November 6, 2006

Self-Portrait: Fascinatingly And Androgynously In Make Up To Enchant

Dressed me up in womens clothes
Messed around with gender roles
Dye my eyes and call me pretty


The flaws are finally behind us at the Self-Portrait Challenge and not a moment too soon. I was getting tired of exposing my imperfections week after week. Having said that, I am already finding this month’s theme, well, challenging. Conceptually and textually, I have several ideas I would like to cover, but visually I am not sure how to fulfill this theme for four weeks. Here is what was sent from SPC:

Lets ditch those imperfections and go all out GLAM. Yes let’s glam it up with some disco, diamonds and glitter.

My first thought was cool make-up. I am always looking for reasons to apply some lipstick and eyeliner, but then I had committed to a beard and there is nothing glamorous about a beard. I decided to shave. See how committed I am to this project. I read on:

I suggest some gorgeous shots - really over do it on the posing and makeup and dressups and show us the extrovert you. The sexy mama in the kitchen with the peek-a-boo apron or how about some diamontes on those dungarees, stilettos, feathers and lycra.

Since most participants in this challenge are women, they may find it easier to wear a peek-a-boo-apron than me. I am not even sure what that is. And if it is what I think it is, trust me, people wouldn’t want to see me in one. I kept reading:

Looking for ideas then go no further than Glam Rock as your inspiration, KISS, David Bowie, and Queen and Garry Glitter. Here we go. This is something I could work with. Or maybe this:

Glam means dressing androgynously in make up and glittery, florid costumes. Get Glam everyone!

I decided to look up glamour and see what I could find as a starting point. Here is what I found:

glam_our [glam-er] –noun
1. the quality of fascinating, alluring, or attracting, esp. by a combination of charm and good looks.
2. magic or enchantment; spell; witchery.
3. suggestive or full of glamour; glamorous: a glamour job in television; glamour stocks.
4. An air of compelling charm, romance, and excitement, especially when delusively alluring.

Ideas began to formulate in my mind, I could hear the text flow in my mind and see the images form in colors, shapes, and compositions. So without further adieu, here is my first contribution for this month’s SPC: Fascinatingly and androgynously in make up to enchant. And now the story:

When I was in the fifth grade, everytime my mother left the house, and I was alone, I would enter her room and put her some make-up, usually some lip-stick (that is when I first developed my affinity for that chalky taste that later I would appreciate on the lips of the girls I kissed), eye shadow and blush. My father and uncle were photographers and I had spent much of my youth in front of a camera, and around girls aspiring to be models and the Barbazon School. Even at a young age, I understood the mirage that was glamour photography. It was like wearing a mask and becoming someone else.

In addition, the feeling of doing something that felt wrong was exhilarating. I loved the escape the make-up allowed. I wasn’t sure why I felt a bit ashamed in those days, but I knew that I liked the feeling. Like any kid growing up in the eighties, I was an MTV addict. I watched the same twenty videos repeatedly, and all the men on the screen were wearing make-up, so why did I feel so enticingly guilty. Perhaps it was because of the knowledge that society had established arbitrary gender roles that allowed me to take such pleasure in flouting them even as a ten-year-old child. No one was going to tell me I shouldn’t be wearing make-up.

As I grew older, I became more inhibited and ashamed of my little secret; I started to have a better understanding of what the world expected of boys, and those expectations didn’t seem to match up with the things I expected from myself.

Although all my favorite bands were wearing make-up: The Cure, Depeche Mode, and The Smiths, I had started to feel the creeping effects of our homophobic society. Even admitting to liking those bands seemed to imply, at worst, “I am gay” or at best, “ I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.” I think once we hit puberty, it becomes the main goal of every teenage boy to prove to everyone that we are not gay. Homosexuality becomes the worst thing a boy could be. This homophobia stayed with me, even years after I was secure with my sexuality. Even in college, my friends and I referred to negative ideas as gay or called each other fags. It wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco and New York and started to work with many homosexuals that I realized how ingrained homophobia is in American culture. I finally started to understand how it had even ingrained itself in my language. I soon learned that homosexuality was a dynamic, exciting, and important aspect of our culture. I no longer had to prove that I wasn’t gay. I could finally admit when I thought a man was handsome and not worry that I would be labeled a queer, because being a homosexual was no longer a bad thing. I was no longer worried if people thought I was gay because I liked to wear woman’s shirts, or liked decorating, or cried when I was emotional. I actually started to consider being thought of as gay as a compliment. Because most of the homosexuals I knew were much more interesting, artistic, and happy than my straight friends.

As a straight kid who liked to wear make-up and pretend he was Robert Smith, I have become a man who still loves the enchantment that make-up allows. I like to wear pink, I watch decorating shows on TV and try and to fulfill as many of the other arbitrary homophobic sign posts for being gay, because I like to prove that they are ridiculous. I will not allow outdated conservative ignorance dictate who I can and cannot be, because of my gender. Through out the years many of my heroes have remained men in make up: Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro, Marilyn Manson, the list is endless. They are men who are not afraid to be themselves and fulfill their dreams. They have not been shackled by the grip of this ignorant conservatism. They are free. I choose to do the same.

This last Sunday, it felt strange to lock myself in my room and apply make-up. I still felt a bit ashamed, although I knew there was nothing wrong with what I was doing. I tried to let the moment take me, but I realized how hard applying make can be. I had no idea what I was doing. Instead of looking glamorous, I felt unnatural and a bit freakish. Perhaps my post puberty facial hair and huge nose make it hard to become graceful and beautiful, or perhaps I am a good enough photographer to create the facade to enchant you. You decide. This is one of my favorite shots so far.

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  1. great photo!!! and i like your story...

  2. Fantastic photo and post.


    I like your lip gloss.

  3. Another cool photo and I love the story. The two go really well together. I really like that the photo inside of the lens is of you with makeup on. Symbolism there.


  4. You look a bit like Trent Reznor there... Which isn't a bad thing.

  5. Interesting post. Boys are not "supposed" to wear makeup, but I seemed drawn to the ones who did...geez, I used to sketch Bowie in his Ziggy splendor all the time.

    Great idea to put yourself in your shades.

  6. I love the post explaining your thoughts on glamour. It makes the photo that much more interesting because the view of you in the sunglasses has a very '80's video sort of vibe to me. I like it!

  7. "especially when delusively alluring"...
    in my eyes that's what you're capturing here...
    I love it.
    Great photo composition and the post is a charming insight into your personal development.

  8. I like your insights. I'd love to see the whole image that's in the glasses.

  9. You never cease to amaze with your creativty and fabulous writing. You have so many interesting stories up your sleeve and I am always so intrigued by your point of view. I truly appreciate your insight and open mind.