Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Geek meets Goth

I saw his ad on Craigslist, "aspiring 21 year old goth model seeks photographer," and thought, why not? I pictured some variation of Marilyn Manson, midnight hair, scary eyes and a bloodless complexion, the kind of character I'd try to sneak a photo of should I come across one on the street. And here was one offering his time in exchange for mine! I might get one good image out of it. Or, considering the letter I mentioned in my last post, maybe a series of images, something I could base an entire exhibition on. So, we email back and forth a few times, and, then, one morning last week, we speak over the phone.

Now, I am not a morning person. So when he called, like 5 minutes after I'd just woken up, needing coffee, food and a good pee, I was not in the best state of mind. But I understood that this was more than an appointment setting phone call. We were feeling each other out, getting a sense of what working together might be like. So, repressing my bad mood and my need to visit the loo, I asked him the only thing I could think up after only a few hours of sleep, which was, how did he become a goth?

He proceeded to give me a short (half hour long) history lesson on gothdom starting with it's beginnings in Roman times, on down to his first exposure to the world of goth in grade school, mentioning along the way Edward Scissorhands, Depeche Mode, the Cure, Dexter, Son of Shaina (?), Todd McFarlane toys and used a rare turn of phrase I took to be part of popular goth-speak, I'm beguiled.

He also referred to being a goth as a calling. And I, having reached an age where 21 is starting to seem more or less interchangeable with 12, might have scoffed (privately) a bit more than necessary at this. Wasn't it all just a form of rebellion? A way of standing out in a crowd? But, repressing such condescending thoughts, I admired the fact that he was as big a fan of Depeche Mode now as I was growing up. I also made the foggy headed, and yes, condescending, mistake of expressing this admiration with words like cool and interesting.

He then casually expressed his disdain for generic words, words he wished people would strike from their vocabularies. Words like -

" - Like the words I just used?!!!"

'Well, no! I mean, I understand that people can have other things on their minds. They're busy or they're tired."


We arranged a time and place to meet. And though I'd said I was looking forward to it, in truth I wasn't so sure. I'd formed an image of him as this sees the world in black and white type. An adolescent who measured the world and everyone in it by the rulebook he spent most of his time writing. Already I'd proven myself to be another lazy minded grown up. I had used words like cool and interesting. Who knew what else I was capable of doing, what else he might catch me on?

But the next day, standing in front of Starbuck's at the appointed time, I saw this rather sweet looking person just days out of childhood and immediately my maternal side kicked in. I bought him a chai tea and an extra strong coffee for myself to prevent any more lapses into lazy thinking (fine, he might have had a point) during the photo shoot.

Still, he didn't look as goth-like as I'd hoped and I wondered how well the photos would turn out. I also wondered why he considered himself a goth when he didn't dress like one from day to day. Wasn't being a goth about the get-up? What good would photos of himself like this do for a goth modeling portfolio? Moreover, how would I make this work? After our first fifty or so photos I still wasn't sure, especially since all of them looked as dull and unpromising as this...
But I sensed that all he needed was to feel completely at ease. Luckily, there was a small, private courtyard nearby. We talked some more, he loosened up, he sang a Depeche Mode song, he practiced some theatrical exercises which to a passing onlooker might have looked goofy. But the results, I must say, are amazing, a total transformation...


  1. Wow Cheryl! What a connection and those images of him are totally captivating. What a transformation from the first image - once he loosened up and let his spirit free, his real self emerged. What a revelation and what a fantastic experience to share. xx

  2. I love this post for so many reasons. You are a great writer as well as photographer. He doesn't look very goth to me, but I am surrounded by them in Seattle, so have a different image. I think the extreme close-up in the middle looks most goth. I like the first "after the transformation" shot and the second to last one best. I love the way his hair blends into the pattern on the wall behind him. From an artistic point of view, that is probably my fav!

  3. Loved this story and the pictures. I like them all. You have a great eye for perspective.

    He does look sweet not very goth, but what do I know? I had an interview with an artist once and it didn't go as expected. He just talked in another language (figurly speaking). We definitely didn't click like goth boy and you did. Good job!

  4. I'm with Carol Ann, what a transformation from the first photo to the next series.

    However, he looks like he's trying to hard to be Goth. Anyone that gives a diatribe of why and belittles another for use of vocabulary is trying to prove something.

    Loved the photos. Did he?

  5. Absolutely love the first and seventh photos (same ones as Maya). They are cool and interesting (lol). What a great story. You certainly have captured a thread here.

  6. I'm in love with these shots, gothic enough or not. In the extreme close-up your subject looks positively angelic. It's just not fair, you grabbed up enough talent on your way into being that I picture at least three souls empty-handed and devoid of any creativity whatsoever. Hopefully, they don't mind being accountants.

  7. He's just wonderful! I was immediately reminded of the young Robert Smith - he has those big innocent eyes. I love the tones and the way his hair seems to blend in with the leaves.

  8. hey, thanks for your comment ... and thanks for reading.

    Your blog is really cool, I love the photos you have posted here ... all good stuff! Another good blog to follow!!!

    jonas :)

  9. The transformation really is astounding! Thank you for sharing this, your posts are always food for thought!

  10. Hi Carol Anne, I'm so glad you like the photos! Reading your comment really lifted my spirits. He was a very good model, definitely. I had my doubts at first but I think he could have a nice future as a goth model if that's where he wants to go.

    I'm really happy with the results of this little experiment. It was a really interesting collaborative exercise, one where we had to be willing to meet each other in the middle in order for the end results to be any good. xx

  11. I love these pictures, especially the close up of the angel face. A little bit of glitter and it'll be a great Christmas postcard...

    There's an award on my blog for you.xx

  12. You are such a great writer, Cheryl. You make any subject interesting. Your goth model is a boy who could touch heaven. He certainly touched you and your readers. In one of the poses he looked like he was wrestling blindly against a dark angel, very pre-raphaelite.

  13. O.k. that is completely fabulous! (is that an o.k. word to express my enthusiasm? fabulous?) I could completely see the boring photo and then KA-POW the very expressive and interesting photos once you connected. Such talent! Love it! You are amazing dah-ling... and I was very smitten (is smitten o.k.?) to read about Depeche Mode.... I thought I was OLD and Depeche Mode was from back in the day... but here they are and still people love them...

  14. WOW!!! i was just about to call him a poser, but then i saw the later shots! but i credit YOU for making them work, as he isn't ALL THAT GOTH! but your pictures are rad! the dark lips were a stroke of genius!

    p.s. SO GLAD you liked my post today. i think many are not interested in such images, or want to mock them, or just dismiss them as CREEPY. lame! there is a lot more to life than glossy fashion ads with rich and beautiful folks, and i had to post these shots CONSEQUENCES BE DAMNED!

    sorry if that sounded all preachy and shit. :(

  15. My favorite is the next to last one. I like how you start to lose his hair in the leaf pattern of the back wall.

    Of all the shots you are showing here, it's the one that seems like more of a composition than a portrait.

  16. Wonderful photographs and story. He seems like a sweet person I'm sure. I remember being young and still trying to find out who I was. It's a great and confusing time to be in. Not really sure about what it means to be goth, but I sure it's just a way of finding identity and people to feel some solidarity with. Great post!

  17. [Complimentary adjective] pictures! You came dangerously close to making him look happy.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that all the people hating on the level of his goth-ness are all emo. It’s gonna take a lot of Fall Out Boy to heal those wounds……

  18. This is a marvelous story and photograph series. I'm particularly smitten with the last two photos -- the mix of black & white and the texture of all of the different elements is quite perfect!

  19. Real goth guys (that i've ever seen) aren't really into modeling or even fashion. Their Gothic-ness is more like a subconscious result of something else. And yes, rebellion.

    I must say that i love this post. It was funny. But you're a more patient and better person than me. But more and more, I find that I'm not very nice so...what can you do. hehe.

    The photos...do I have to say that I like them? I mean, I totally will if that's what you want...but if you really wanna know, he kind of looks like a low-budget Joker to me...but I will add that your photography was great. Loves ya!

  20. Wow! Great post and the photos have such a haunting, classic look. Glad you threw in the color snapshots as a contrast to the black and white photographs. I've often thought of shooting a "model"...but usually just do candids of people I come across. The other day there was a middle aged guy with a pony tail in the library and I thought about asking him to let me shoot a couple of shots...but didn't.

  21. I love this post Cheryl. The photos are wonderful as well as the story that goes with it xx

  22. I hope you are enjoying a nice Sunday. What are you up to now? More painting, drawings, photographs?

  23. I think the photos are excellent and love the black and white moodiness. I have a cousin who used to be a goth, the full black thing was her taste and we almost worried about her at one stage. She's now a practicing medium!

    CJ xx

  24. Very "cool" and "interesting" post, Cheryl. OK, I just had to say that ;).
    Serious now... What an incredibly liberating and ballsy move on your part.
    Let me start with...
    "Liberating": reaching out and connecting with other creative souls incredibly expands our horizons... And I've always thought of myself as a bit Goth. My love for Depeche Mode and The Cure has stood the test of time. I've occasionally considered doing the black hair and brows thing (wouldn't have to white powder because I'm quite pasty already), but never could cross that threshold. You two came together and creating something more than the sum of its parts... Dare I throw out a cliché?... It was Win-Win. He has photos commemorating this era of his life, or the genesis of a further delving, and you have a potent (you fill in the blank here).

    Now on to...
    Moving past what must have been strong trepidation... about meeting with a stranger met on Craigslist (especially considering recent headlines). Or is this merely my Paternal instinct kicking in here? How macabre, but the photos initially (and instantaneously) had me thinking Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb from Silence of the Lambs.
    Letting that pass, I came out with an even greater appreciation for your influence on me... in this case, breaking the shackles of my accumulated cynical perceptions.

    Great shots and post...

  25. Oops, once again I have fallen behind in my responses. My only excuse is that I have been work obsessed lately, finishing illustration projects, researching grants, museum and gallery possibilities, writing another blog post and formulating an underlying thread almost to the neglect of anything else.

    Also, I'm always torn between responding to a comment on my blog or going to visit the commenter's blog because I have to admit I don't always read follow up comments to my own comments. And I suspect most commenters don't check up on my responses either. And yet responding to comments lets the commenter know you have read their comment, that what they said is valuable feedback to you, and the very reason sometimes that you wrote the post in the first place. What would (fill in the blank) have to say about this, I wonder. As an artist, working alone in my studio for the most part, I need that.

    So, to all who took the time to read my post and then write what their reactions were, I truly, truly appreciate it! It's fascinating to read all the various reactions to these photos. From one end of the spectrum to the other. Interesting. Strangely enough I don't mind it when, as in Yet's case, someone doesn't like the photos. It's just another reaction that makes me think (without getting emotional), hmm, I wonder why. It's time to roll up my sleeves and continue on with things regardless of the reactions I get.

    A part of me, though, did feel rather protective towards my subject. And I worried what he might think or feel reading some of the reactions (including my own). Because I had put him up here, on my blog, to be responded to. Through my words and photos I had created an image of him which, by the nature of it, was incomplete. A representation of an image created in response to another image. And all subsequent reactions, then, were in response to my representation of a goth rather than to the actual person, the goth.

    Anyway, image, how others perceive us, and the seeming impossibility of ever truly understanding another person with all their complexities, is something driving my creative explorations at the moment. And may be the basis for a continuing series I'm outlining in my head.

    Thanks again for all your responses. They've all been duly noted, considered and appreciated!

  26. I know how time-consuming blogging can be, and I'm glad to hear you've been busy with your work and life.


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