I have struggled with the idea of writing this blog and how to deal with the subject matter. I'm a fairly private person and I don’t really like airing my dirty laundry. I think writing down where these images came from may be good for me and will help others to understand that these aren’t just “cool” images. I was going through a really hard time over the holidays when my friend Chelsea Marrin, who is also a photographer, messaged me wanting to work together when she got back from Chicago. When she asked, I was so depressed I didn’t want to get out of bed let alone plan a photo shoot. She asked if I had any ideas so I thought about it for a few days. I have always been one to work through heart ache, among other things, through art and in this case, makeup. There was one idea that kept popping up in my head and I couldn’t ignore the concept any longer.
I didn’t want to get too specific as to why I was feeling down but after reading a very vague rough draft of this blog Chelsea told me I needed to explain more of what happened so that people could connect with the material. It’s hard for me because it’s embarrassing, but I know that I’m not the only person this has happened to and I won’t be the last. I also didn’t want anyone to think I was writing this to make anyone look bad because I still care about this person, even though I’ve been told I shouldn’t. The last thing I want is for this blog to hurt anyone. However, In order for this to mean anything I have to be honest and I have to put myself out there. After all, this is all about telling the truth.
I was with someone I loved very much, who said she loved me too. She was someone that I have known for a while. We met before she went back to school the summer of 2016 and formed a friendship. Her and I became very close friends while she was away. I felt I could tell her anything, which I did, and I felt she did the same. After she came home from school and we reconnected, we started casually dating. Some may have thought things moved fast but given our friendship and history feelings progressed very quickly. Looking back I think she underestimated how much I, or anyone, could love and care for her.
People would tell me how great we were together, and how we fit so well. She made me feel safe, and she made me happy. When I was with her my stress went away. When she told me she loved me, I felt invincible. As with any relationship, there were a few things that didn’t seem perfect, but that’s to be expected. Anything that I thought seemed questionable she was able to quickly answer my concerns with a logical explanation. Even when things didn’t add up I chose to believe her because I had known her for so long, I couldn’t ever see her lying. Knowing that I have trust issues, at one point she said, “Don’t you trust me?” as if to say I didn’t. Those words put me on my heels and made me drop my guard. I thought she was right. Maybe I was being unfair and needed to just trust her. This person I had become so close to wouldn’t lie to me or hurt me.
Unfortunately I was wrong. It turned out that the whole time we had been together she had been seeing someone else. Weaving in and out of convincing lies, to not so convincing lies. The things that she would say to me just weren’t things you would say to someone you were cheating on. We talked about things regarding "our" future together. We talked about marriage. Not about getting married right away, but someday. We talked about if I wanted kids someday because she did. I just couldn’t fathom that she would talk about the future with someone she was also being so dishonest with. The problem was that I was happy. Being happy doesn’t sound like it would be a problem, but in this case it was. It blinded me to what was going on because I was made to feel like the most important person in her life. When it was brought to my attention what was going on I questioned her about it and she confessed to everything.
I was left wondering who and what to believe and I had no idea what was real. “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil” (No Evil) was the idea I came up with. To me and what I was going through it had several meanings. I had shut things out and ignored red flags to see or hear what I wanted in order to stay happy. Was I only showed what was known I wanted to hear and see to keep me from asking any questions? Why did I not speak up? Was I being manipulated? I still refuse to believe it wasn’t partially real. I know for a fact, what I felt was real and that is at least my reality.
Chelsea liked the idea so we started planning. It would be pretty high concept so the images would work outside of the context of the theme. The idea being, I would black out the feature on the model that the phrase pertained to. The black makeup would be very hard lined and harsh but asymmetrical and would end by pointing at the heart. For example, for “Speak no Evil” the mouth would be blacked out, and so on. This would mean we would need models with strong features for the parts of the face that weren’t going to be blacked out. The meaning being that the truth is definite and sometimes hard to hear but it’s not always perfect. I wanted it to point at the heart because to represent intentions. Like I said, I would like to believe nothing was done maliciously. Believing anything else would make her a monster and I don't believe that to be true.
The first model that popped into my head was Katya Estes. She has always been such a great friend and I knew I would want her on set. Aside from being a great friend she has amazing lips that I knew would be perfect for “See no Evil” since her mouth would be featured. For “Speak no Evil” with the way I was going to be doing the black makeup I knew not only did I need great eyes but strong jawline. My friend and fellow makeup artist Portia Greene was an obvious choice given the criteria. With her pale piercing eyes and sharp jawline she was perfect. For “Hear no Evil” all that would be blacked out was the ears. With that said I just needed a pretty face. Alex Hepfinger would have been my first choice but I had just worked with her using a lot of heavy black makeup. As perfect as she would be I didn’t feel I could use her again so soon. After the model I did cast canceled last minute it only made sense to ask Alex. I was lucky that Alex agreed to come in last minute. Alex is another person that is just great to have in studio so with that we were set.
The morning of the photo-shoot I woke up to the pitch black darkness of my lower level apartment. I stepped out of bed onto my tile floor to an odd sensation. Being half asleep, still I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong. After a few steps I slipped and fell landing on the right side of my body to a big splash. My neighbor’s pipes had frozen and burst, flooding my apartment. After the initial shock wore off and maintenance had been called, I noticed my hand was in extreme pain. All but my index finger and thumb felt like they had been jammed all the way back to my wrist. Not a good thing considering I had to do three very steady handed straight-lined makeups. By the time they pumped all the water out of my apartment, it was time to pack up and go to the studio.
Once we were in studio and started the process everything seemed to fall into place. The makeups were going well. Models were showing up on their staggered times and Chelsea was getting great shots and even some video. We wrapped up and Chelsea and I sat there, talking about doing something and going somewhere to hang out. We ended up just sitting there for at least an hour. Truth be told, I just didn’t want to go home. A few days later Chelsea messaged me, saying that because of a computer issue, she had lost all of the images. With the emotion that went into the makeups I knew I couldn’t and didn’t want to recreate them. I took it as 2017 getting in one last hit with this being my last makeups of the year. Needless to say losing the images was a punch in the gut. I sat down and poured some bourbon when Chelsea texted me. Luckily she was able to retrieve the images and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
As a makeup artist I generally opt for images to be in color. With these, it made more sense for them to be in black and white. The color images also looked so good but after talking it out we decided black and white was the way to go. Not only did they look great but it fit the meaning of the photos. The truth is black and white but people are more complicated. Thematically, it was the way to go.
Trust is not something that should be given out easily. I used to trust everyone until they gave me a reason not to. That has burned me more times than I can count. Trust your instincts. If something seems off, it probably is. I ignored the signs and had my trust issues that I have built up over time brought into question. It has left me wondering if I can trust anything or anyone. I really hope that feeling fades, because not being able to trust anyone seems like a very lonely existence. The situation is really hard because I greatly miss this amazing person that I thought I knew. With that said, I would rather a hard truth than a kind lie. As humans we can be pretty resilient and more times than not we can come out on the other side with a life lesson. What is important is how you let that life lesson shape you.