We reached out to Jody Fausett a few weeks ago, asking to start a dialogue with him about his photography, his influences and his fascinating conglomeration of fashion industry styling and Southern nostalgia. The following is what he sent back in response. This vignette, an explanation of his process and an exploration of his work through its pop culture and family muses is everything.
We're obsessed. Enjoy.
Home Theatre by Jody Fausett
Fashion Editorial for Vanidad Magazine
I never had a studio. When I lived in New York and a stylist got a box from Louis Vuitton for an editorial, we would shoot it in somebody’s apartment and order pizza. After the model is lit, nobody worries about those Home Depot cabinets. I love working off of a real space. Interior flaws and knick-knacks add to the model’s character in the story. Kitchen dominatrix: those floors will be spotless, I promise. I always watch the body, especially the fingers in a photo. You don’t want missing digits.
Growing up in a small town, all I wanted was to work in New York. When I got to New York, all I wanted was to return to Georgia and work on my personal projects. My grandparents’ house was my favorite studio – all that stuff that I could light with strobe. It made the familiar become surreal and created a different domestic tension that got shifted into my version of home theater. When my grandfather got sick, I felt that the one trip a year I could afford to come home was not working anymore. I returned to be nearby.
When he passed away, I continued taking pictures there. The airless silence could be too morose, so I pushed for portraits. My favorite model over two decades has been my grandmother. This is how I connect.
When setting up, I work alone and quietly move the lights around to figure out what I feel works. Usually, she mows the grass, her favorite thing, while I work on the pose to find the light. That way I can walk her into the ready shot and not have her wait too long.
Test Shot // "Gloria" (1980), Directed by John Cassavetes // Five Shotguns, pigment print,
40" x 50"
Decades of guns line the wall next to the vanity. This portrait came up out of the conversation of being a widow and knowing how to handle a weapon. Understanding the weight of the gun, you can take care of yourself. With no more big suppers to cook, she becomes svelte, decisive, and feminine.
Test Shot // "Siren" (1975), Roxy Music outtake photographed by Graham Hughes // Photoshop screen grab
For a long time I shot this perennial series in the interior domestic spaces, but I decided to move outside and capture images without borders, images of infinity. An oil leak that has altered the surface of my grandmother’s carport for over fifty years provided a welcome set for this narrative. I have returned to this space many times for different ideas, but on this shot I saw waves crashing over the rocks. The detached car door found in a shed would do.
From years of fashion work, it’s obvious for me now to retouch. It is not a documentary so much as part biography, part novella.
Occasionally, my grandmother is my assistant with great ideas on how she sees things. When we torched an old chair in storage, she helped with the fire. Later, she told me that the fire was unimpressive and we should try again the next day. We would find another chair in storage, she said. It feels good to catch furniture on fire.
Test Shot // "Miss World" (1994), Hole video Directed by Sophie Muller // Outtake detail
The back bedroom has all the original furniture from when my mother was a teenager. Now it is the secondary vanity with all the perfumes and powders. I use seamless paper to change the reception of the interior, to highlight a specific piece of furniture with all that history (shoelaces used as a drawer-pull now). Even after I stood in to test the lighting on skin, the perfume powders took about 70 times to get the spray right.
Test Shot // The Swing by Jean-Honoré Fragonard // Wet Driveway, pigment print, 24" x 36"
The final portrait I shot again with the driveway in the background when it was pouring rain. I watched those magnolias tower and slowly cut off the sound of the highway to become something pastoral - this private garden, a place to reevaluate. I carefully directed her fingers in my plein-air studio, the carport off the highway.