Behind the Art – Powder Coated Death

So…  Powder Coated Death…

When I decided to explain this photo I already had a sort of idea of what I was going to say in my head. I knew that I had done the photo while attending the photography program at Ivy Tech, and I thought most probably this had been created for an assignment I had done to make an editorial photo. It appears as though my memory is a bit foggy.

I took “Powder Coated Death” down from the wall and out of the frame in order to scan the back of the matte to show off my teacher’s comments. I’ve always been particularly proud of this one because I knew I really made a statement, and, well… I knew I got bonus points. I’m a big show off. I did a quick scan of the long forgotten comments, and that’s when I realized I had erred.

The back of the matte stated profoundly, “A+ 105 Terrific – This is a fine example of person and prop – It conveys a strong message – Provocative!”

So, I created “Powder Coated Death” for a Person with Prop assignment??? I guess I do like to go all out.

Anyway, I might be fuzzy on the assignment details, but the details of the photo shoot and aftermath I do remember. The goal of any photo shoot is to convey a message no matter what the assignment. If a photographer is shooting commercial they want to convey how wonderful the product is; portrait photographers want to convey how beautiful the family is, etc. I have always been one with a million opinions I want to share with the world, so the job might have been a simple person and prop, but I was going to get it done.

There were a lot of unfortunate events surrounding the time I went to college at Ivy Tech. One of those tragic things was watching my friends and loved one succumb to what I felt was automatic death. I’ll have to admit that I’ve always been a friend of Mary Jane, but something about all the snorting and shooting up really just equates to a visit with the grim reaper to me. I guess maybe a small part of me wanted to reach out to everyone and say, “Hey! Look where you’re going and cut it out!” On the same hand, though, I didn’t wanted to be a prude. I decided I’d make my statement in the coolest way that I knew how, with my photography.

I found the perfect friend of mine to help me out. The model I chose was and still is a good friend of mine. I swear she’s not really overdosed somewhere. She is a beautiful person inside and out with many friends. She puts out a billion tons of love, and that’s what she gets back. I grew up with her in a small town where everyone knows everyone else. That’s why I chose her. I knew she would love to do a more fun, nontraditional photo shoot, and I knew that choosing someone well loved would drive home my message even more to the people surrounding us. The message would hit home and live there.

We hauled the giant mirror and the other assorted things we needed into the studio at Ivy Tech and set up. I believe I just used my Minolta and some black and white film. I don’t remember breaking out the big guns. I used a few of the school’s studio lights. I took photos of the whole process from the girl pretending to snort it through death. I’ve never been the best makeup artist nor have I ever even made myself a zombie at Halloween, but fortunately black and white is forgiving. The shoot took a couple hours like most do, and then I developed the film and made prints in the schools darkroom. I mounted the photo for the preparation of class critique, and couldn’t wait to show off what I had created and hopefully startle the class.  As sometimes happens with life, though, the day before class I had a family emergency. I begged the teacher to let another student speak for me, and then a beautiful friend and fellow photographer in my class volunteered.

I know I already threw out a spoiler, sorry! As you know I received a pretty darn good grade. The best had to be the story my friend relayed, though. She said my name was called, she stood proudly with my photo at the front of the room, and she watched all the eyes fill with frightened and confused shock before her. I’m still a little sad that I couldn’t be there, but my family crisis was averted and that beautiful girl in my class, she gave me the best gift of all. She gave me the gift of knowing how people TRULY feel about your work when you are not around to hear it.

I was privileged to get to display my photo in the student show at Ivy Tech. It hung ominously on the Ivy Tech gallery wall for, I believe, a month. I had many people approach me inquiring about the photo. I was even hunted down by a preacher wishing to purchase the photo to teach his younger congregation about the evils of drug use. I told him he could have as many copies as he wanted. Some days I still wonder if some kid stayed away from hard drug use because of my morbid photographic tendencies. It’s possible. It’s a beautiful thing, the power art has over us. It’s also scary sometimes. I watched Sid and Nancy and I saw an amazing artistic story, but it was like a “what NOT to do”. I don’t understand why so many other people watched it and missed the message. Yes it’s a beautiful story, but that’s NOT suppose to be the way that love is. Junkie movies are cool. Junkies aren’t. They die. That is the message I’m conveying here. Sometimes I fear that the kid didn’t get the message. Sometimes I fear that the kid in that youth group saw it and thought it was cool. I guess that’s a fear I may live with forever… and then I pray.

SO… that was really long, but THAT was the rest of the story. Hope you enjoyed it! Until next time please enjoy (or whatever?) the rest of the photo series below…

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