Burlesque Valentine's Day shoot with Hunny Bunny and her Hot Toddies

I met up with Hunny Bunny and her troop of Hot Toddies for a shoot at San Francisco's Mason Social House.   

Hunny Bunny and her Hot Toddies.  Photo by John Orvis

Back Alley Benediction

It was just another graffiti'd backstreet in an industrial area of Oakland.  It was pure coincidence that I found the pews before they were very street worn.  I was making the mural rounds with some newly-Oaklanded friends on an overcast day and was so intrigued I had to return.  And return I did the next day with a bit more equipment and a rotating clan of models.


I wasn't the only one drawn to the alley, though.  Pick-ups stuffed with reflective-vest-clad workers slowed as they passed, men with grocery carts full of cans stared from down the street and those going to and from work sites nearby smiled as they drove their CATs and street sweepers from one place to the next.

Theresia reminisces in the pews.

As I set up lighting equipment shortly before dusk, a van pulled to the side of the road with the engine idling.  A woman stepped out of the passenger-side, leaving the driver behind, and she slowly ambled up to the scene and inquired what I was doing.  I told her I was preparing for a shoot. She introduced herself as Theresia and told me she too was returning for the second day to witness the heap of discarded pews.  She was both excited and awestruck.  Her silence communicated the questions she wanted answered too: where had the pews come from?  How many years of hymnal reading had happened on them?  How many bored children had passed out underneath them?  

Theresia was eager to revisit her childhood and instinctively reached behind the cushions.  “I wonder what you can find back here?” she said, as she pulled out a crumpled up piece of notebook paper on her first try.  I quietly imagined all of the surreptitious notes she might have scrawled during the services she presumably attended as a child.  

She proposed having her photo taken midst the pew-pile, but then demurred.  I thought it was a good idea so I gave her the encouragement -- or permission -- to step in front of the camera. We took a few pictures while she reminisced about her early days in Oakland, and how another photographer had tried to get her to model sixteen years earlier.  

I handed her my card in case she ever wanted the photos.  She thanked me before returning to the van with the mysterious driver, and driving out of my life, presumably forever.  Before long, my next appointed model rode up on bike and we returned to our regularly scheduled program.  



Words by Reaux Flagg and John Orvis

Adam Rose - of Antibody Dance - Interprets the Midwest

Adam Rose, founder of Antibody Dance, at his home in Chicago, IL.

“It’s old-fashioned and brutal, but that’s its charm I suppose.”

Performance artist and film-maker Adam Rose deals with the existential quandaries of the modern Midwest in his current show “Mistake on the Lake” – now touring Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. 

Contrary to the coastal paths of other performance artists, Adam prefers to remain in what he sees as the last great bastion of Midwestern industry and agriculture – Chicago, of which he once said, “It’s old-fashioned and brutal, but that’s its charm I suppose.”  His work is more than just an interpretation of the crumbling Midwest, it is his most powerful form of protest.  He uses his body to bring attention both to how the landscape has been abused by industry as well as how nature is coming to reclaim it.  By pitting his powerful-yet-sullen, dangerous-yet-seductive alter ego Elena against Chicago’s decaying environs Adam asks the viewer to reconsider these unsightly landscapes. By touring his performance art pieces across the Midwest, Adam remains connected to his roots and the place he is critically interpreting.

When I visited Adam in Chicago he balked somewhat at the thought of taking our photoshoot to the streets of Chicago, to the brick-building-lined streets of South Side and Pilsen.  Gary, IN, in all its faded glory, was his alternative, and Gary was where Elena truly came to life, as you can see in the images (below).

I met Adam the next evening at a twenty-four hour diner on Chicago’s north side.   We mused on the images we had taken, particularly on the juxtaposition of motifs in Elena’s outfit – Midwestern sports mascots mired in racism and revolutionary/communist symbolism paired with the glamour of a painted lady in furs.

“Would you say that Elena embodies a new form of protest for the Midwest?” I asked him.  His eyes widened and he paused a moment before replying, with a laugh, “I’m not sure… but I like that interpretation.”

Adam Rose is the founder of Antibody Corporation, a dance and performance non-profit in Chicago, IL.  For more information, visit the official website:  www.antibodycorp.org

Special thanks to my ghostwriter and assistant photographer Reaux Flagg, without which this blog entry would not have been possible.  

Rose's alter-ego Elena strikes heroine poses in the overgrown lots of Gary, IN.

On the disassembly-line outside U.S. Steel.  Gary, IN

Decision making in the new economy.  

Rose remains committed to both living and performing in the Midwest.  "It wouldn't be the same in some Brooklyn performance space," he said in early morning conversation at one of Chicago's twenty-four hour diners.   


The journey to the Midwest began and ended with Chicago.  

The Loop.  Chicago.  10/22/2012

The Voyage Home Museum.  Riverside, IA

"Home for sale."  Kalona, IA.

Highball Halloween event in Columbus OH.  10/27/2012

Columbus, OH.  One last look.

Chicago, IL

Lincoln Park, Chicago

All night diner.  Lincoln Park, Chicago.  

Pilsen.  Chicago, IL.

Our Chicago hosts, Fatima and Glo, at their home near West Town.

Response to the proposed nudity ban in San Francisco

City Supervisor Scott Wiener exposed himself to the Nudist community of San Francisco as an anti-nudist.  Unlike other U.S. cities, San Francisco has upheld a firm tradition of leaving Nudists untouched on the streets, but Wiener's proposal for a ban on nudity is touching some citizens in an uncomfortable way.  

As if the raunchy puns made with Wiener's name weren't enough, Nudists came out hard on Saturday to protest the Wiener proposal.  Both Nudists and other unclothed people (who don't identify as Nudist but wanted to defend the right to be nude) decided to set aside marginal differences and just get naked for a couple hours at the corner of Castro and Market. 

Nudist takes time to compose shot.

Man shares space with naked people.

One last look at the naked people.  

Nudist returns to the clothed world.  

The girls from Mexico City take over a Mission taqueria

I show my friend from Columbus OH around The Mission in San Francisco.  We meet four women  in search of adventure (beer).  We get beer at a divey hipster bar and then take over a nearby taqueria.  Pachanga!

Occupy Oakland. A Birthday Party.

Members of Oakland's Occupy movement congregated at Snow Park on Oct 10, 2012 to mark the first year anniversary of the establishment of an encampment in front of City Hall.  

Birthday cake was served, signs were hung, and children played.  

Children in red clothing play behind red banner.  

Geoff and Deepa's Wedding - San Francisco

A late summer day in San Francisco.  

Geoff leads the procession.

Before the ceremony.  Deepa looks toward the city.  Her father looks on in background.  

First dance.  At the end of the night.  

Fat Tire Fest

aka, the Tour De Fat.  it's like a small-scale Bay to Breakers.

here's a brief tour of the Tour.  

a flower gets poked.

flower poking

flower poking

...Then there was Hula Hooping

Lisa hoops

Lisa hoops

Dana really liked the following picture.  And she demanded it go onto my photoblog, after she inquired if I had a photoblog.  

Dana anticipates what this photo will look like.  Jaryyd looks on.  

Dana anticipates what this photo will look like.  Jaryyd looks on.  

This man is channeling his 3-year-old-in-a-candy-store look.  

in candystore

in candystore

And then other stuff...

Folsom St. Fair 2012 - the little things

It’s the little things that you never expect when you go to the Folsom St. Fair.  For example:  woman, in conservative dress, getting flogged, by a man in leather, while children, in strollers, pet a cute doggy, and watch.  

Click for all my photos of Folsom St. Fair 2012 (some content requires sign-in)