Dustin and Nathan throw a party for their friends every year. The party, which progresses with narrative elements, is to thank the friends for being their friends. The theme changes year to year. Those attending are never told what will happen until they arrive. And every year they hire a photographer to cover the event, hence it being named FRIENDShoot with a year appended and why this year's is titled FRIENDShoot 2012.
This year's theme was "Sleep with Us." I've worked with both Dustin and Nathan on past projects and was asked to bring my gritter side to the images. They hoped I'd be able to make use of the darkness and the easily-found, subtle eroticism of a drunken, co-ed sleepover for adults. FRIENDShoot 2012 also touched voyeurism territory. Everything happened in the fishbowl of a glass-walled gallery, The Spinning Plate in Pittsburgh's East Liberty Neighborhood.
There was a dress code. All attending wore pajamas. I don't own pajamas. I paired a bathrobe with boxer briefs to the chagrin of some present. That outfit I thought would add to the guest's disorientation. I don't know whether what they saw of me was of their dreams or nightmares. What they saw of me was, most of the time, ambiguous. Was I a friend? Was I just a creep with a camera? I kept a headlamp on for constant illumination which blinded anybody who would look directly at me.
Througout the night attendees were told bedtime stories, watched a slideshow, and took a group nap. Everything happened in near silence. The hosts and guest were limited to the use of dreamtubes, mere cardboard tubes to which childlike imagination and rules were applied, in their communication. Nobody spoke or heard another person's words throughout the night but through a dreamtube.
After awaking from the group nap in the walled-off, temporary sensory quarantine room, groups of three or four came out with me to get some quality time with the camera against the backdrop of a bed on the floor. I perched on a rickety scaffold above it, shooting downward, and intentionally avoided giving feedback as the groups orchestrated and choreographed the pose they wanted. That was partly because I had no dreamtube, partly because I was there to quietly indulge.
Those indulgences continued. Attendees enuthisastically leapt at the central bed, most landed. A short movie was projected on to the gallery ceiling. There was a parade. Dustin and Nathan then wrangled the groggy lot for a final conversation (dreamtubing all of it of course) and asked each person to see something new through their dreamtube and share that with those near them. They debriefed the event this way, before all toasted, went on their respective ways, and I put my clothes back on.