Parker Day's photography appears, at first, to be the precise opposite of the ordinary. Her character portraits and video work (which earned the attention of publications like Paper, Juxtapoz, and Dazed) are over saturated, outlandish, and excessive. I thought that her work resonated with me because of this unreserved display of kitsch; after all, I've long been a fan of celebrating the weird and the wonderful.
But to classify Parker's work as purely eccentric would be an oversimplification. I realized I had been looking at the commentary made in these portraits superficially. Sure, they're visually stimulating in a way that wouldn't occur naturally, but saying that the characters Parker creates are entirely disconnected from our world/the everyday discredits their capacity to express the human condition.
She holds a fun house mirror up to humanity, inviting us to see ourselves in the delightfully bizarre faces she photographs. She challenges our concept of identity, of personhood, of social constructs. The pink beehives and cow print attire of her subjects may strike many as ridiculous, but, on closer inspection, it's not any more ridiculous than everyday activities we do, if these routines were placed in a certain context. In showing us the "strange," she also shows us the relativism, flexibility, and performative nature of the "normal."
In an interview with Juxtapoz, she said: "I create characters that are at once outlandish and familiar to question the truth of identity. Are they real people? Are they not? Does it matter? I would say no." The "realness" of Parker's characters is a difficult matter since the central question her work raises is "what is it to be real anyway?" And as interesting as it is to investigate the philosophical implications of her portraits, perhaps the visual rhetoric speaks for itself.
How would you describe the style of your photography?
Colorful character portraits filled with life and personality!
What's your favorite photo that you've taken?
I appreciate many of the photos I've taken for different reasons but I get most excited about the photos I have yet to take.
Do you have a favorite subject to shoot?
In terms of real life human subjects, I've collaborated with my friend Molly Milk a bunch and she's just wonderful. She has a silly putty face capable of infinite expressions and is chocked full of personality. She stars in the On My Magic video I just directed for Nvdes.
Can you describe your creative process using an analogy?
Maybe cooking? First you gotta come up with the recipe and imagine what it'll turn out like, then cook it up with love, and then enjoy the end result.
What unlikely sources of inspiration do you have for your photos?
My main inspiration comes from my philosophical and spiritual beliefs, particularly having to do with the power of individual human potential, infinite interconnectedness, and the malleability of self.
If you were to compare your body of work to an album, what album would it be and why?
Like, a record album? Umm I have no clue! But I'd be curious what music comes to mind for others when they see my work.
Do you remember the first photo that you ever took?
Not exactly but when I was a small kid my mom gave me disposable film cameras and because I was a home-schooled only child, I often amused myself by setting up tableaux around the house and photographing them. Barbies and little stuffed tigers would lavish themselves underneath our backyard ferns for photo ops.
What draws you to photography?
Photography allows me to connect with others and explore who I am and my relation to humanity and history through the crafting of characters, or alternate selves.
What draws you to the kitschy, colorful aesthetic?
Kitsch harkens back to a collective nostalgia. Color is a direct way to transmit emotion.
Images used in collage via @heyparkerday