how different their styles are, and how they caught facets of the desperation and necessary creativity of the models' mindset. The storyline I gave them was simple: an explosion at a local fabric dying factory killed everyone except them. They survive because of a mutation in their genetics, which surprises them, and they must adapt to their new reality.
We shot at Shorewood Nature Preserve, on a beautiful calm and sunny day. This theme's cast (naming them as they appear in this first photo set) are Erik Allen Kellom (Model), Taj Raiden (Rapper and poet), Pagan Holladay (Drag performer and Art Theorist), Treat (aka Josh - Treat is the character of the costume he is wearing, copyrighted by Mad Bat Creations, a Fursuit and cosplay costume provider), Alyssa (Model), and Valerie Lighthart (Writer, actress, photographer). Taj (in Cade's photos), Erik and Alyssa are all wearing neck pieces made by Ayla Boyle - a young local craftswoman. You can find her work in Heidi Witz's studio, on Farwell, next to Oriental Theatre.
I styled the models (except for Pagan Holladay and Treat) using accessories they brought, as well as a flower crown and a unicorn hat from my closet, electric cords, vintage clothes, and eyeliner. Pagan and Treat brought prop guns, and of course the skeleton arms come from the same figure who makes an appearance in the second Plush Decay.
Look below each photo set for poems I wrote after the images, and look below the galleries for links to the photographers' works.
(((( there wasn't any water at first no evidence either of fire even though both were the truth /// I roam to meet more lonely neighbors // no one is a friend or enemy ___ +++ but we do like to see the sun dip into our shoulders.. we eat the bark sometimes. [[[ we don't have to, we sincerely thirst for it. there wasn't many sounds but I stumble &&&& spur upon the stubble of a new cliff and many things that used to be climb above in ash %%% ::: one of us bent and pared down to muscle , she discovered she could shave the excess by a mere pull. her digits now glisten pearl in the new sun's face. we are all bone but only she shows. i hid a man's visage in the petal. it was fast work but he came back after and we do this over & over again . ** by which I mean, lean over a bullet. eat the shell. spit it among the green and - one of us, they tell me through a lip of green - through their eyes everything is sea. ''''' ''''' '''''''
god was a word to wrestle away we did it through heaven myth bent and smoked out you see the jaws move when you tighten your reflex you see you can eat most things if you've got the will for it when the lens caught one moment of tension it looked like blue hammering the body out of a ghost we did it through hell fire and a rain of starry trees we clawed the foliage til it was the backstage of a play painted and leaned god was confused about her borders white was a color of paint-by-fantasy and the crown and the gold and the blue held your hand in its big pockets god was a word you wrestled with at the start but now that you're here, now that you're drawn in, not sure we can let you out.
Rachel Lapow: https://www.instagram.com/raechillllll/
Cade McGown: https://www.instagram.com/c.i.k3/