1525 : Day 4 of the Greg Gorman / Joshua Smith Workshop
I met Bethany Bultman when she moved in across the street from a gallery that I had in the 800 block of Chartres Street. Mark, her gardener and I became friendly and I had a lot of questions for him about the family mansion on Louisiana Avenue. The southern gothic mansion contains the famous garden room that I had seen in Suddenly Last Summer so many times and dreamed of being able to see inside if it for myself. The opening scene of the movie is based on this room. Katherine Hepburn makes a grand entrance in a white dress in an elevator into a room full of plants including Venus flytraps hinting at what’s to come- so grand and dramatic.
Bethany is an eccentric lady that has broken the mold of uptown society with her multi-shades of pink and purple hair and the most fabulous clunky Iris Apfel style jewelry and her “radical” views. Bethany is one of the most straight forward people I know.- if she doesn't like you, you'll know it. You can flatter her for about five minutes and then if your not interesting in your own right, she will very politely excuse herself and move on. She tells stories of her life and everytime I doubt her, I am constantly reminded not to question her because research proves her right. She's been photographed by Eve Arnold. and tells the story of how Hermann Leonard wanted to photograph her and and she ignored his pursuit.
I wanted to see the house at any cost so I asked Mark if I could take his picture there.
He said he would ask her if it would be ok.
She consented that I could photograph in the garden room and parts of the house only if I brought drag queens as my subjects. she suggested that I base the characters on Tennessee William’s writings! Little did I know that there was a fine line that separates truth from fiction. These models were very close to the characters they were portraying.
She has been a constant mentor, friend and cheerleader for my art and my personal life. She has helped me get art exhibitions together and gotten flowers at the last minute from her own garden for me for a show. She has taken me to yoga and given me iced coffee in the mornings after I’ve had long nights performing..
Mama Jamilah a dancer/ psycho therapist and her young grandson who‘s also a photographer.
I photographed Reesie in her full Mardi Gras Indian purple outfit with matching head dress . I met her when she came to my drag shows at Southern Rep theatre. She relates to the performer in me. I met her mother when I did Reesie's makeup for a shoot with Frank Relle in the swamps. Mama was nervous that Reesie, her baby, would be eaten in the swamps by alligators.
It's always fun to watch photographers interpret or see their models in a certain way. I spent twenty minutes preparing Mama doing her hair and winding her up and 20 minutes photographing her in a very feminine dressing room. The next person (male) wanted to photograph her in the kitchen. She said,"Honey I've spent my whole life in a kitchen, why do I have to have My picture taken in here?"
I saw her regal - she had a Maya Angelou aura. I wanted ro capture Mama and her baby.
The last shoot of the day was this beauty lounging by the pool. My friend Joshua worked hard with me with all the different angles and camera settings. He has a gorgeous body.