In Parker Day's world, the only rule is to be yourself, the more uncool and weirder, the better.
It’s always bothered me that you’re not supposed to smile for official ID pictures. Whether it’s for your passport or your driver’s license, the person in charge always asks you to take off your earrings, push your hair back, and look at the camera with a blank expression on your face. By doing so, the picture looks more “official” and you look more “neutral,” without a single trace of any of the quirks, flaws, and unique characteristics that make up your identity. But isn’t that really boring? Wouldn’t it be cooler and more interesting if these pictures captured you in all your weird and beautiful glory?
That is the main idea behind the photography of Parker Day, the Los Angeles-based artist who created the photos you’re about to see. She makes colorful and eccentric portraits of people who inspire her in some way, making sure that each image encapsulates her subject’s identity perfectly. Cultura Colectiva asked her some questions about her two series: ICONS and Possession, and here are her responses.
Where's the Party?
1. How and when did you start making portraits? What made you choose this form?
I started shooting portraits in my very first photo class in high school. I shot moody black and white portraits of my friends in front of graffiti and brick walls (so cliché!). Then, when I was at the Academy of Art University and started shooting color slide film, I began creating characters out of my friends and having them perform for the camera. I've always gravitated to one-on-one interaction and believe the camera can facilitate connection and communication between people. Not just between subject and photographer but between subject and audience and photographer and audience.
2. What do you look for in a subject?
Uniqueness. Fire in the eyes. Memorability. I seek out the kind of people you see once and can't shake from your head. Those who feel familiar and mysterious at the same time.
I can be your angel or your devil
3. What role does identity play in your photos?
It's a central theme. My portraits push the limits of identity exploration and creation. I believe we all have a lot more power to forge ourselves, much more than we typically acknowledge. It can be scary to think you have control over who you are, how you're seen, and the reality that is built upon that. But there's liberation in playing with those potentials of self. Your "self" also doesn't have to be taken that seriously! Remember playing dress up as a kid? I remember the feeling of freedom, potential, and power that it conjured up, and that's what I want to give people with my photos.
4. What role does sexuality play?
In my new series in progress, Possession, there's a lot of flesh! The series is all about what it means to possess a body, or to be life-force in physical form. Sexuality is a big part of that! But I feel like it's very matter of fact or else just plain cheeky in my photos.
An Eye For An Eye
5. Describe your esthetic in three words.
Colorful, gritty people.
6. The colors in your images are bright and vibrant, and they are essential to your esthetic. Do you think you could capture the full complexity of your subject’s identity in a black-and-white photo?
Nah, color is feeling, color is exciting. It draws you in and taps into your soul. It gives an immediate guttural response.
7. Most of your portraits feature women. Do you want to convey a message about gender and/or femininity with your images?
Not particularly, but gender is a construct. I do think my photos show a wide range of femmes and many different ways of being. At the base of all I do, I'm photographing myself. I put myself into every shoot I do, and see myself in every subject I shoot.
8. You’ve talked about how social media has helped you and other artists get more exposure. Do you think your work would have the same weight in a museum as it does on the internet?
It will have more gravity in a museum for sure. It's a completely different experience standing before a beautifully printed 36" wide photograph than swiftly swiping through a 2" wide one. But the internet is a path into the art world for a lot of freaks from the outskirts, like myself.
Doesn’t it make you want to put together the boldest outfit you own and go out into the world looking like the most fabulous version of yourself? Let Parker Day’s photos inspire you to express your identity to the fullest and let it shine.
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