Like everyone I know, I’m anxious about the construction epidemic devouring the city; the teetering tower-blocks rising up from hell-pits in the ground; the plundering of a livable city by a handful of oligarchs; our sky blocked out, blacked out, for their gain; all this loss and cost and pain slathered over with slick media messages of beauty and perfection, of perfect lives in perfect homes, crystal candy-boxes in the sky, that will be lived in, in the future, by perfect people, who will not be me.
This anxiety, this pervasive sense of disruption as we walk in the shadows of half-built towers, maps the external physical cityscape to the inner psychology of the individual. I try to explore that idea, using the common material language of fashion and the building pit— their shared fixation with incredible construction fabrics, bold textures, unapologetic colors—to explore more immaterial contrasts. Grates and chains and spools of fencing are all signifiers of human confinement, of physical oppression—keep out/keep off/keep in—but at the same time, they point to the platonic ideals of geometric abstraction: form, pattern, symmetry, infinity. So too the pit itself: a mud-splattered maw and hideous mess from which the euclidean sterility of the modernist high-rise emerges, a towering concrete erection jutting out of mud and injury and swarms of people running around like ants in shiny yellow hats. Just a bit more makeup, a hemline adjustment, and it shall all look perfect.
This is how I experience #gentrification, this razor border between ruin and perfection. I shoot with a cellphone camera because it’s what I have. Interiors were shot in my apartment, in a fifty-year-old low-rise near the corner of Broadway and Main.
Art direction/ photograph — Chieh Huang
Styling — Melissa Graf
Makeup — Carla Sahagún
Model — Meli