My friend Andi and I were both going through some very difficult situations, so one day we decided to do an impromptu shoot in our Flatbush apartment living room. Andi hardcore channeled her Italian strega ancestors in this series.
The band Bear Hands licensed a black and white version of the featured image from this series for their song Backseat Driver (Spirit Guide), released in 2018.
Model: Nina Isabelle
November, 2015 Woodward PA
One of the most important influences on my work ethic is Nina, a painter and performance artist in upstate NY. We grew up over a field from each other, but I never knew her growing up (although I went to high school with her sister). We met officially almost a decade ago at a craft show. We have since collaborated on many projects and I did a performance art residency with her in 2016. Her life philosophy has helped shape my artistic focus and I am very grateful for her support and guidance over the years.
Nina and I did this interesting shoot in her parents’ backyard in our home village. Using her mother’s vintage furs and boas and a giant spotlight from the stable, the backdrop of the pine trees serve as a great David Lynch-y vibe.
Model: Vincent Fuentes
Taken in Coney Island, Manhattan and Roosevelt Island, 2015-2016
I randomly met Vinny one day when my friend Jess and I wandered into his former place of employment, a high-end perfumerie. We hit it off immediately and became fast friends. A photographer and a model! We all saw that coming.
His beauty is tangible as hell, yet ethereal somehow. He’s “a good old-fashioned American mutt,” as he once cheerfully put it, but damn, his genes wield a potent mix in front of a camera lens. I’ve accompanied him to open calls and learnt early on fashion photography isn’t really my bag, but we’ve had a lot of fun doing shoots together. He taught me a lot about learning direction.
Vinny is also highly entertaining and his stories will leave you in tears from cry-laughing. Don’t be fooled by that serious Blue Steel, this guy is a goddamn riot with a heart of gold and will flash the Britney horns at the drop of a hat. Highly recommended model.
Truly one of the most interesting roommates I’ve ever had was my friend Wesley, who is a choreographer, has a Nick Cave-ish presence, and possesses an intellect of Niles Crane brilliance. Wesley came over to my Harlem sublet just before he headed across the Atlantic to Avignon to study, and after sampling some ancient whiskey stored in the previous tenant’s eclectic liquour cabinet, a really bizarre series of him doing some gothic movement work. If you ever want a thoughtful and honest suggestion for quality NYC theatre, Wesley’s your guide.
In autumn 2017 I had the pleasure of working with bestselling thriller author Cate Holahan on a book trailer for her novel Lies She Told. We shot the book jacket portrait at her home and had a lively chat about music and the art life. Not only is Cate a respected author, she’s also a talented musician who composed and performed the eerie music for the book trailer herself! She was imaginative and fun and had a terrific sense of humour. I really enjoyed working with her.
When I was a college student, most of my clothing money went to thrift shops in town. The best vintage clothing came from The Rag and Bone, run by Shelley. I first met her in high school, and came to become friends and eventually worked at the shop for a few years here and there.
Shelly taught me a lot about vintage clothing and how to date it. Many of her customers were local theatre groups and yes, cosplayers. One day we decided to do a series at the local bookstore where we made her look like the era of the clothes in her collection. I love the portrait of us side by side, we look like ghost sisters.
My friend Rhiannon is one of my go-to models when I have an art idea. She has a great look that transcends time and she’s always open for interesting ideas. We shot this series in Gantry Park, Queens, along the East River. The old Pepsi-Cola sign threw off an amazing neon red light, and with her 1940s clothes we managed to throw together a fun modern film noir vibe. I love shooting mini stories like this, especially with actors, and would like to explore more of it.
I’ve known and collaborated a lot with my friend Erica for almost a decade now, she was a student at PSU when I met her and she modelled for an abandoned book project. We reconnected when I moved to NYC and have gone on some wild adventures since. Once I had her dress up like a penguin and we walked around Midtown; she walked into Magnolia Bakery asking for brine shrimp. We’ve gone on excursions in the Bronx, Kingston, the Whitney, and the Bushwick open studios. One of my all time favourite people, and if you’re lucky you’ll get to have pudding at Rice to Riches with her sometime.
In August 2017 I spent a pleasant afternoon in Turtle Bay with playwright Diana Middleton, who I met through another theatre friend. I’d shot one of her play rehearsals a few weeks before and we hit it off. She wanted to do some interesting portraits that showed her theatrical side, so we made use of her spectacular orange chair (that recently went back to Chair Valhalla) and the fun items in her home.
In 2014 I really started focusing on psychological self-portraits. I was going through a lot of immense changes that year: I broke up with my boyfriend, got back into theatre, and lost my teaching job. After a string of horrifying experiences in central Pennsylvania, I had the beautiful opportunity to start over in NYC. In the meantime, before I knew for sure what my path would be, I started looking at the work of performance artists Carolee Schneemann and Frank Tovey, doing more daring portraits, exploring how I could use my own body to express my feelings, and bringing the idea of performance art to still photos. I knew I wanted to be more provocative, but felt very contained, observed and judged in central PA.
I also felt certain that I needed to be completely comfortable in front of a camera before I could expect others to be, too. That included learning to be perfectly comfortable in the body that currently contains my consciousness. I stopped being self-deprecating and began to really appreciate what I’d overcome. I had to unlearn years of conditioning as to what beauty means, and be more mindful of physical expression through movement and pantomime. I had a background in dance, theatre and even juggling, but performance art always seemed too esoteric for my tastes in the past. Eventually once I came to understand what it really was, it became the biggest vehicle for expression through some of the most volatile times I’ve ever experienced in my life.
I’m proud of my physical form, and what it’s endured: illnesses, immense stress, being hit by an SUV, many scars and injuries, walking thousands of miles, lifting and carrying so much, dance, the many miles I’ve biked. I’m only going to be in this form a little while longer until I die and move to the next vessel, so why not just be present?
In Summer 2016 a mutual friend told me that she had read an article she liked by a woman in NYC and she had a “gut feeling” that the two of us would be friends. Sure enough, she was right. I met up with Katie Frank in Central Park for a photo shoot and we immediately hit it off. She has come to be one of my closest friends and biggest supporters, and we have both experienced so much since, from immense joy to the unspeakably tragic. I am so grateful for her friendship and her sunshine heart. She is absolutely my soul sister.
It’s incredible seeing these portraits now, almost three years later, considering what has transpired since. We’ve been through many battles, we are war vets who have been through a long tour of combat. May the next course be smoother for us both. I love you so much sister Katie!!!
These portraits of Caitlin were taken in Central Park and Fort Tryon Park in 2016, soon after our first meeting on Roosevelt Island. Since then we’ve grown to become close friends and collaborators, and were roommates in Harlem for a while. Caitlin is a talented performance artist and a respected healer focusing on body and mind through meditative practices and movement.