Perfect Day

Text - Anthony Jones / Models - Hannah Untiedt & Sydney Wycoff / Photography - Alfredo Contreras

Perfect Day

Text - Anthony Jones / Models - Hannah Untiedt & Sydney Wycoff / Photography - Alfredo Contreras

Perfect Day

Text - Anthony Jones / Models - Hannah Untiedt & Sydney Wycoff / Photography - Alfredo Contreras

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By far one of the most intriguing aspects of art that drew me to things like film and fashion has always been the distortion of beauty and the way visual mediums depict harsh realities and oddness with finesse and subtlety. Conventional rules of fashion and standards for storytelling bored me from a young age. Even if people do not like to admit it, I believe most of us are bored out of our minds until something controversial happens. Perfection is a result of a bunch of flaws crashing into one another in order to achieve an artistic vision. When given the choice, I always gravitate more towards art and ideas that understand the messy nature of the world instead of trying to force a perfect picture.    

During the last week of March two years ago, I left my house for work; I was headed to a job I spent the previous year or so endlessly grinding, serving food and passing out tickets at the box office of a movie theater. The work I was doing was not what you would call gainful employment- my memories of that place are far from glamorous. Up to this point, my life was a slow grind to a place I imagined would eventually measure up to the expectations of a perfect adult life. At the moment, the ugliest thing to catch my eye while slouched over in the cramped box office, was the badly cracked screen of my barely functioning iphone, which was still a step above the flip phone I temporarily used during the previous year.  

The TV at the bar behind me played the breaking news, which was less than perfect at best and horrible at the worst, to me it was mostly white noise I could ignore very easily. 45 minutes passed after clocking in when I got a call from my sister telling me I needed to get home immediately.

“Perfect,” I thought. An excuse I did not even have to cook-up myself to go back home and do something more creative with my time, which I did not like to surrender an entire Saturday to. Had I listened more closely or turned my attention to the TV before leaving, the surprise would have been spoiled and I would have known it was my home on the news.  

This sucks, it sounds heavy, but it gets a lot better.

Spotting smoke in the distance, I sped past a police barrier before the cops ordered me out of the car.  

“What the hell are you doing?” the officer shouted. Apparently I blatantly straddled the curb to get around the convoy of cop cars blocking the road to my house.

“I think that’s my house,” I said and they let me pass, “Perfect- just perfect. It is my house.” I stared blankly at the burning wreck the firefighters described without a hint of sarcasm as a perfect fire, which is a weird way of saying, “That was fucked and really hard to put out, sorry about all this.”

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"Conventional rules of fashion and standards for storytelling bored me from a young age."

"Conventional rules of fashion and standards for storytelling bored me from a young age."

"Conventional rules of fashion and standards for storytelling bored me from a young age."

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Fast forward and the family is safe and the pets accounted for, from there my mind is dragged to the things I can salvage. Photos, two hoodies embroidered with roses and a pin I ordered from The Good Company just a couple weeks before, a case of records, a painting, some cameras, and other valuables among the random vanities to survive the blaze.  

When I think about what happened today, I do not feel the same discomfort I see in others when I share the story, I am not sure exactly why that is, but I feel like it has something to do with the lessons I have learned from art. There are no good stories without some kind of dramatic struggle, and nothing can be created just from being. Events and images that are unsavory or unpleasant, have a way of forcing you to think about things critically, I think part of that discomfort is what drives creativity as a way of coping and understanding.

The memories I have of home are indelibly tied to my relationship with art as much as they are to family, friends, and growing up. Denver, especially the area where I grew up, is not known for its art appreciation or for nurturing the kind of lifestyle I am attracted to. Somehow I managed to find myself constantly reaching out to learn about things I was not explicitly exposed to. When I quit sports because I loved skateboarding and started dressing like the more eccentric people in skate and music videos, I started down a path much messier and less tailored than the one I was originally guided down. Delving into the off-color subjects I was intrigued by in film and fashion was a part of my coming of age experience. My curiosity about the world outside of the education I got in school or from my parents, was a critical part in bridging the gaps created by events like losing a home.

I remember watching Danny Boyle’s 1996 film “Trainspotting,” when I was probably way too young, and being gripped by the aesthetic of the film almost more than the story itself. I was fixated by the characters draped in ripped jeans, Chuck Taylors, crumpled denim, and ragged bomber jackets layered over crop tops and Fred Perry. Denver and the home I was raised in is a far cry from ‘90s Edinburgh and the hollowed out apartments the characters inhabited during britpop and post-punk infused drug binges. Yet there is an atmosphere and theme of honesty and embracing ugly that resonates with me.  

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One of my favorite scenes is when Ewan McGregor’s, Renton, takes a near fatal dose of heroin and sinks into the carpet to the sound of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day.” Renton is dragged down the stairs by his dealer and left in the street, loaded into a taxi cab, and driven to the hospital- barely conscious and blissfully unaware of his situation. “Perfect Day” plays on in a cheerfully somber entirety during a moment in the film that is arguably the lowest for the main character- the irony of that is not lost on me. This scene is the first real step towards the character’s eventual sobriety. Had it not been for the hit that almost killed him, Renton may not have seen the brighter side of living without addiction. It is an ugly thing that is being depicted on screen, but that scene in particular as well as the whole film, is shot beautifully and directed with an amusing attention to detail that unsettles and offends some but brings clarity and validation to people who have dark experiences and seek understanding.

That same validation is the part that leads to criticism when art is misunderstood. My understanding of art is that it is a reflection of reality in some way. Director Danny Boyle, and photographers such as the late Davide Sorrenti and Nan Goldin, depicted androgyny, sex, drugs, emaciated models, dilapidated settings, and a grittier more disheveled style in their images that the media believed to be exploitative. Many of the artists of the time were drug users themselves among a portion of the population. The blanket term “heroin chic” was coined to denounce work like this for its bare honesty and counter-cultural attitude.  

While artists illustrate the less perfect side of real life in response to the hyper-sexualized, overly glamorous, and flawless look models and actors were known for, the media condemns them for selling a dangerous look to people and their refusal to portray the equally dangerous ideas behind perfection. Life is the messiest thing there is and narrative in film is at its best when that fact is highlighted.  

"When I think about what happened today, I do not feel the same discomfort I see in others when I share the story, I am not sure exactly why that is, but I feel like it has something to do with the lessons I have learned from art."

"When I think about what happened today, I do not feel the same discomfort I see in others when I share the story, I am not sure exactly why that is, but I feel like it has something to do with the lessons I have learned from art."

"When I think about what happened today, I do not feel the same discomfort I see in others when I share the story, I am not sure exactly why that is, but I feel like it has something to do with the lessons I have learned from art."

“Trainspotting” ends with Renton acquiring a small fortune and maintaining his sobriety.  In spite of the bizarre, unfair, messy, destructive, and less than perfect path he has gone down, his story matters and there is an optimistic ending which begs the audience to choose life.

Following my own debacle that was a house fire, feuding with insurance companies, and relocating, I felt a determination to pursue art and use the barren space that used to be my home to shoot the photos you see throughout this story. To this day, nobody knows exactly what caused the “perfect fire” but the circumstances and timing of it all ironically lead to a lot of positive changes in my life.

With the anniversary of my unusual life event just days from now, the release of the sequel “T2 Trainspotting” right around the corner, and the trends of art and fashion moving forward, it feels appropriate to pay tribute to the art that has influenced me and helped me understand, to go back to the home I was raised in, and show appreciation to the people who inspire me, by coming together to try and make sense of all the flaws that go into making this perfect picture.

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Selected Works

Your Cup of TeaSubmission

Mitch & EmilyFeature

Caleb HahneCollaboration

Style in CubaSubmission

Who Would Wear This?Online Editorial

Under the SkinOnline Editorial

Italian NeorealismOnline Editorial

MoonlitOnline Editorial

Perfect DayOnline Editorial

Belts, Bags, & BricksOnline Editorial

Appropriation or EducationOnline Editorial

La Nouvelle VagueOnline Editorial

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