Category: Photography

May the Best Woman Win

Ever found yourself wishing that the cameramen of RuPaul’s Drag Race would zoom in close enough to see the contestants’ pores? Then thank your lucky stars, this is the blog entry for you!

On May 19th, my boyfriend and I treated ourselves to a Vegas road trip prompted by the siren call of the RuPaul’s Drag Race Official Finale and Coronation Ceremony. What ensued was a raucous night of frenetic red carpet paparazzi, an endless parade of impressive cosmetic feats, and reality TV royalty stalking the stage with live, lip-synced, or comedic performances that surpassed the dollar bill-blanketed catwalks of my drag experiences past. I’ve never seen the lovely ladies of Drag Race so blatantly uncensored and so refreshingly unedited, but I intend to make it my business to behold these glamazonian television icons in the contoured flesh from here on out… Especially considering the fact that I have yet to check “drool uncontrollably before Sharon Needles” off my bucket list.

Thus, the following is something this writing-centric blog hasn’t yet witnessed: a photographic overview of the night I finally got up close and personal to the drag competition that ran away with my heart one fateful college all-nighter of harried illustration. So without further ado, I give you the pretty young things and proceedings of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6 Finale and Coronation…

Camera Vector

The show kicked off with the arrival of comedic MC Shangela Laquifa Wadley and an array of beautiful guests.

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As the evening progressed, reigning Northwest champion and narcoleptic drag superstar Jinkx regaled the crowd with a wit as vibrant as her orange mane and the reminder that Monsoon Season never truly ends.

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Next we met Season Six’ vying trifecta: the phenomenally fishy Courtney Act, “party” savvy mermaid Adore Delano, and–that night’s big reveal–the newest member of Drag Race royalty and my ideal bosom friend, Bianca Del Rio!

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Once all us avid Bianca fans dried our eyes, the performances began.

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Kelly Mantle transported us to a swanky cocktail lounge while April Carrión lit a fire on stage with her incredible dance moves.

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Joslyn Fox kept it “Big Spender” foxy (wah, wah!) with a burlesque performance that drew her new husband to the stage.

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Lovely lady BenDeLaCreme stole my boyfriend’s heart even more than she already has when she educated us on a drag queen’s duality of self with a show tune performed by both Ben and DeLa.

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Last in my queue of what turned out to be 1000 photos was Darienne Lake wowing the crowd with a Saharan themed getup and those elephant tusk earrings I covet so much.

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Finally, if my camera arm hadn’t been too weighed down and my figurative dogs too whimpery, the end of this photo montage would feature Courtney Act performing her single “Mean Gays,” Adore Delano prowling the stage and gracing one shrieking fangirl with a lipstick-smearing smooch to the beat of “DTF,” and newly crowed Bianca imbuing “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” with some crass Del Rio realness. Guess I just have to keep trying to convince my photographer sensibilities that sometimes the memory alone is worth a thousand once in a lifetime, dragtastic photos.

That, or thank god for everyone else’s cell phone pics. At least by the end of the night this was one very happy drag hag.

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Copyright

Return of the Mac

Many people utilize blogs as a means of archiving life, the same way a chronic photographer observes experience through a pinhole and bisects it into truncated moments printed in silver or ink. But when life intervenes with these mediums of examination and reflection, the hobbies of writing and photographing are forced to clamber into the backseat and keep quiet while the driver attempts to navigate a slippery reality without these artistic chains fortifying their tires.

In less analogical terms, due to an adult-sized helping of work these past several months, my artwork–including the writing that I swore to revive via daily practice–has been sorely neglected. This blog and the numerous saved drafts in my post repository were put on hold in favor of tearing my hair out trying to transcribe inscrutable Welsh accents and rephotographing what seemed like an endless procession of holiday menorahs. Apparently that’s the life that happens when we’re too absorbed with our individualized distractions, so to all you ornery teenagers whose parents heckle you about your technological obsessions, simply retort, “Would you rather me join the real world and get a job trying to make photos of Peter Max’s comeback collection look decent?” Cause even your parents know you’ll get more enrichment out of “practicing your grammar” updating Facebook statuses than staring at something like this all day:

Peter Max Comeback Piece

Thus, I owe this incredibly latent blog entry to a Las Vegas vacation that both commemorated my sister’s birth and ushered in the free time necessary to dust off my artistic skill set–just in time for the New Year. As such, I concede to the hackneyed tradition of auld lang sine meditation and dedicate this entry to the year 2013.

In my adult life I’ve taken a cue from the Chinese calendar and assumed the habit of naming each year that passes based on its overarching character. For example, the year one of my houses was burglarized, my mom broke her leg on Mother’s Day, and my childhood home went up in flames was deemed The Year of the Happenstance Shit Fest. Likewise, the year I immersed myself in the stress of college, endured a nightmarish relationship that culminated in an equally inimical break-up, and met a N’awlins-scale parade of freshmen jackasses was christened The Year of Building Character Out of Tears, Eraser Shavings, and Godawful Cafeteria Food. As noted in a previous entry, zeitgeist symbols of misfortune seem to have an inverse effect on my family, and the thirteen attached to the end of this year’s moniker was no different. Thus, as 2013 comes to a close, I hereby declare it The Year of the Lucky Bastard.

For some reason, 2013 was all about close calls and seemingly unfortunate situations that miraculously paid off. Sure there were some irrevocable bumps along the way, such as the Transportation Security Administration damaging a plaque that served as the lone reward for my tireless four-year pursuit of a 4.0. And all those cockroaches that liked to host evening soirees under the sink of my very first apartment? That too was unpropitious. But beyond the fleeting disappointment of fruitless job hunts and undercooked pasta, I’ve been remarkably lucky, and figure I ought to thank the Fates in writing to hopefully remain in their favor.

At the very opening of 2013, I found myself illicitly holed up in my friend’s dorm room after her roommate unexpectedly transferred schools and invited my room change request to hang in the slow-paced limbo that is bureaucratic decision making. With a Residential Assistant just several neurotransmissions away from discovering my ploy and a roomful of my actual assigned roommates starting to ask incriminating questions, I was undeniably in one of Ulysses Everett McGill’s reputed tight spots. But somehow, a horde of angels must have possessed the pen that finally checked off my room application just before my fugitive fever could reach a critical degree and Dave Matthews (because that was actually the RA’s name) could sniff me out like a Tommy Lee Jones-bloodhound hybrid and hand me over to the authorities. It was my first utter relief of many to come this year, and as if one heavenly miracle wasn’t enough it segued into what will most likely be the nicest living situation of my adult life and the cherished friendships of my Peruvian-Chinese bosom friend and what has got to be the sweetest, golden-eyed girl in both Arkansas and the whole country over.

Thus, my college career came to a close on a very positive note. I managed to secure all the classes I wanted, I got to reap the mental benefits of working myself to the bone one last time, I got to accumulate some funny anecdotes about the unnerving process of valedictorian interviews, and I got to gaze proudly upon a shiny graduation plaque, sans the impending scratches it would procure and the future realization that Los Angeles employers don’t look at your summa cum laude portfolio unless you happen to know Jim in accounting. The last few months of college were a gloriously bittersweet time in my life, and somehow, despite the anxieties, the few atrocious professors, and the awful consistency of Southern grits, it all worked out perfectly.

The next big risk that I took in 2013 was the decision to move out to Los Angeles as soon as I graduated, despite the fact that the only thing I’d secured in that town was a mere interview with a digital teching company in need of unpaid labor. Thus, with no apartment and no assurance that said potential internship would even be worth while, I packed my bags, kissed my family goodbye as soon as I got home, and headed south to the city of opportunity, my boyfriend, and smog.

And there she was, Lady Luck waiting for me in the guise of a 2000-car pile up on the I-10 East. Within two days of the big move I’d secured my first internship and within two weeks my very own back seat of a sedan-sized apartment two miles from the Arts District of downtown LA. My situation certainly didn’t merit boasting on the SCAD alumni forums, but I had a home, I had resume-worthy responsibilities, and I had a tan. Based on the numerous post-college alternatives, things were definitely coming up Milhouse.

The rest of my time in Los Angeles was speckled with an array of auspicious occurrences: from the fact that my brand new and wonderfully endearing step-cousin just happened to live several blocks away from my boyfriend; to the instance in which a club owner eschewed his own rule of no open-toed shoes and welcomingly admitted me into the bar he’d hidden behind a barbershop storefront; to the glorious sunshine that beat down on us while we waited in line to see Flight of the Conchords and Dave Chappelle at the Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival; to the unprecedented ease with which we moved my boyfriend to Hollywood; to the remaining tickets for Nick Offerman’s stand-up book tour that we learned about one day in advance; to the miraculous parking spots I always found after work in my boyfriend’s reputedly over-crowded neighborhood; to the incredibly friendly corporate Christmas party host who invited four of us strangers in and gave us the huge roll of remaining free drink tickets; to the fact that we always got front row seats at Upright Citizens Brigade’s free Sunday show; and to my boyfriend’s friend’s sister who just happens to know Hugh Hefner’s chef and got us an exclusive free tour of the Playboy Mansion and the cutest monkeys centerfold money can buy.

Hugh Hefner's Monkeys

And that doesn’t even begin to cover everything that went so well in Los Angeles. Sure the basement of my apartment building was covered in literally thousands if not millions of dead flies, like a scene from a Dario Argento film, but there was something nice about the simplicity of living with naught but a bed, fridge, armoire, and hotplate. And when a new job called for me to stay with my boyfriend in Hollywood (another stroke of luck, considering the beau’s very graciously accommodating roommates), the hardest part about breaking the lease–an unnerving concept considering my stingy, suspicious landlord–was sitting in three hour’s worth of traffic to get from Inglewood to downtown. Even more surprising still, Mr. Conniving Landlord even uncharacteristically called me “sweetheart” when he signed my ending contract with a kindly flourish.

Finally, when spending more than two days with my family for the first time in a year became a priority, I was lucky that my dad and sister’s Las Vegas vacation timed perfectly with all my settled LA arrangements so that they could simply shuttle me home upon their departure. And even if we did run into massive ice-storm traffic just outside of Medford and sit at a standstill for the duration of a whole movie and three-quarters, we’re all very lucky that my dad’s skillful driving kept us from sliding off the side of the Siskiyou mountains. Thank the cliff-side ice gods.

So even with the ups and downs promised to accompany life after college, some deity with a thirteen fetish has looked kindly upon me yet again. I may not have discovered the secret to post-grad billionaire status, but the overarching sentiment of 2013 was one of providential happiness. I’m no where near to surfacing victoriously from this transition into adulthood, but with a little luck-overflow and the same sense of positivity that carried me through the major changes of the past twelve months, perhaps 2014 will prove to be just as felicitous.

Life is Like a Chameleon in a Kaleidoscope

Life is a Chemelon in a Kaleidoscope

Photography first became a prominent component of my life in 2003 when I decided to manifest the fanciful concepts of my illustrations in reality and recruited the technical aid of a tiny, auto-function point-and-shoot. But that pixelated, digital camera and an elementary photo editing software called ULead Express weren’t my only tools as I dove headshot-first into this new medium. A huge motive behind those early 72 dpi endeavors was the ability to actualize the characters from my imagination in reality using the Moon-Wood family affinity for costumes and makeup.

Putting tireless effort into creating and inhabiting the guise of a separate entity isn’t just a fond pastime though: costumes are admittedly the reason for my existence. My parents first met at a college Halloween party where my mom sported a cat suit complete with a homemade tail, ears, and makeup that would put the cast of Cats to shame. My dad, inversely, wore a gory Frankenstein mask through which you couldn’t see his handsome face (although the exposed forearms beneath the classic horror visage were enough to reel Maman in). And quite frankly, if young, coquettish Paul and Linda hadn’t been eager to take advantage of Halloween’s identity-morphing free card and suit up in a guise ulterior to their own, this blog would have a very different voice.

Although the college circumstances I met my boyfriend under weren’t even close to that archetypal 80s love story, I was reminded of the fact that I virtually owe my life to a catsuit when my man and I attended a costume party this past Friday. The theme was the impolitic subject of “gangs,” and in lieu of seizing the obvious inspiration of LA’s red, blue, or gold banners, my mind immediately went back to gang-savvy cinema and Broadway shows in which switch blade-toting thugs pirouetted their way to the kill and gang slogans went something like, “Do it for Johnny.” In my mind, the gangs that deserved imitative homage included the finger-snapping Sharks and Jets from West Side Story, Ponyboy Curtis’ macho denim crew in The Outsiders, Ace in his all-too-intimidating Hawaiian shirt and Eyeball with his coif in Stand By Me, and all the slicked pompadours of Grease. Yes, I realize I had a whole host of gangs to garner inspiration from merely by watching The Warriors, but rather than donning the green makeup and baseball cap of the formidable Furies or taking the Hi-Hats route and embodying a dastardly mime, I decided to emulate the classics. So my tough guy beau and I attended the party decked out in tight pants, high-tongued boots, a flannel rolled up to the shoulder on his end, and a leather jacket, Anita-of-Sharks-fame hoop earrings, lipstick, and a high-do on my behalf. Out we strolled from an uncharacteristic luxury vehicle (courtesy of Uber Los Angeles) into an LA house party where we were equally amiss in a sea of endless red and blue bandanas and a couple flannel shirts buttoned at the collar.

This phenomenon of appearing wholly overzealous when it comes to costumes is no new bone of contention for a Moon child though. We’ve experienced a life’s worth of bemused stares, whether cuchi-cuchi-ing all over a Latin American-themed party in Charo garb while everyone else sports sombreros and mustaches, spending hours epoxying plastic bullets into a bandolier to attend a costume party as a living Brian Viveros painting, breaking my teenage bank on every themed Homecoming dance, or garnering a crowd of onlookers while conducting costumed photo shoots in the enormous wall-length window that comprised my old bedroom. But this aversion to Party City all-in-one costume packages that results in endless hours of what sane people would consider unnecessary costume preparation is no fault of our own, and our obsessive-compulsive drive for authentic interpretation can be traced back to one progenitor: our mother.

With a B.F.A. in fibers and a lifelong flair for needlework, my mom is a homemade aficionado whose original costume designs would put McCall and Simplicity catalogues to shame if she ever decided to disseminate her patterns. Working as a third grade teacher for years, my mother became both an anticipated and legendary spectacle at her school’s annual Halloween parades, for which her perfectionism prompted numerous all-nighters in front of a sewing machine. The impressive results of these undertakings included characters like a Día de los Muertos Catrina bride, a revamped Maleficent (complete with shoulder-perched crow), and a life-sized praying mantis supporting a huge papier mâché-fabric head with large, multi-ommatidia eyes (all the better to beguile edible male mantises with).

But although we may stick out like over-dressed sore thumbs at every themed fête we attend, I have my mom’s tireless quest for perfection in homemade costuming to thank for a career in metamorphic self-portraiture that began long before I’d ever heard of Cindy Sherman, Claude Cahun, and Leigh Bowery. Since then, this inherited passion for costumes and makeup has enabled innumerable transformations for both photo shoots and costumed affairs alike. For when you invite a Moon sister to your costume soirée and inadvertently open her hefty wardrobe filled with wigs, jewelry, traditional Mexican huipiles, hand-me-down fur coats and hats from our Nana, those medieval gowns we had to wear to a great-aunt’s wedding, shoes of every heel height, patterns galore, authentic 80s Benetton solids, and makeup palettes that span the color wheel, you really never know what you’re gonna get.

Gangster Eats

When I was a freshman in college, back when dubstep was becoming more vogue with each new Mt. Eden and Skrillex single, and I was finding my social footing with a scurrilous group of guys that went by the sobriquet The Basement Boys (more details on which would require a separate blog post), the internet sensation StumbleUpon was taking a viral hold on college undergrads worldwide.

Having received my first iPod at the late age of 15 and with no desire to invest my time in a Twitter account or jump on the iPhone bandwagon, it’s clear that I’ve never been one to heed viral trends, and StumbleUpon was no different. So while my friends utilized this tool to accelerate their freshman ADD, I spent my computer time corroding my eyesight away on Photoshop files, all-nighter after all-nighter.

But now that school is perturbingly a thing of the past and my workaholic nature has little to consume beyond a part-time internship, blogging, and the daily job hunt, I find myself increasingly turning to the internet for creative stimulation. And that’s how StumbleUpon made a reappearance in my life, almost five years later.

A lot of this newfangled free time is spent maintaining a marketing campaign to perpetuate my artistic portfolio in the hopes of procuring work, and while adhering to this daily endeavor, I read somewhere that StumbleUpon was another resource for uploading your website and increasing its accessibility–even if the odds of someone stumbling on your page amidst the millions of websites already circulating the service are mighty slim. So I created a Stumble account, informed the Interests Guru that I dig art, dancing, interior design, literature, comedy, mythology, and cocktails, and got to uploading my portfolio for some college undergrad to stumble past as they avoided work for this algorithmic Russian roulette. In the meantime, I started stumbling just to see if it would retrieve webpages that actually catered to my palate. Turns out, palates are exactly what they had in mind when they decided, “this girl probably hails from the obsessive foodie region of the Northwest and likes to ogle sumptuous cookbook photography and recipes that she won’t have the time or the funds to concoct.”

Well, they were right.

If food photography didn’t utilize so little brain power and conceptual design, I would drop my affinity for narrative portraiture and start shooting Elmer’s glue to look like superlative milk in a heartbeat. If you’ve got a great stylist, food photography is a peaceful endeavor where the model is incredibly reliable until it starts spoiling. And if you’ve got internet access or a bus ticket to the nearest Barnes & Noble, food photography and the accompanying recipes are even more relaxing to simply gaze at.

I don’t know how StumbleUpon knew it, but ever since the 19th when I joined the discovery engine that hasn’t gone out of style since 2002, I’ve received webpage after webpage of the best brunches in Los Angeles, grilled-cheese for adults with spinach and pesto, brown sugar chili-rubbed salmon with avocado crema, and even a seed cake inspired by The Hobbit–all topped off with delectably mouthwatering images whose soft lighting beckons you in while the low aperture composes a visual feast.

Of course I’ve received a couple other web sources here and there: a Nikon app that tells you exactly what happened on this day in history, do-it-yourself inductions into hipsterhood with self-made galaxy jeans, a website that recommends beverages based on the song you’re currently listening to, instructions on how to make a coffee table out of a recycled window, and images of postmodern staircases designed to mimic Escher prints, roller coasters, and spinal columns.

Staircases

One of the most ridiculous pages I’ve received (besides an homage to the mantis shrimp), combined my love for yuppie recipes and food imagery with unfiltered honesty, resulting in the vegan-gangster haven that is Thug Kitchen. Hilariously brash, relentlessly appetizing, and chartering a 35.2K fan base under the crass motto, “Eat Like You Give a Fuck,” the creator (or creators, considering the blog originates from LA anonymity) of Thug Kitchen is the character True Blood thought they were manifesting when they colored their dialogue, but fell short of when they forgot to include the necessary pinch of Tony Soprano verisimilitude.

© Thug Kitchen, 2013.

© Thug Kitchen, 2013.

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© Thug Kitchen, 2013.

The language employed to divulge their recipes is probably too vulgar to share with your mother (my mom gasped in horror at my language when I yelled, “SHIT!” while stalling her manual-shift sedan on one of the Siskyous’ many vertical inclines), but the healthy concoctions that result from the irrepressible cursing cater to everyone’s appetite (including my vegetarian mother’s!). While Thug Kitchen’s linguistic intent is to reduce the aura of expensive elitism that pervades healthy eating, I don’t have the funds to afford the ingredients for peanut tempeh summer rolls or smokey bean and spinach sliders, whether you attach the f-word to them or not. But on that fateful day when I finally win the food lottery and edible ingredients keep rolling in, I’ll be sure to review every last recipe in the blog’s archives and report my findings with gusto.

For the time being, I’ll simply continue growing increasingly addicted to the digital inspiration StumbleUpon delivers–giving the internet a leg up on the prolonged attempt to envelop Emily Moon into pop culture erudition.