Who the hell was this guy? Where was the country hospitality? Had we really just dug ourselves out of the mud to be beaten at the finishing line by this asshole?
“Yeh no problems…you’ve got a Jeep,” she said
We were at the Tilpa pub demolishing a steak sandwich. I licked beetroot juice and fried egg from my fingers and considered the gathering clouds. The front was just over an hour away and we still had 140km of dirt road lined with mudflats. I looked at dad who glanced over his shoulder and took a long swig from his beer. Never one to take a backwards step, dad would push on.
The barmaid, a single mother in her mid 30’s sat in the corner of the bar bathing her child in a tub, cooing to him softly as she sponged his forehead. The humidity was building. We drained our beers and made for the door – thanking the cook on our way out.
The Jeep rocketed over a dirt road freshly graded for the Christmas traffic. I checked the rear view mirror. Red dust circulated in our wake while ahead the clouds darkened. We’d be right. We had the Jeep. Two weeks previous I’d made the same journey in the opposite direction. We’d crossed one cattle grate after another, dodging a legion of goats and a kangaroo or two underneath a cloudless sky. When it came time to make camp – I steered the Jeep confidently through low-lying scrub with dad’s words ringing in my ears…there’s nothing the Jeep can’t do. We were about to test that theory.
As we watched the rain approach, the road turned from red dirt to a fine grey dust that would soon turn to mud at the first sign of rain. The clouds loomed and the temperature dropped from 34 to 27 in a matter of moments. “This might make for good photos” dad said as I reached for my camera, snapping a few photos as it started to spit. I checked my phone. No service.
The rain came suddenly, splashing mud onto our windscreen – obscuring our view. Dad hunched over the steering wheel, elbows out, teeth gritted, urging the Jeep forward as the road became increasingly heavy. It was like trying to drive on an ice rink, the Jeep fishtailed dangerously, careering from side to side with nothing to grip. With each correction we avoided the mud pits that lined the road. If we lost control and slid off the crown, it was all over.
We passed a two-wheel drive Mazda, bogged on the side of the road. If we stopped we’d never get going again so we sailed past. Too busy gawking at the poor bastards we’d just left behind, we missed the flood plane sign. That is to say…I missed the flood plane sign. Dad was otherwise occupied at the helm of our sinking ship while the lookout had been slacking on the job. If a responsible adult had been present, (a title neither dad or I qualify for) we would have stopped and assessed the condition of the road before proceeding.
It was impossible. Dad desperately tried to keep course while the Jeep slid sideward into the gutter. We were going nowhere. The rain had started to ease but the damage had been done. We were bogged.
The moral of the story is to always be prepared for the worst. While we had enough food and water to keep us going, we hadn’t packed the maxi tracks. Truth be told, we don’t even own maxi tracks – so we did the next best thing and found an old gutter from a downpipe left as wreckage on the side of the road and a long plank of wood. We dug out the back wheels, dad on his hands and knees eating shit in a pool of mud. We lodged our makeshift maxi track under the back tyres and dad jumped back into the captain’s seat. I was feeling positive. The Jeep fired to life, the wheels spun, mud sprayed, the engine strained. Nothing.
Dad got out of the car and we both stood back to survey the damage, silently contemplating our next move. I still had faith. After all …the Jeep can do anything right…RIGHT?! I looked over at dad and wondered if he still believed it. I was impressed though; despite the drawn expression, there had been no swearing or lost tempers. We were stranded in the middle of nowhere, covered head to toe in mud and getting on with it.
We repositioned the back rails and laid a track of dried reeds in the hope it would give the front tires traction. We gave it another crack, the Jeep fired to life, the wheels spun, the mud sprayed, the engine strained and the jeep lurched forward. For a whole 5 meters and a victorious few seconds we were free. But once up there was nowhere to go but back down and the Jeep slid even further into the mud pit. This time there was swearing and dad stomped off into the surrounding scrub looking for answers.
I looked up to see the owner of the Mazda we had left behind in a spray of mud walking towards us. At least he was trying to. A big red kangaroo stood in his way, staring him down. As soon as the rain started, every living thing for miles around headed clear of the storm. This mass exit was unnerving, like Noah’s Ark except we hadn’t made the list. We were the dickheads headed straight into the storm. Cockatoos, snakes, rabbits, wallabies and some of the biggest kangaroos I’ve ever seen. It seemed that while most of his mates had made a run for it, Big Red had decided to stand and fight, ready to wage a war on the world, more specifically on Ben. If Ben moved left, Big Red moved left. If Ben moved right, Big Red had him covered. It was a stand off. I called dad over to watch. It occurred to me at the time that there was nothing more Australian than being stranded in the middle of the outback, covered in mud, watching a fight between a kangaroo and some bloke. Ben raised his arms and waved them in the air, a tactic we later learned was an attempt to make himself appear threatening. Big Red remained cool, calm and collected; I swear, I even saw him fake a left jab. Dad and I pissed ourselves laughing, yet again failing to even attempt a rescue. Eventually, Ben conceded defeat and retreated to the safety of his vehicle where his fiancé had witnessed the entire episode. She was unimpressed. Big Red left in disgust, the victor to an opponent who refused to step up to the plate.
With Big Red out of the way, Ben seized the opportunity and made a run for it. Traversing the 100m of mud between his vehicle and ours. He was on his way to Broken Hill with his fiancé. They had hoped to make the sculptures by sunset. No chance. His fiancé had already cracked open the champagne and Ben assured us he had plenty of cold beer. What more do you need?
With Ben as our wingman, Dad and I made one last attempt to leverage the Jeep from its mud bath. I thrashed the engine while dad and Ben pushed. Nothing. For the first time…we considered the possibility that we might be there for the long haul. Ben had been in contact with a local property owner who told us there was another inch of rain on its way that evening. Our prospects didn’t look great. I checked my phone for the first time since the rain started. I had one bar. A lifeline. I called the Wilcannia police station. “What’s your name, how many people are there, how old are you and how long have you been there?” I eventually got my message across in a series of staccato bursts hindered by dodgy reception. I presumed they would send someone to give us a hand. “Yeh we might send someone in the morning,” said the voice on the end of the line. I presumed wrong.
With the prospect of an overnight stay, I attempted to clean up, bathing in a puddle on the side of the road. The mud was like glue. It had dried to form clay shoes that looked like Hobbit feet. It was in my hair, on my face, under my nails. Dad looked on skeptically…questioning the rationality of attempting to wash mud off with muddy water. “We’ll be shitting mud for days,” said dad, ever the eloquent wordsmith. I changed into fresh clothes while swatting at flies, the muddy water having dried to form a second skin that was attracting my own swarm. Dad wandered off in search of reliable phone reception and I headed in the opposite direction to hit Ben up for that beer.
Ben’s fiancé was perched on the front of their stranded vehicle serenely sipping champagne. I noticed that unlike me she did not have hobbit feet and had not adopted a family of flies. I’ve always marveled at women who possess the ability to remain put together in any given situation. I am definitely not one of them. Given the opportunity, I turn primal within a moments notice, casting off any lady like illusions I may or may not have managed to cultivate. Unlike Dad and I – they seemed to have accepted their predicament with grace and good spirits, resigned to the fact they would be spending the night. We shared a laugh over Ben’s altercation with Big Red and chatted about their plans for the rest of the trip. If we had to spend the night, at least we would be in good company.
When I got back, dad was wandering up and down the road poking at the mud with his hobbit feat. It was over an hour since the rain had stopped and the sludge had firmed up somewhat. “Want to give it another crack?” Dad nodded, sliding into the drivers seat. He fired the Jeep to life and the car rocked forwards almost a foot. It was progress. With each attempt we were a little closer until finally dad floored the accelerator and the Jeep dragged itself up and out, shooting forward like a bull out of a gate. In the excitement, I lost my footing and face planted into the mud. What did I say about being put together?
Dad stopped 100m up the road, clear of the flood plane sign and waited for me to catch up. I’m surprised he let me get in the car; I was like a little feral bush baby trying to hitch a ride. I crawled into the passenger side, grinning with a sense of accomplishment. “Nice work dad,” I beamed, he looked worried, oblivious to my verbal high fives.
We crawled along at walking pace, the Jeep fishtailing dangerously, threatening all the while to slide off the road. I got out and walked alongside the car barking orders.
“Straighten your wheels.”
“Turn to your left.”
But the Jeep slid further and further off the crown of the road. We were dying a slow death, losing the battle in increments. Dad stopped, got out of the car, pulled out the camp chairs and placed them in the middle of the road. He walked back to the car, got his iPad out, took a seat and started checking his emails. I watched this performance with amusement. Dad had obviously reached his tipping point and decided he’d had enough reality for one day. I got my camera out to document the moment. It was an adult tantrum if ever I saw one. A silent fuck you to the car, the rain and to life in general.
“Are you going to set the tent up Poss?” Momentarily raising his head in my direction.
“Aaahh nope – I will not be setting the tent up,” I replied incredulously.
Dad had to be in Broken Hill the next morning to scatter his father’s ashes and damned if we were going to miss it but now was not the time to push the point. We needed to take a breather.
I sat down and got my phone out. When in doubt, refer to Google.
4WD traction in mud… I typed, scrolling through to an article that seemed appropriate.
“A sudden downpour on a country road or bush track can create a driving hazard, because clay or dirt surfaces turn into paste that has the friction of soap.
You need to drive very carefully in these circumstances, staying on the ‘crown’ of the road, to avoid sliding into the table drain.
The dark grey soils common around rivers, creeks or channels – even dried up ones are notoriously difficult to handle when wet. The best driving option in black soil country is; don’t. Wait a day or so, if you can.”
I laughed out loud and read the passage to dad. Maybe he was right…we were done. I fished out a can of tuna from the back of the car and took a seat next to dad.
I was finishing up my lunch when we heard it, the high-pitched whine of an engine in stress. It was coming towards us and fast. We scrambled to clear the road, just in time to see a 4WD round the bend, hiding. Never once slowing down, he skidded to the left, expertly bypassing the Jeep in a move that can only be described as 4WD ballet. We stood in his wake, biting dust as he hit the accelerator and sped off into the distance, pulling to a stop near the cattle grate a 100m up the road.
“Now that was skill,” dad said, still staring at the car.
“Mad skills,” I replied
The driver of the vehicle got out and strode towards us, extending a hand and introducing himself. I missed his name but it doesn’t matter because I will forever remember him as The Outback Angel.
The masterful driving we had just witnessed was all the more impressive considering his car was only working in 2WD oh and he was dragging a trailer.
“ You can get through no worries,” he reassured us, “have you let your tyres down yet?”
We hadn’t. He produced a screwdriver from thin air and started doing it for us. The car was his son’s – he was driving it all the way from the Gold Coast to Perth, a solid 4,379 km drive – a struggle for the mere mortal but all in a weeks work for The Outback Angel. He jumped on the back of our car and told us to accelerate hard; we needed to spin the wheels so they could grip the harder soil beneath the sludge. With the tyres down and The Outback Angel instructing us, we made the crown of the road. As we approached the cattle grate he jumped off and waved us farewell. I’m not sure, but I think he might have disappeared in a shimmer of light, a mirage of our own imagination.
We called the relatives in Broken Hill to inform them that we might still make it yet. Of course, we weren’t home free, the road was still treacherously slick with mud, with large passages entirely under water and with dusk approaching, the kangaroos would be out in force. The Outback Angel had left us with strict instructions there was to be no sudden breaking or sharp turns. It was about this time as the light started to leak from the sky that I decided to take over the driving. This wasn’t because dad was tired; I just wanted to have a crack. I have always considered myself to be a good driver. My grandpa told me I was a good driver so it must be true. Not everyone would agree but that’s probably because they don’t appreciate my more…‘aggressive’ style of driving. My clean record speaks for itself.
I’m not going to make comment on how dad felt about the next 20 minutes of his life but I personally found the experience to be exhilarating. There was mud and water flying everywhere and I am proud to say I kept my cool the first, second and the third time the back tyres slid out from underneath us. The kangaroos watched safely from the sidelines and lo and behold, we made it onto the highway in one piece. I don’t want to say I told you so but there we have it.
We arrived back into Wilcannia just as the sun was setting and headed straight to the petrol station, the only petrol station in town. It was closed. Nothing had been easy. We needed at least 10 more liters to get to Broken Hill and we had to put air in our tyres. We pulled up to inspect the Jeep and plan our next move. Nicknamed the orange Jaffa, now the Jeep looked more like an oversized turd on wheels, it was almost entirely covered in mud inside and out. Dad and I looked much the same. We’d lost both mudguards, leaving the back wheels exposed but otherwise unharmed. I specifically remember the sound of them snapping off as I launched the Jeep into a puddle of water that could have doubled as a mini lake. Dad was using the hose as a makeshift shower when the owner of the petrol station ambled over to suss us out. I have no idea what his name was so I’m going to call him ‘No Chance’. No Chance had clearly knocked off work for the day, beer in hand – kicking it in a pair of stubbie shorts, wife beater and double pluggers. Come to think of it, this might be his work attire. Dad engaged him in a male bonding session, recalling the events of the day and mentioning we needed to get to Broken Hill to scatter his fathers ashes the following day. This was only going to happen if we could pump the tyres up and acquire at least 10 liters of petrol. Dad paused, the question hanging in the air. “No Chance,” he replied, staring into his beer. Just to paint you a picture, we were standing not even 5 meters from the petrol pump. Who the hell was this guy? Where was the country hospitality? Had we really just dug ourselves out of the mud to be beaten at the finishing line by this asshole? No Chance took a long swig of his beer as he turned to leave. No well wishes or – good luck mate, sorry I couldn’t help you out…nothing. Not a single fuck was given.
Dad and I got back into the Jeep in silence, dad shaking his head in disbelief. The police had asked us to drop by so we made this our next port of call. The Sargent I had been communicating with during the day turned out to be a handsome lad – over 6ft tall with blonde hair and blue eyes. It was my turn to bust out the charm. Dad stood there like an awkward outsider as I answered questions and relayed our requests. Yes he could help us out. He smiled. I smiled. Dad looked at his feet.
We followed the police car a few km out of town, dad glancing nervously at the petrol gauge. We pulled up at a small property littered with heavy machinery to be greeted by the largest dog I have ever seen. More of a small horse than a dog really. The cute policeman introduced us to an old bloke who looked a bit like Santa and spoke with a strong Irish accent. He was happy to help us out. Irish Santa led the way while dad followed in the car. I patted the small horse and took a moment to consider our day thus far. There had been a myriad of characters to mark our journey, the single mother at the Tilpa pub, Ben and his fiancé, Big Red, The Outback Angel, No Chance, The Cute Policeman and Irish Santa. What an adventure. I was sure the story would become family folklore.
We made it to Broken Hill by 11:30pm that evening, thoroughly exhausted. After a blissfully hot shower, I collapsed into bed. Too tired to even eat, I fell asleep with a bowl of pasta in my lap. As we left Wilcannia, the cute policeman had told us there were still 12 vehicles stuck on the dirt road. We were the only ones to make it out. I cast a sympathetic thought to those still stuck in the mud as I drifted off to sleep. Lucky we bought a Jeep I thought…
“As a domme, I have clients who come in to live out their dark side, while others seek out reassurance that it’s okay to have a fetish. I am very intuitive and need to establish trust before I can lead my client out of their comfort zone.”
Into The Night is an ongoing project I started in New York City, documenting an unseen side to the city that lives on after dark.
As a concept, “Into The Night” aims to capture my journey through the night at street level. My use of flash borrows from the style of crime scene photography. I see the images almost like crime scenes waiting to happen. I recently decided to evolve the project so that each installment, with a full photo shoot and an accompanying interview, becomes a character study. My subject becomes my muse and my accomplice for the evening as we journey through the night together.
On my latest adventure, I invited Ms Anthrope to join me — a professional provocateur whose specialties include spanking, public humiliation, golden showers and body worship. As a practicing domme, she brought along a submissive whom she tied up and led through the city streets. Starting in Williamsburg, we crossed the bridge and finished our shoot the early morning of the Lower East Side. Passersby remained unfazed, a testament to a city inhabited by those who have seen it all.
Over the last year, I have watched your personal evolution as you embarked on a journey to explore the darker parts of your personality and adopt an unconventional lifestyle in the process. What was the catalyst for change?
After a longterm, monogamous relationship, I had found myself single and sexless for a long time. Dating seemed too casual with no meaning and I had the idea that it was for people with no hobbies or friends. Sounds harsh, right? But that was my conviction. After a few years of maintaining that belief, (and celibacy) I realized that I was sexually dissatisfied and pretty unhappy without any intimacy in my life. It became clear to me that I needed to challenge my judgement towards dating. Being used to dealing with my own demons growing up, I decided once again to face my fears; this time my social anxiety. I put up a profile on Okcupid and went on numerous dates with half of Williamsburg. The rules of conduct were surprisingly quick to learn but after a couple of months, I found I wasn’t making any real connections and rarely accepted second date invites. Without knowing what I was looking for, I knew that it wasn’t a monogamous relationship or casually dating (which I had mistaken as a hooking up). I questioned myself and wondered why I couldn’t relate to people. As a consequence of going on so many unsuccessful dates, I concluded that my sexuality was different from the mainstream. When I found out about the sex-positive movement, I was instantly attracted to the community and their progressive attitude towards sensuality and sexuality.
Tell me about being Sex Positive and what it means to you?
Being sex-positive encourages people to embrace intimacy and sexuality with a liberated attitude and few inhibitions. I needed to unlearn hetero-normative and societal conventions to really understand and express myself sexually. In my opinion, as long as everyone involved gives their consent, there is no reason to create limitations on your expression but to explore actively.
You currently practice Polyamory. How would you define these types of relationships and how do you deal with some of the challenges you face such as jealousy?
For the sake of simplifying it; Polyamory is similar to open relationships with the most significant distinction that people in ‘poly’ relationships allow emotional connections to form with multiple partners. According to my parameters, I like to be transparent with my partners about who I see and what my emotional involvement is. There is no reason to hide information because lovers are not competing against each other. We are drawn to people for very different reasons. One of my partners pushes my boundaries, while another may bring out the sweet side in me. These two relationboats can undoubtedly coexist in harmony. Oh, I think I need to clarify what I mean by ‘relationboat.’ Everyone knows what a relationship is. The relationboat however is not as serious and more casual, while the relationcanoe refers to an unstable relationship dynamic and can carry negative connotations. Having multiple partners, I can freely embrace new connections but I also need to reassure my partners what I value in our relationboats.
Being fairly new to Polyamory, I still face challenges that deal mostly with unlearning behavioral patterns of monogamy. In the past, I have compared myself to my partner’s other female partner, instead of thinking: “How nice that he has connected with someone who enjoys gardening just as much.” In those situations I like to make a list to compare my patterns in monogamy and polyamory just to remind myself that my goal is to mature emotionally and mentally. When my needs are being met, I realize that I have absolutely no reason to be jealous of any of my partner’s other partners. Plus, I hate gardening.
You define yourself as an erotic provocateur. How did you initially get into the line of fetish work and what does a typical day look like?
I initially reached out to friends of friends, asking if these pro-dommes were interested in having me for double sessions. It was surprisingly easy to find a nice and professional establishment!
As a domme, I have clients who come in to live out their dark side, while others seek out reassurance that it’s okay to have a fetish. I am very intuitive and need to establish trust before I can lead my client out of their comfort zone. I either praise or scold, which is easy for me as the oldest, bossy sibling of three. I’m naturally drawn to being in charge.
In your personal relationships do you prefer to be the dominant or the submissive?
I am submissive to one partner only and have no desire in the near future to be submissive to others. I do identify as a ‘switch’ but before submitting myself to someone, my partner needs to prove himself as a trusting and deserving person. I see my submission as the biggest compliment I can possibly give.
Have you ever been asked to do something that you felt uncomfortable with?
It happens. Men always want to push the boundaries, don’t they? I get asked to be their submissive but I politely decline those requests. If it’s playful, I will let a regular client spank me but only as long as I am in control of the situation.
How do your partners feel about your line of work?
They are very supportive of my job because they see how much it empowers me sexually and as a woman. Also, I pay for nice dinners. They love it!
Where did the name Ms Anthrope come from?
I used to hate people. (or at least believed I did) I would sometimes say: “People are my least favorite animal.” So naturally, my partner refers to me as Miss Anthrope. We can laugh about the tragedies and darkness of life and I guess that’s my way of dealing with the skeletons in my closet.
How did your friends and family react to your change in lifestyle?
Some of my friends and family responded very strongly and expressed doubt when I told them I was in a non-monogamous relationboat. I managed to prove people wrong, by sharing my newly adopted attitude about love and intimate connections. I see myself now as an advocate in my immediate community to inspire my friends be positive and confident about sex and intimacy.
For more information, check out Ms Anthrope’s website.
If you have a story you want to share and would like to accompany me on a dark adventure ‘Into The Night’ - please feel free to email me at: email@example.com
I don’t even want to try and play it cool. This was one of the best days of my life. Fuck having a wedding, I would much rather curate and show in my own exhibition.
Spencer and I created The Brooklyn Collective earlier this year. We wanted to develop a community of talented photographers all working together towards a common goal. It was built on the premise that a group of people having the same conversation with a collective voice was so much more powerful than one person with one voice.
Running your own business in such a competitive industry is hard. I am proud that we have created an ego free community of kick ass artists who support one another. The journey is a hell of a lot easier with company.
We have already started brainstorming ideas for next year’s exhibition. Expect it to be bigger and better.
“I broke character a block away from the bar and acknowledged Spencer for the first time in over an hour. Spencer agreed that the experiment had been a success. He felt it was the way birthdays should be celebrated.”
A lady approached me in the Greek Islands last year to tell me I looked truly comfortable sitting alone by myself. I hadn’t checked my phone. I didn’t have a book as a buffer. I was enjoying my meal solo, comfortable with my own company. She applauded the skill and a skill it is. Even as a self identified introvert who enjoys being alone, learning to enjoy a meal by yourself is an acquired skill. For me, it heightens the experience. Each moment intensified by my solo status. I concentrate on the way my food tastes, I take in my surroundings – focusing on details I would have otherwise missed. I people watch and eavesdrop on conversations. I let my mind wander and take the time to explore a train of thought. I relax/recharge and let the world happen around me.
As my birthday approached this year, my friends wanted to know where the party would be, what was I doing? The thought of having a party sounded exhausting. Of course I wanted to see my friends but I also wanted to schedule some time to myself to enjoy the moment and reflect on how far I have come this year and thus ‘The Solo Birthday Celebration’ was born.
Title: The Solo Birthday Celebration
Concept: To plan a Solo Birthday Celebration that explored introversion and celebration.
Location: I chose a dive bar in Brooklyn called Tip Top because of its unpopularity. I also felt that the Christmas lights and old Happy Birthday sign created the right setting for my celebration.
Time: 8:00 pm – I was meeting friends later in the night so I needed to start early.
What to bring: I wanted to bring some of my favorite things along to help me enjoy the moment. I brought with me a cheesecake for one. Candles. A lighter and a Cigar to go with the whiskey I intended to drink. I also purchased a large Happy Birthday badge and wore my new birthday shoes…a pair of gold Dr Martins.
THE NIGHT OF…
I wanted my celebration documented so I had my co-founder Spencer Lum meet me at the bar. After initial greetings, I completely ignored him as if he wasn’t even there. I can only imagine how strange this must have appeared to onlookers.
There were two other patrons and the bartender. One of the men tried to initiate contact with a feeble joke about Canadians but I shut him down. The bar tender asked for my ID and I handed it over, announcing that it was in fact my birthday. “Happy Birthday” she replied pouring me a whiskey on the house. She was in her early 30’s. She only worked Mondays and she loved the bar. “It’s been in the neighborhood forever and there are plenty of dedicated regulars” she informed me.
I laid out my goodie bag of items I had brought and sipped my whiskey. I eavesdropped on the conversation between the bartender and my fellow drinking companions but it wasn’t of interest so I tuned out and retreated into Kirra world.
I decided to put some music on the Jukebox. I chose: Happy Birthday by Stevie Wonder and prepared my birthday cake with one candle on top. I lit the candle and blew it out while Stevie Wonder sang me Happy Birthday. It was a nice moment.
Spencer continued to shoot while I ate my birthday cake. My drinking companions ordered me a shot of this terrible citrus vodka. I washed it down with the last of my whiskey and ordered another. I took my whiskey and my cigar out the back.
The back of Tip Top is my favorite part. It resembles the smoking area of a derelict country pub somewhere in Australia or perhaps someone’s back yard where you used to hang out and smoke weed as a teenager.
It was empty except for myself and Spencer. The sound of the rain on the roof was comforting. I took a seat and lit my cigar. The alcohol had started to hit my system and the head spins from the cigar gave me a buzz. The smoke trailed from my cigar illuminated by colored light. Spencer circled me with his camera. I was aware of his presence but felt that he was an outsider observing my bubble.
The solidarity, the inebriation, the smoke swirling around me, the flash from the camera – it was a surreal yet deeply relaxing experience. I stubbed out my cigar, packed up my things and thanked the bartender on the way out. I broke character a block away from the bar and acknowledged Spencer for the first time in over an hour. Spencer agreed that the experiment had been a success. He felt it was the way birthdays should be celebrated.
Birthdays create an uncomfortable tension for me. The thoughts and wishes are pleasant and warm, but there’s an undercurrent of expectation that’s disquieting. Because it’s the day most about you, it creates a self-consciousness that’s normally absent.
I was fascinated when Kirra Cheers approached me about The Solo Birthday Project. Declaring her identity and acknowledging her introversion, she celebrated her birthday on her own with a cake, a drink, and a cigar without acknowledging my presence as I documented the event.
As the evening progressed and people looked on, I came to realize that despite my invisibility, the very presence of the camera catalyzed the celebration into both performance and a truer statement of self. It became an exploration of awareness. Where self-consciousness normally re-frames our existence in the eyes of our own narrative, here, Cheers flips this around and re-frames her narrative through existence, turning a constructed event into a form of liberation.
This year I have actively sort to blur the lines between my life and my art. For now…they are one and the same and I am happy about this but even so, there still remains a part of me that remains untouched, that I share with no one. Shouldn’t your birthday be the one-day of the year you celebrate you? Not the version of yourself you present to the world but the real ‘you’. The private self.
Next time your birthday rolls around; consider a solo birthday celebration of your own. At the very least, take the opportunity to have your cake and eat it too.