Parker Day’s portraits on acid
WORDS BY: KYLE FITZPATRICK | ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF PARKER DAY
“Gonzo portraiture dripped in candy colors,” is how Parker Day describes her surreal portraiture, which is saturated with sticky, vibrating, hyperactive color. The photographs she takes are acidic and vibrant, occupying a territory between captured performance and intimate looks at the lovingly left-of-center. It’s a funhouse aesthetic, with a revolving vast of unreal characters, that defies classification.
A lot of Parker’s inspiration comes from pulling photos from magazines in her ’90s teen years, which she used to paper her bedroom walls. “There [were] loads from a British magazine called The Face shot by David LaChapelle and a gorgeous photo by Helmut Newton of David Lynch and Isabella Rosellini,” Parker says. “I think my inspiration mostly comes from what I was obsessed with when I was young so we have to take it back a bit further to the trading cards I collected like Mars Attacks, Dinosaurs Attack, X-Men by Jim Lee, Marvel Masterpieces, Garbage Pail Kids, and on and on.”
Thusly, her “gonzo style” is an unpacking of these two inspirations: fine art photographs with real life characters fit for trading cards (which, funny enough, was something that Parker did very recently).
The creations of her shots are surprisingly lithe too: it only takes her three hours from start to finish to capture something from a model. “It’s so important to me that my models perform and channel some real emotion,” she says. “That’s why I like to create characters with mini background stories. It helps ground me in my direction. Some shoots are meticulously premeditated while others are very in the moment collaborating with my models.”
Everything has to look and feel right,” Parker adds. “A lot of my ideas for shoots are about making a private moment or fleeting inward feeling larger than life. I think in everyone there’s a lot that goes unexpressed. People have ideas about who they are, or what their potentials are, that others never see. That makes me feel sad in a way but also overwhelmed with the beauty of what complex little animals we humans are.”
Parker attributes this desire from her own self-seeking. As an introverted only child, she has always seen herself as a person with a lush life lived inside. Her practice seeks to reveal her delightful mania to the world. “I feel like my identity is my art, my art is my identity,” she says. “Otherwise I don’t really know how to define my own identity.”
With a vivid foundation in place, Parker is charging forward in the hopes of evolving what she does – but she’s content to stay in photography, to pin down perfection before dabbling in other disciplines. “Since I’m in LA, everyone always asks me if I’m interested in making films,” she says. “I could see that at some stage but far down the line.”
“I really romanticize the idea of a perfect, complete, still photograph,” she adds. “There’s a lot more I want to do with it. I’m just going to keep focusing my energy on where my interests lie and let my intuition lead my evolution.”