This summer, sat for a tin type photo session with Heather Curiel. I brought my Victor Monarch phonograph from 1901 to the shoot, and sat with it for the first photo. When I went to school for photography in Oregon, I was always drawn to tin types and wet plate methods: they are laborious, fickle and very reverential medium. There is a lot of room for error – dust specks in the collodian, defects in the plate, and problems with development. Also, this is what makes the photograph so special.
For the second portrait, I wore a phonograph horn as an Elizabethan ruff. This was an idea that I’ve been working on for about a year, in fact, you can see a picture of me hacking through the metal on my first post of Old Fashioned Way in August of 2011. A few years ago, I bought a cheap reproduction phonograph from ebay for about $100 bucks. The machine was so terrible, but it was my foray into the world of phonograph collecting. After the spring broke in the machine, it sat, collecting dust on my armoire. Essentially, the only function it had was to house my iPhone, which I would turn on and stick into the bell to amplify music.
I had this idea that just wouldn’t leave. What if a siren lived inside of the phonograph, and the bell encircled her head like a crown? What if her slender fingers could be the reproducer, the pointed nail the needle? I began doodling the image everywhere. This chalk drawing was up at the cafe where I invented my vegan ice cream recipe.
In 2010, I was lucky enough to land an appointment with Nick Baxter, who is probably the most amazing tattoo artist on the planet. It took a lot of explaining on my part as to exactly how my tattoo should look. He had never seen a phonograph up close, so I printed him off sheets and sheets of reference material that I found on ebay. The result was an enormous tattoo that covers my ribcage and most of my hip. I love his details: the wood grain, the spinal column Art Nouveau flowers, the rusty spots on the metal.
Last week, this obsession with climbing into the phonograph has come full circle. I sat for Darla Teagarden, a photographer known for creating paintings come to life. I brought my phonograph ruff, my Victor Monarch, and a freshly painted set of nails. She strapped me into the ruff, I turned the crank, and looked into the spotlight.