Photo Essay

now stripe me like the American flag

stripe me like the American flag_2

At the beginning of year, I decided to create a series that examined how new millennium Americans saw themselves both at home and abroad. After traveling extensively to different countries and other states in our union last year, I wanted to share my perspectives as an American with others from different backgrounds.

The "stripe me like the American" flag series started out as group of poems that I had been forming since my time in Europe during fall 2006. The poems provided me with a creative base to explore our forms of visually communicating my theme to others.

Eventually, my passion to illustrate the theme of unification under one flag extended into my passion for photography. As a photographer, I had captured many images of people on the street in cities across America and Europe in the past few months. I wanted to do a series of photos which invoked emotion about America from the viewer.

After weeks of searching, I found models from different backgrounds that did not mind having an American flag applied to their faces using make-up. I sketched a "look" for the American flag on paper and sent it to my talented make-up artist who I had worked with on previous artistic fashion projects. Using my digital Canon SLR, an on-board flash, and a simple strobe lamp, I began to capture both the stories and photos of beautiful American women. While one was from the heartland of America, another had grown up in Iraq and then came to America several years back. The experience was incredible and the photos were refreshing when I saw the final prints.

Additionally, the final poems I chose for the series complemented the street portrait style I wanted each photo to communicate. I did very little to retouch work to show the models as they really were---Americans from all types of backgrounds, unified under one flag. For this reason, I specifically left the white stripe off of their faces. I needed to show how America gives us the freedom to be who we are even though we can be unified under some of the same goals. It also demonstrates that are differences are sometimes the very things that keep up from unifying in times where we should pull together.

1> now stripe me like the American flag

now stripe me like the American flag

and put stars on my due rag

and then call me rebel red cause blue's too sad

my soul white-washed like bleached bags

and all I wanted was a little white name tag

something to help me catch street cabs

but my God tailored my tissue and flesh

and often mirrors mirror me best

and lovely women don't want to address

that I rumble hills on chest

and that my beauty makes lips quiver, no rest

yes, every eyebrow is blessed

and now you want to dismiss me I guess

and give attend to blonde pets

so then ask me why two odds make evens

and if words can be deceiving

the very same words that are leaving

you behind like school teaching

now stripe me like the American flag

and put stars on my due rag

and then call me rebel red causes blue's too sad

my soul white-washed like bleached bags

of cocaine from little white house name tags

2> the people's chemistry

Azures grandeur did allure in that one's ebony

Blackberry curls did twirl in this one's ivory

Yet both had no solitude, but instead rivalry

They should be the pure, but seek to find foundation

In a society which castigates through mental citation

Misjudged and bewildered in the lady she wants to be

Until she divides herself as atoms do split identity

Only to find that the two must choose different worlds

Wear magnificent mask and be cast to swine as foolish men do pearls

Each lovely vessel tormented within until infinity

Until the grandeur of her azures fades in that one's ebony

But oh if she were united what a woman is she

Under one nation, one God, discoursing lovely melodies

So that her blackberry curls will keep twirling in this one's ivory

Separation by some, but then arriving at freedom for she

And with its arrival the strife of self will depart

Veins diving past the skin tones and into red heart

And now her courage tells that she is united and free

A cultural bridge between your and my destiny

Celestial combination of perfection, the peoples' chemistry

3> Metro Glass Jungles

Metro glass jungles because everyone sees

and nobody hides their stares or jealous greeds

black jeans, zipper seems, smoke screens for subway scenes

while guitars sing, rebels cling, and rail cars scream

for a stop, tic-tock, wrist clocks, and I'm late

phones vibrate, claustro like Castro cellmates in Cuba

kids on tubas, what's it to ya, if they sniff glue, ahhh,

sights freeze you as ancient Medusa would, maybe could

but motions are steady, police already ready, inside spaghetti

Italian pasta for tourist with nosy noses who don't know

they're watched with eyes from behind front rows

be told to unfold the story I hold

twelve Euro will get you blowed

twenty more lets her get sold

another lady lays cold, cobble stones hold souls

the game is hearts and she was captured

minds slow to rapture, spit always smacks her

nights have blur, but red light kitties purr the same

thieves feet remember corners, not street names

Prostitutes, but not face frames

Alleys, but not the King James,

St. Peter, Paul, or others who came

to Thessaly, in the late A.D.

theoretically, testifying to those teachers

agnostic preachers, non-believers

and little men without sneakers

who recognize respect for the hustle

metro bustle, metro shuffle, shiny bubble

a result of Romano fast drinking,

good finger licking, while they juggle,

ugly smuggle in sidewalk huddles

that are reflected in puddles

which I see from the Metro

drives me clepto, want to break glass

use only in emergency or pay cash

they say ignore trouble, eat rubble

from canopies monkeys choke hash

4> when the glass breaks

We marched around it like Jericho

Meanwhile spherical winds stirred quarters

Sea waters crossed borders

Shame America, ceilings finally hit shoulders

But there we were marching,

Helicopters flying and tug boats in tow

Treading oh so slow as if it were snow

And though it wasn't, they still felt cold

As 2% milk on cereal in a superbowl

Realizing that the toll was to be blood

Fingers scraped at heaven's above

Yet they still marched along

Down long paths of civil road

By then covered boldly by the depths

No praise or rest for trapped souls

Until levies disobeyed orders

Shame on us, ceilings finally hit shoulders

March, march, left, right, left, right

march, roof tops are land in sight

Bright red blood, false words, and heartaches

so is America when the glass breaks

5> smoking hot

I used to hate smoking

Because the lungs it deflated

Something that Hollywood glorified

And my country deeply debated

But Europe made me smile

So that I wore Hollywood shades

Then I ignored the smell

That remained in my clothes for days

A copper toned waitress

In an airy air café

There she was smoking

Yes, she was smoking

So smoking hot

How could a cigarette ever be sexy?

I thought to myself?

Those nasty cancer sticks

But the way she smoked

Drawing it in deeply

Sucking it back so that her cheeks concaved

Like a baby she was

Inhaling a mother's milk

Her eyes rolled back

And her brow relaxed

Those puffy lips puffing white kisses

So softly into the air

There she was smoking

Yes, she was smoking

So, smoking hot

6> Frown Up

Caskets pop up toaster style time up,

People fall twin tower style smoke up

Phrases sink bullet style words up

They're at peace now frown up

Dreams that were on lock now free

Feel visions in ce-me-teries

All the doubters now be-lieve

Rosary and ribbons wrap trees

White crosses crisscross like seams

Study the shadows of mooooonbeams

That hug graveyards it seems

And you'll too see dreams

My hope is that people will read the poems and examine the photos with an open mind. I want this series to be a communication process between my work and the observer. Each of us brings something different to make up what this country is, and that has not changed since it's foundation. Each of us is striped by the American flag in someway and sometimes it is not apparent until we leave the country. But amongst the challenges of living in America there are some awesome freedoms that allows us to be who we want to be. For this reason, though I love to travel, I would never want to live anywhere but here. Now, "stripe Me like the American flag."

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