“Bloom” by Brat Baby Beauty

Photographer: Alex Paradox
Wardrobe| Modeling: Lauren Mahoney of Oddball Vintage
Concept | Makeup: Madi Anderson of Brat Baby Beauty

I began this project wanting to show off the incredibly creative people whose work I love. To come up with a comfortable place where we could be vulnerable together, a place where we could speak openly about our dreams and excitement for the future. Hopefully, there, in that place, we would create something truthful, reflecting our trust in each other, a moment made beautiful collectively.

When I opened these photos two weeks ago there was a sense around Austin of difficult but positive change on the way. There was a sense of our community bonding together. The corporations were going to be gone from SXSW and there was an immediate rallying spirit pulling us together to support each other during what looked to be our city feeling full for the first time the strength of the tight-knit community in which we belong. The corporations were backing out. The showcases canceled. Everyone was committed to not letting the loss destroy us completely. Venues, bands, and pop-ups worked tirelessly at coming up with a week of amazing shows being championed by amazing people for amazing people. Together. Together we would not let it defeat us. Then came the ban on groups of ten or more and the sobering reality settled in on how serious this virus is. In only two weeks our concern for the future went from local to global. Looking through these photographs now has an entirely new weight.

We need each other more than ever. We need local businesses to thrive. We need creatives to stay creative. We need people to be inspired and heard. This is possibly the hardest experience we will ever face. Our supporting each other is how we make it through. At this moment most of us have nothing but time on our hands, let us use it for lifting up each other. I feel lost. I imagine you do as well. Do not let that stop us. We can carry each other through. We have always been in this together, now it means much more.

Living deep in the unknown “what ifs” of the swirling world around us, we seem to be stretching every part of our being towards connecting with one another. When this project was originally designed, I was hoping to unite with some talented workhorse creatives around town. This would be a chance at getting to know what passions drove them to the place they are in and where they see themselves heading in the future. It is one thing to notice an artist’s energy produce incredible work from a distance. It is another altogether standing beside them witnessing their cultivated innate talents fluidly putting spark to flame.

Having only participated in shoots before but never organizing one, something in me was searching for an opportunity to feel the chaotic hustle of prepping an event with some tiny sense of control in an otherwise out of reach world. Having a vision and forming a team that you trust capable of bringing that vision into a tangible reality is something one is lucky after years of lessons learned to master. I hit the jackpot with the people I picked for this project.

I met Alex Paradox on a shoot for an upcoming project we both were on for Oddball Vintage. By a chance encounter, we ran into each other again. Having followed him on social media I brought up his new project “Punks” he had just finished working on (featured here). Already appreciating his crazy rad work I took our paths crossing again as a sign and reached out to see if he would want to be part of “Bloom”. We talked over the details and immediately I felt confident his skills could pull something out of this concept where the photographs would blow me away. I was right.

Alex grew up in Fort Worth. From a young age, he found himself interested in photography. Taking pictures with toy cameras his mom had collected, developing his skills catching shots of his friends on BMX doing tricks. This led him to pick up a Mamiya RZ67—a camera he noted makes him slow down and really take in a moment to get the right shot. The RZ67 loaded with Kodak Portra 120 medium format film is what was used to capture perfectly the whimsical feathered fairy vibe we had in mind for this project.

When this project began I religiously followed Oddball Vintage on Instagram, loving their content and style, but barely knew Lauren Mahoney who along with Will Farr runs the shop. My limited interactions with Lauren were only vicariously through what she curated for the store, and that done from afar.  Being up close and personal with her was one of the most enlighteningly positive experiences I have ever had. Her passion, style, and attitude pour from an ever beaming smile. She is constantly thoughtful of others, trying in everything she does to cultivate joy that is heartwarming with a touch of nostalgia. This shoot would have looked nowhere near as amazing without her. She had my exact vision of grace in mind. The gorgeous unique pieces she rocked in the shoot made it come alive.

Seriously, having this team for my first project was perfect beyond imagination. Along with the assistance of Tori Egbert, Shena Anderson and Jay Armstrong, we met in the early afternoon on location in Watterson. Earlier in the week, I asked Alex and Lauren if they would be up for including my ten-year-old sister Amelia in the shoot. Since we were going to be using my dad’s house as a meeting place I knew she would be excited just to be around, why not let her feel involved. Both were super positive about it. Amelia has Down Syndrom, Alex and Lauren both shared their own stories of having worked with special needs students when they were in school. Alex brought along his DSLR to take pictures of Lauren and Amelia, we would stick to the film for the original concept. When Lauren arrived she welcomed my sister with open arms bringing some adorable items for her to wear as well. She even went as far as to put on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse for Amelia when asking if my sister had ever seen it before and being told no. Amelia fell in love and was glued to it before falling asleep while working on Lauren’s makeup.

I had not counted for the daylight savings time change which happened the night before. We were running out of daylight with three locations miles apart to travel between. As we pulled up to the final location, with donkeys, cattle, and dogs all crowding in on us, the sun faded as Alex got the last of the needed pictures. The day in memory feels mystical with innocence and magic all woven into a single experience. I could not be happier with how it turned out.

Special thanks to Zack & Sommer Hruska and Eric & Shena Anderson for allowing us the use of their properties for the day.

If you are not already following Oddball Vintage please check out either their Austin or San Marcus shop when life returns to normal (in the meantime grab one of the new shirts they are putting out through Raw Paw to help bring in money while closed due to the coronavirus or as always they have a curated selection available on depop). There are some exciting Oddball things in the works; one of which is a product line handmade by Lauren herself.  Alex has a video posted to his youtube channel documenting our day and his process getting the photographs finalized which brings another element of fun and interaction to his already breathtaking photography. You can find the video here.

Links:
Brat Baby Beauty
Alex Paradox
Lauren Mahoney
Oddball Vintage