Bowie – Tribute Editorial – ★

January 10, 2017

II: Bowie Tribute Series

Let’s get emotional, shall we?

Highly encouraged audio while browsing: Lazarus

If you’ve not had the chance to view these films, I urge you to take a quiet moment. Love him – hate him – never heard of him — this album, these videos, are wildly aware.

Bowie’s ★ has been swimming in my mind throughout the personal + national + global wtf that was 2016.

After his death, what I thought most profound was he produced his final album under the full, quiet knowledge of his illness. What a fascinating, terrifying place. And he faced it as he faced his life — by interpreting it through music.

Staring into Mortality, he continued to create. It’s dark, beautiful, frenzied, mellow, haunting. The album flows & trembles, upsets & calms.

 

This way or no way / you know I’ll be free

 

Call it a spectacle, call it brilliant — it has, & will continue, to compel.

 

A photographic nod to his influence was a tiny idea soon after his passing. As I began conceptualizing + planning, I quickly realized this project would become much more of a journey than I’d anticipated.

The timing of this session was inadvertently the week of a dental surgery. This left me shooting, processing, & blogging a large-scale project in a drug-induced haze. Lord knows there were strange things spouting from my puffy lips on set.

Between reactions to pain medications & new prescriptions, my body processed a flurry of narcotics. My Snapchat-filter face, days before swaddled in gauze with double black eyes, has since receded. Sounding dramatic — it really wasn’t too painful! Comical, mostly.

It may be the Tramadol, or it may be the most personal post I’ll ever share.

For better or worse — here we go:

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By pure chance, we shot on 1/8, Bowie’s birthday.

Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly was influential during Bowie + his producer’s time on this album. Thus, soundtrack for beauty prep on set.

Our community is exploding with motivated, inspired talent. The moment I eyed designer Leslie Pennel’s enchanting bell sleeve top + raw fabric ties, I knew it would be the perfect fit. Not only was she eager to contribute, she crafted a custom piece with even b-i-g-g-er bells. And mask with button eyes! My dear friend Anna Cottrell styled + schemed, bringing such an admirable eye to detail & beauty.

We were thrilled Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week wanted to help bring this vision to life. Bentonville’s newly restored Record was an ideal setting + the beauty team was on point! Please view each amazing vendor’s details below.

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“Photography, of course. But… you don’t really have any other hobbies anymore.”

A lighthearted, candid conversation with friends, & a seemingly objective statement. But this has resonated for years.

Since childhood, & into adulthood, I had been writing – playing music – studying dance – seeking art. I suppose these have been replaced with endless scrolling & binge-watching Twin Peaks.

Mindfulness – Wellness – Gratitude – Positivity

My current focuses, to the best of my abilites. Each a difficult, constant process. One of my most tangible goals of late has been to return to music.

This new season of intention follows a lengthy span grappling with mental + physical health, depression, self-deprecation, & anxiety. Something I’ve only recently begun a path to recognizing, balancing. But something I’ve fought silently, perpetually, daily, for several years.

A sip of tea. Tea, from Sydney — the trip to visit my brother & sister-in-law, cover Australia Fashion Week, & travel with one of my most cherished new friends. An absolute unexpected, awe-inspiring experience I’d never dreamt this career would lend me. From Sydney — where my restless mind kept me from enjoying each grand view or nuanced interaction to its fullest. Where not a single image of us cuddling kangaroos has seen light from the archives, as I’ve wrapped another year of unintentional overload.

I liked Bowie. But I’ll concede his music was not always an active pursuit. However, Blackstar soundtracked a heavy portion of my year — no count of laps the vinyl has taken. This project would quickly become quite introspective.

Blogging the series. I set the space with intention.

★ playing. Little notebook in hand. Convenience has me typing aimlessly, daily — I recognize the unmistakable tangibility of pen-to-page.

Turn on the Christmas lights. Because 1. they’re still up 2. try & stop me. Phone silenced, downstairs. I hold two favorite Polaroid 600 frames from the shoot. Grab a rose quartz from my desk, the pink complements the Lazarus hues. I place them before me. Feeling shrine-y, rearrange.

Hanging to dry, my husband’s space-cat-licking-pizza sweatshirt is in my line of vision. WWBD? It stayed.

I remove the album & inspect as if freshly unpackaged — then moreso. Celestial imagery twinkles as Bowie croons “diamonds in my eyes.” The light dances between the raised gloss type; the matte stock consumes it. During discordant chorals, it comes to mind that a blackstar lesion is indicative of cancer.

The track slows. Or has my breathing? Perhaps both.

Because I only have a few packs of original Polaroid film, I shot on the beautiful Impossible stock. The recipe is similar, but it’s not your 80’s rendition of shake-it *(don’t) & it’s ready in 10. These take a bit longer to expose. It was long after the session wrapped before I realized the only instant frames from the day were in mask. I look down; the model’s blind, button eyes stare back.

How many times does an angel fall?

He cried aloud into the crowd

Look up here, I’m in heaven / I’ve got scars that can’t be seen

I’m so high it makes my brain whirl / dropped my cell phone down below

Ain’t that just like me?

This way or no way / you know I’ll be free

Scribbling frantically along with the tracks to note each poignant lyric, I run out of space at the end of the page. Out of space, off the page. One of the most emotive images, Bowie penning madly in Lazarus, with so much left to tell. Then he recedes quietly, calmly, into his armoire — a suited coffin for a symbol of style. The saxophone jerks, flows. Erratic, at times strained.

The music comes seamlessly to a calm, peaceful end.

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Photography: Mallory Berry for MGB Photo

Venue: Record

Designer: Esque by Leslie Pennel

Styling: Anna Cottrell

Sponsor: Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week, Robin Wallis Atkinson

Model: Brynne Simmons

Hair: ShaKayla Canaday

Makeup: Kristin Von Dietrich

Rings: Metalicious

Assistant: Hayley Mitchell

  • Amber Gossett

    I am loving these photographs. I don’t know much about Bowie, but this encouraged me to learn more.

    • Such a wonderful response, Amber — what a tribute to his legacy + art!