Written by Tracy Belben
The metallic clanking of keys trails off in the distance. A silhouetted figure slowly creeps toward the threshold of an unlocked steel cage door. After a brief moment of quiet hesitation, the form rapidly leaps between shadows – sprinting toward impending freedom. A harsh flick of a switch – the creature stands motionless and blinded by brightness. Echoing cheers and gasps are halted by the piercing screech of an old megaphone. “Ladies and gentleman… Welcome to the Freak Show!”
Photographer Bosmango challenged the cliche notion of a “Freak Show” as a dark, seedy carnival scene by surrounding each “freak” in an entirely illuminated environment, as if in front of a giant stage spotlight. Bare and fully-exposed, each subject was covered solely by artist Tracy Belben’s strategic chainmail face and body harnesses. Bosmango’s high-key lighting technique allows light to wrap beautifully around the skin of the models and highlight the elegance of metallic accessories, resulting in an extraterrestrial and haunting aesthetic portraits of the freaks. With careful manipulation of lights and shadows, Bosmango fully reveals the true beauty of chainmail face and body harnesses complemented by the fluidic and graceful movements of the models.
Tracy Belben, maker and designer of her self-titled chainmail clothing and accessory collection, designed harnesses that both conceal and frame each freak’s identities. Belben was largely inspired by movies and television shows such as Mad Max: Fury Road and American Horror Story when designing the wardrobe for the shoot – evoking both a futuristic and striking appearance. Each aluminum chainmail piece within the shoot is handmade, unique, and meticulously-linked to fit the wearer by Belben herself. It is up to the viewer’s interpretation whether the harnesses are intended to protect the freak from its audience or itself. The wardrobe within the photo set are, in essence, their own character identity.
The only shadows and darkness in each image can be found within the freak’s eyes, insinuating an underlying sinister motive or force. Makeup artist Sarah Galante generated this effect by applying a smokey eye using the darkest, deepest shades of black, red, and indigo to showcase piercing eyes from behind the masks. For soft, translucent skin, the palest shades of complimentary foundation were mixed with strobing crème and highlights to create deep cheek contours. Understated nude lips shift the viewers’ attention to those mesmerizing eyes and alien-like skin. The entire look was achieved by using Motives Cosmetics.
Models Alena Crocker, East Coast Baddy, and Mel Ellard morphed into their “Freak Show” alter-egos by stretching and contorting their bodies to create bizarre perspectives and disturbing proportions in front of the camera lens. The models’ professional experiences as dancers, actresses, and athletes were essential in achieving the right movements and emotion for the shoot. Within each frame, the models experimented with various character concepts and evolved the “Freak Show” story as the photo shoot progressed.
The collection of images aims to capture the feeling of being both free and trapped, light and dark, alien and familiar. The main question is whether you, the viewer, should empathize or be afraid of the freak… or is the freak afraid of you? The editorial “Freak Show” was made possible by seamless collaboration among-st photographer, designer, makeup artist, and models – a team of artists who fully embrace the idea of being unique, exposed, and strange “freaks”.
Photographer: Bosmango Photography (www.bosmango.com)
Models: East Coast Baddy (instagram.com/eastcoastbaddy/), Alena Crocker (Bella Life Model Agency, www.facebook.com/AlenaCrockerModeling), and Mel Ellard (www.facebook.com/mel.ellard.9)
Make-up artist and hair stylist: Sarah Anne Galante (www.facebook.com/sarah.a.galante)
Designer: T*Racy by Tracy Belben (http://www.t-racy.com or http://www.facebook.com/t.racy.design.shop)