Photography With Phil and the Kitchen Smash Up.
|In my mind there was no ambiguity about it. Even though I was the one to trip the shutter, check the focus, and load the polaroid film, they were still Phil's photos and he called them self-portraits. One evening we joked about starting a field of study called "theoretical photography" because it's really the ideas that are important. A person just uses the resources they have on hand to bring those ideas into reality-- be it a 40 foot cable release or a roommate-- that's what creates authorship.
The sessions always began with alcohol. More often than not Phil would drink Pabst Blue Ribbon. Having more ecclectic tastes I would enjoy saki or red wine or some other beer or also have Pabst. This may come as a shock to photographers habitually buttoned down, tucked in and worried about dust spots that we would mix drunkeness with large format photo, but it suited us perfectly. Art, and more specifically photography, was life and energy and a messy fire. We were sick of the connotations of digital perfection and wanted no part of it. So we drank because it was a part of life we enjoyed and trusted that our photos would be their own kind of perfection.
I would be a stand-in while Phil composed and focused the shot. Then he prepared himself by putting scotch tape on his face or a beer box on his head while I checked the focus and loaded the type 55. Then it was 1-2-3 snap and judge the results over another beer. This is how most sessions went with one notable exception forever known as "The Kitchen Smash Up".
Over the prerequisite beers one evening we were discussing the frustrations of life and Phil was getting pretty wound up. All the talking hadn't vented anything but only stoked his fire. We went to the kitchen for another drink. On the counter, Phil spotted two small, green zucchini I had brought home to photograph. He picked these up and began to drum on the coutertop, softly at first, then harder and harder until one burst open spraying juice and seeds in a high arc all around. We both laughed.
If I had recognized the look in his eye of if I had been more sober I might have stopped him. Instead, I laughed again as the second zucchini was brought down on the counter with more force than the first. Without thinking I joined in. Next I truned around and grabbed a shopping bag of nardy yard pears that a friend had given us and threw one against the wall. It exploded with a satisfying thud. We had the bloodlust now. In one hand a swiftly draining beer, in the other a breifly held, fruity victim. One by one we each threw about ten pears onto the walls and floor and emptied the bag before we opened the fridge. All fruits and vegetables were removed and thrown as hard as possible against the floor. And the floor was getting pretty soupy by the time we got to the take-out and leftovers.
As Phil poured the remainder of a beer on the floor he suggested I set up the camera. While I set up the tripod and got the shot ready, Phil went into the bathroom, stripped off his clothes and fashioned himself a diaper out of toilet paper. Then he came back to the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of spaghetti sauce from the fridge. The coup de grace, a big mess. The sauce hit the floor in all its red stained glory sounding and looking a lot like vomit and the jar itself was thrown on the pile of soup, the proverbial cherry on top. Or at least I thought that would be the cherry on top.
Phil leaned back against the kitchen counter and closed his eyes. The smell in the place was starting to get pretty stong. A colorful medly of food and beverages lay warming up on the floor. I snapped one photo. "ok, ok, get ready," he said to me as he leaned over the mess on the floor. And by will alone Phil proceeded to throw up into his floor soup. I turned my head and choked back my gags, almost laughing as I did. "come on" he threw up again and this time I snapped a shot of it. The smell in the room was now thick and humid and cloying.
We each took a big drink of beer and looked at each other. The fun was now over and the reality of the mess we had made began to sink in. After some discussion we decided that it would be better to clean in the morning. In order to prevent any roommates from unwittingly walking into the war zone we blocked the door to the kitchen with several strips of duct tape and wrote on them "Fuck, Bitch." Thankfully, I had to work in the morning so I couldn't help with the cleaning.