Plush Decay means dying with fullness.
For this installment, I was inspired by structured, androgynous clothing - more specifically, a few photoshoots by Jeff Goldblum and Tilda Swinton. While there are layers here, and mixed textures like most past installments, I styled this shoot with more neutrality, and an aim for simplicity (as well as comfortability). My default styling tends towards lots of color with pattern mixing - so it was challenging and refreshing to style the models more subtly.
I had planned on two photographers - one of them local poet, previous model for Plush Decay, and filmmaker Annie Grizzle. She brought her film camera that she's had since she was a kid. Her tastes are abstract and beautiful, her poetry sonically hypnotic. I thought she would pair well with Vaughan Larsen, whose work tends to be bold, angular, mostly conceptual; but through it all there's a softness that could complement Annie's tender focus.
One of our models - Aja - brought a friend to the shoot. I learned that he took photos as well, and he said he had his camera on him. I asked if he wanted to shoot, and he said, "Do you want to see my work first?" I replied "No!" I liked the idea of a third shooter, who was a stranger to me, who could be a beautiful last minute ingredient to the afternoon. Later, as the brilliant sun was setting and we were all packing up to go, I found out he's none other than Freakish Nerd - local icon in the photography and music world, and also the lens behind the beautiful CopyWrite magazine. I'd been wanting to work with him for months, but never worked up the courage or the right time to ask - I felt it a blessing that circumstances created our acquaintance.
For the models, I asked previous participants and also some new ones who I've wanted to collaborate with for a while. Aija - who usually sports her magnificent curls - tucked her hair back for this look. She's a fantastic and versatile subject - for the previous Plush Decay (Walgreens & Glitter), she was shimmering and hyper femme. Aja (owner of the blog Heal Glow) is the enchanting woman in the blue button up. She is endlessly photogenic, as I saw on her Instagram, and knew she'd be a pleasure to work with. Teral Sondrup (who could easily pass for a Targaryen) - local men's stylist and vintage clothes vendor - was so effortlessly charming and expressive, a pro at posing. Kristen Lopez, the figure dressed in stripes, is an incredible artist who has done several watercolor paintings based on previous Plush Decay shots. The structured and eye catching two piece she came in looked wonderful next to the outfits, especially paired alongside Teral and Jacqueline. Molly Corkins, Ben Kane, and Jacqueline Stuhmiller have modeled before for our series, and their faces evoke many dreams and moods to me. Molly has the look of a beautiful and mischievous fairy, Ben the elusive charm of a fallen angel, and Jacqueline the bold and assertive look of a goddess warrior.
We shot on September 3rd. Summer was supposed to be over, but as many Milwaukee residents know, it's hard to predict anything when it comes to the weather. The breeze was gorgeous, the sun bright, and the greenery of the Lake Park vibrant. The warmth was present but there was also, to me at least, a certain melancholy. It always strikes when the gorgeous and incomparable fall season approaches. Every ray of sunlight that day reminded me of how short lived the comfortable temperature is, how brisk chills fill most of our year in this beautiful and complex city. Today, contemplating these photos, and taking a walk along Murray ave, I brushed my shoes across the fallen yellow leaves, and every other step a new decaying piece of foliage floated down around me. It's healing to honor how things end. All is tenuous, and many cliches exist to express this most true statement. I will fall through the sieve of time as all do. Until then, I intend on reveling in the luxury I have to meet and create with gorgeous humans.
Pulling aside a tree for the photographers to get a group shot of the models up in its branches, I was overcome with gratitude. I proclaimed spontaneously "I could be dead but I'm not!" Which, granted, could be unnecessarily morbid. But for me, it's a joy to realize, a joy to recognize it. It's a joy, too, to witness a set of strangers laying their heads on each other's shoulders. A tender moment of posed sleep, a comfortable unfamiliarity in the moments they stood like that for our team to get the shot. Around us the wind blew through the trees and I sat in the grass, marveling at the living works of art around me.
VAUGHAN'S SITE: http://vaughanlarsen.com
AJA OWNS THIS BLOG (launching soon!): https://www.healglow.com
MAHDI IS THE OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPHER FOR: http://copywritemag.com
TERAL SELLS VINTAGE CLOTHES HERE: https://www.etsy.com/shop/salvageapparel
KRISTEN LOPEZ'S ART: http://kristenlopezart.tumblr.com
ANNIE'S WORDS & PHOTOS LIVE HERE: http://cargocollective.com/AnnieGrizzle