photographer parker day explores identity with glitter, colour and a little bit of blood

The LA artist is inspired by Instagram heroes, power and a gentle undercurrent of rage.

by Hannah Butterworth
15 April 2016, 12:20am

Choosing her subjects from parties and the internet (Molly SodaJarae Holieway and Lexi Laphore make appearances), LA photographer Parker Day's work attempts to pick apart our feelings around identity. Armed with a camera, glitter and occasionally a heaping of fake blood, she creates portraits that are bombastic and hyperactive exploration of how we see ourselves and each other. For her latest series ICONS she has created 100 character portraits that move between the surreal, cartoonish and magical so easily it's hard to believe the models are flesh and bone.

We caught up with the artist to see what life is like in the middle of a kaleidoscope.

So I heard your favourite word is moist, it feels kind of fitting that you'd be into such a visceral word. After all, visceral is kind of the perfect way to describe your work.
Well you've just buttered me up and got me feeling moist right off the bat! Visceral is another excellent word and an apt one. I want my work to punch you in the gut, then give you a tender massage.

Is that connection to the tactile why you shoot on film?
Yes, it feels more real. The grain, the dust, the scratches, the marks from my greasy mitts— it all says "this is real. This is not retouched."

That's interesting, your photos don't initially seem that focused on reality. Do you have a method behind the eclecticism?
It's a lot of collaboration with my subjects and working from my gut. I don't like to shoehorn anyone into a concept. I try to take something I'm sensing about the person, amplify it and pervert it, then talk to them about my ideas to see how they react, and go from there. Ultimately it has to feel right—and a little bit wrong—for me to be excited to shoot.

I'm basically funneling all my creativity juice into these photos and the rest of my life is a barren wasteland.

That's hard to believe, I bet your house is something else.
I'm afraid it's not the acid trip you may envision. My fiancé prefers clean, white and modern—like Patrick Bateman's apartment—so we compromise. White walls but lots of art and as many tchotchkes as I can discreetly house. It should be noted that I literally grew up in a crowded comic book store, my dad owns the Comic Collector Shop in San Jose, that colourful jumble is what the inside of my head looks like.

Oh cool, is it worth asking if you have a favourite colour?
That's like asking me to pick a favourite child! But really I can't deny my love for purple. Someone told me it's the color of genius and royalty and who wouldn't like that?

Returning to your work for a moment, identity seems to be a theme throughout. Does playing with that with your subjects help you explore the idea on a personal level?
Definitely, the art is always a reflection of the artist. I'm in a good place right now and able to express myself very authentically in all areas of my life and work intuitively. The second guessing and neuroticism that dogged me when I was younger has (mostly) slipped away.

As someone who thinks a lot about personals, and called your new series ICONS, what do you feel makes someone "iconic"?
They've gotta have zest! There's a certain quality that piques my interest that I can't quite put my finger on. I will say I love power and am drawn to a gentle undercurrent of rage. No milk-toast models for me. I seek out the kind of people you want by your side when the world ends; the indomitable ones that are tough like cockroaches and can't be squashed.  


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Text Hannah Butterworth
Photography Parker Day

Molly Soda
parker day
jarae holieway
lexi laphore