Wednesday, September 24, 2008

the markers of identity

homework due today: photograph someone else as you.

what an interesting assignment! i was immediately excited by it--an unusual reaction to an assignment. my usual internal response to homework, specifically in photography classes is dread. lame, i know. what does this say about me as a photographer? answer: i'm terrified of living up to others' expectations. what do i do?!

with this one, though, i knew just what to do. emre. my lover as me. simple. on the couch.

then i reconsidered. it seemed like a cheap shot. dress a man in drag. well, i'd use a woman if she were my lover, but a man is what i got.

i felt lazy though, imagining the hyper-creativity and uber-impressive technique twists my classmates would employ to approach this assignment. but then i scolded myself for judging by comparison, just as i would discourage a friend in doing. sure, it's great to be inspired by others, but to abandon my very clear inspiration out of a feeling of inadequacy just wouldn't do. let me be inadequate, but let me be myself.

am i just making excuses? regardless, i was excited. as i said, such an interesting assignment. i was forced to distill my own identity markers. at least superficially, physically, what represents me? i discovered that these physical markers are not necessarily strictly superficial. even if you shop only at old navy, it still says something about your personality. these are conscious choices--expressions--i should say.

so i started out by giving my long red wig a haircut. this wig is leftover from my highly successful jessica rabbit costume, and has been used so many times by myself and others that it's a knotty mess anyway. no great sacrifice.

selected a nice vintage dress of the kind that stocks nearly half of my closet. a trademark since my teen years.

over-accessorized with jewelry because with me, more is always more.

a touch of make toenail polish. my hands may always be a ragged mess, but you'll find my toes often brightly painted.

the toe ring--a necessity. a nerdy little detail (thanks for noticing, kim!) back in 1995, when i worked at a metaphysical bookstore in good ol' nor-cal, a roaming silver salesman pulled up to my counter with his giant suitcase of glitter and gave me a silver toe ring. i put it on right there in the store and for thirteen years it's never left my toe.

the tattoo is a jackpot. a gorgeous marker. i was amazed at how decently i was able to render it, considering i can't draw to save my life.

the mug? a nod to both my huge desire to sitck my nose in everyone's business in the name of help, as well as my stubbornness and sometimes cocky (!) self-confidence. i admit that i am a strange mix of self confidence and insecurity.

so all of these 'me' details populate the couch where i write, where i read, where i slouch with my laptop. they populate my 'other half'. emre was surprisingly co-operative, as i attempted to costume him in dress after dress and necklace after necklace that wouldn't nearly fit around half of him. he's not the skinny emo-looking guy i met 5 years ago. he only softly mentioned, "you know, i've never done this..." what? imitate your insane, camera-wielding girlfriend? not surprised. no complaints though.
oh. except the wig. the wig! when i put it on him, its synthetic red strands combined with the aggressively, well, aggressive, beard and muscly body shoved into a polyester sheath to look abso-frikin-loutely hideously disgusting! like the most amateur drag queen. like the most pathetic bearded freak show lady (no offense to freak show ladies--surely you all look better than emre did with this wig on).

the wig was bumming me out about the whole project. and emre too.
"it itches! can i take it off while you draw the tattoo?"

okay. okay. already he was agreeably listening to my indie rock whatever i listen to that he hates, to 'channel kitty'. a pretty effective way to force your boyfriend with polar opposite taste in music to listen to yours, by the way. try it sometime. it garnered even less complaints than my old standby--the 'driver always controls the music in the car'. note: this one only works when your boyfriend (like mine) grew up in the city, therefore does not have a drivers license.

so the wig came off. temporarily. and when it did, emre pointed out, "i look more like you without the wig. i mean, we have the same haircut..." true. and really (hopefully), i don't look too much like the drag queen he was conjuring up. so the wig stayed off.
and aha! i decided to use the wig in the shoot anyway. t his was the eureka moment. i would let the wig fall onto the couch below his head area, like i was discarding my red hair, my feminitity. it wasn't emre channelling me, it was me channeling my masculine side, pulling off the mask of kitty....

do you see where i'm going with this? it was the twist i felt i was missing.

and after the tattoo drawing and the extensive coaching of positioning....(can you close your legs? and let me see the tattoo. but not like you're displaying it. oops, and can i see the lettering on the mug, where did the mug go? oh, and foot down so i can see the toe ring. wait, can you close your legs again?)....i forgot about the damn wig. i remembered it when emre was back in his normal clothes and i was wiping the tattoo off with rubbing alcohol. and i imagined the last three hours all for not.and i thought: well, maybe i don't need a twist.and finally, me, the day before, practicing. emre is far more glamorous than me. and prussia? yeah, she refused to pose with emre. she wasn't fooled by the dress. and by the way, this purple dress didn't wrap around half of emre's torso...


Genie said...

This. Is. Fascinating.

SO cool!

kitty8joe said...

thanks genie! it's awesome to hear positive feedback from someone who doesn't 'know' me.

kim said...

I like the side by side images, and the idea to break up your identity with visual markers. Not sure how I would do this for myself--especially on a man? Very interesting. The whole, other half idea. Emre looks like Dave Navarro in these pix. Very pretty (just like you!--the pretty part, not the Dave Navarro part).

Anonymous said...

Hey, you cut your hair, I think mine is longer than yours for once in my life! As I was sitting on the pot before muscle class, I was busting up in the bathroom stall reading this. Gasp...I'm sure my other bathroom buddies thought I was insane. Gnome

Amy ~ Just Being Aimlyss said...

How fun! What a good sport Emre was to do this! :)