This is Michele Clarke and I in a selfie at the end of our day together. Michele is a photographer who is interested in vulnerability and the seams of emotional discomfort. I met her through 52 Pick Up, a video-a-week project that I created and manage where she is currently in week 34. I finally met Michele in person about a month ago at the Edgy Women Festival and later at a mutual friend’s super fun birthday party where the birthday celebrator got into an over-guests/furniture wrestling match with an MMA fighter with feet headlocks and everything as a kind of birthday present.
It was pretty awesome.
At the party, Michele and I got to talking about vulnerability in relationship to this project and my daily wearing of animal print. She had noticed that there was no documentation of people around me or me in public settings on this site representing the project aside from selfies, portraits, and performing proximity images. I talked about my definite interest in getting these types of images, but what I saw as difficulty in taking them as I did not want to draw more attention to myself with a visible photographer. I mentioned that I had considered a Sophie Calle approach of hiring a detective to follow me around, but with my penchant for paranoia, decided that this was not the best idea. Michele offered great insights into my relationship with performing in public spaces and vulnerability which I am grateful for, pointing me to Haley Morris Cafiero’s work, and offered to come back to Montreal and follow me around with a telephoto lens in the hopes of capturing public interactions.
Below is one of the images she took from a two-hour walk today around the Plateau which is fairly representative of the looks and stares I got during this time and through which, Michele was fairly invisible. She was usually across the street and people were not noticeably aware of her, but were of me. As you may or may not be aware, this outfit is pretty reflective of what I have been wearing daily since June 1st, 2012.
I encountered a family in which a girl who was about 7 wore a leopard print coat and stroked it as she stared at me when I passed. I said hello to the family and I think she wanted to say something, but she just kept rubbing her coat. Another girl with her mother exclaimed “C’est beau, c’est beau, c’est beau!” over and over again to me which frankly, was awesome. I said “bonjour.”
I was called “la Gazelle” as I passed a couple (not sure what that is about- this is just the wrong animal, but I’ll take it for my research), and there were a handful of snorts by passersby (usually women). One woman who was by herself said “Calis” under her breath as she passed. The rest of the commentators that I heard were in couples or groups. I got growled at by a middle-aged man in the park who was with his female friends- it was playful and not aggressive, and 2 separate women laughed with their group as I walked by on St. Laurent Blvd.
Obviously, I’m going to have to start wearing a wire.