“Eat Cake” marks a critical shift for Venice-based photographer Faith-Ann Young from straight documentary style to more stylized Fine Art portraiture. An escapism series inspired by romanticism and magical realism, it depicts eccentric Parisian performance artists, House of Drama, role-playing in a bohemian, velour-covered attic in Paris. Be sure to join us for the exhibition’s preview & opening soirée on Saturday, Nov 9th, 7pm-11 PM at The Space 650, located at 650 Sunset Ave Venice CA.
LF: How did you meet and become fascinated with the Parisian collective “House of Drama?”
FAY: Almost every year for the last 5 years, I’ve gone (often with Live Fast Mag!) to Miami Art Basel. Back in 2011, I was asked by the reps for Le Baron, a French and NYC nightclub notorious for decadent, late night fun, to shoot their series of art after-parties. I don’t usually shoot events but this one was an exception because the subject matter was so fun. Imagine Marina Abramovic, Daphne Guinness, Harmony Korine, Nate Lowman, Jefferson Hack – the founder of Dazed And Confused – and all these art luminaries packed into one dark, cigarette-smoke filled room, doing karaoke and drinking absinthe till 4 AM. (I was the only person with a camera allowed and the only rule was there were no rules. I’m showcasing some of those shots on Saturday as well…)
Anyway, I met these performance artists, called House of Drama, in that smoky basement, where they were dressed up in fantastic costumes similar to what they’ve shown in these photos. Almost immediately, I felt – cheesy as it sounds – I’d found my muses. In fact, right after introducing myself – I declared it to them in bad, drunken French… They told me later that in French, “muses” has a bit of a different, more sexualized connotation than how we use it in English… So (haha) in essence, at first they thought I was hitting on them and meanwhile I had no idea! But once they got over my bad French and I shot some portraits of them in Miami, we became friends.
LF: When and how did you reconnect with them?
FAY: Each night in Miami – House of Drama had these elaborate costumes on – all hand-made. I’d lived in New York for years and shot a lot of performance artists – and had never seen this level of beauty and weird absurdity…. The man behind a lot of the vision is creative director and stylist Aymeric, who you can see in some of my shots with flaming red hair. He’s able to create these elaborate metal headdresses and complex constructions – like a MacGyver of fashion; Taking a piece of a Mexican blanket, a sombrero with the bowl cut out – gum and silk – and presto – he’d concoct this ornate Spanish-bull fighter costume or something.
Meanwhile, each member of House of Drama – Ylva, Igor, Diis Paradis and Amelie – has their own style and sass that I wanted to showcase. I had it in my head that we had to collaborate on a more formal level. So I kept in touch with them via email – fantasizing about the collaboration and finally saved up money and booked a flight to Paris with my cameras in tow.
LF: How did you find the location for the shoot…
FAY: That’s a pretty funny… When I was in college, I studied abroad in Paris. Everyone was randomly assigned a place to live – and most stayed with convention french apartments, and with quaint, nice families. Meanwhile, I was assigned to the exact opposite: to live with this quirky woman Elenore and her much-younger Mexican lover Enrique – in this attic apartment in Paris, covered with walls of pictures and velor and french toile and nicknacks. (This experience also most definitely has fed by my artistic growth as well.) So the backdrop you see in these photos is actually my old home in Paris!
Eleonore has filled that Parisian apartment with so many oddities. For instance, the tiny bathroom is covered with fabric floor-to-ceiling that depicts garden of eden – birds, trees, lush trees, etc..Only in one little tiny corner of the fabric is Adam and Eve walking hand-in-hand. And she installed a sign write above the toliet paper ring that says “Cherchez Adam Et Eve,” which means look for Adam and Eve. People would disappear into the bathroom for seeming hours – and suddenly you would hear them shout “I found them!” when they find them in the wallpaper. It’s a whimsical, magical place.
I hadn’t contacted Eleonore in years and years, but I had this vision – if I was going to come to Paris to shoot House of Drama, it needed to be in Eleonore’s house of Drama. Eleonore didn’t write me back until the day before the shoot was supposed to happen because she was traveling. In fact, we didn’t confirm it till midnight the night before. It almost didn’t happen. But then that morning, we stormed into the apartment with a trail of suitcases and the shots you see are what happened that day.
LF: Tell us about the inspiration behind the shoot?
FAY: Artistically, I am inspired by magical realism, the work of Frida Kahlo and writer Isabel Allende – these women who create poetry, magic, such vivid color imagery in their painting and writing. In terms of photography, I love the work of Ryan McGinley…and the fantasies that Tim Walker creates. But more than anything, I wanted to showcase these unbelievable creatives who are funny and sexy and bold and defiant in an equally extravagant environment.
I instructed them to act pretty casual – like sipping tea or pretend to be eating breakfast – so the juxtaposition accentuated their extra-ordinariness. While the phrase EAT CAKE can have a hardened historical connotation at least according to some French, it’s also celebratory. So in this case, I’m focusing on the later definition – on crafting this dream-like world of people who have their cake and eat it to.
LF: What did you learn while shooting?
FAY: Mix of luck and perseverance enabled me to create this shoot. So the lesson was – if you feel it, if you really want to make something happen – anything really – you can. Trite but true.
LF: What do you love the most about these photographs?
FAY: House of Drama are these bold artists who are so unafraid to show their full colors. It doesn’t matter straight, gay, man, woman, fuchsia, gold, blonde or blue. And they are so DIY: they make their vision happen out of scratch, welding their own stilettos, and crafting half their looks out of vintage Chanel bought on e-bay and then some things others would consider garbage. I wanted to immortalize – almost deify – this type of brazen, fearless creator.
I hope people look at these photos and feel inspired… To live a bit more colorfully and rosy… To be their true selves, let their freak-flag fly, that type of thing… You’ve got one life. Make your shit happen. And make it colorful and wild and whatever flavor you want.