Eat

Offal Taste

Photographer Stephanie Diani got to the heart of the matter, literally, by constructing these fascinating accessories out of offal and artistically draping them around beautiful models to make a statement, “Meat as fashion must be in the collective unconscious.”

Interview by Lora Wiley - lora@citizenbrooklyn Photos by Stephanie Diani
Photo © Stephanie Diani

Photo © Stephanie Diani

Citizen Brooklyn: For this series, you’ve said you wanted to explore the connection between meat and skin, fashion and distaste. Can you elaborate on that?
There is an I Love Lucy episode set in Paris where Lucy and Ethel see these two sophisticated models walk by wearing what was then the height of fashion. Ricky and Fred think they look ridiculous and come up with absurdist ensembles for their wives using a potato sack for a dress and an ice bucket as a hat. On the news one morning there was a quick cut to fashion week in New York or Paris, and there were models walking down the runway in similarly crazy outfits. A day or two later I was at the store meat counter and noticed a package of beef tongue. My first response was an internal “ugh,” but then I thought, “That would be an awesome mohawk on a bald guy.”

Photo © Stephanie Diani

Photo © Stephanie Diani

I feel, that our priorities are a bit skewed. Perhaps that’s not the right word. But I’ve met people who talk the talk of being concerned about the environment, who are vegetarian or vegan, who drive eco-conscious cars, and who then build their children a $20,000 tree house or send them to a pre-school where tuition is $18K a year. This series was my way of saying, “Honestly, is this so much more crazy and objectionable than all of the other crazy, objectionable stuff that exists in the world?” It’s a ridiculous series. The world is a ridiculous place.

Photo © Stephanie Diani

Photo © Stephanie Diani

CBK: You constructed all these accessories yourself. What was that process like?
I would go to a supermarket, often in an ethnic neighborhood because they had a lot more variety in their meat departments, and I’d look at the textures and colors. I was searching for something striking, a pattern that repeated, or a shade of pink or purple that struck me as particularly beautiful. Then I’d go home and lay out the bits and pieces and see what they suggested to me.
The sewing itself reminded me of my childhood. My grandmother – who would make pajamas and dresses for me – used to encourage me to make things. I wonder what she’d think of the pigs’ feet micro-mini skirt.

Photo © Stephanie Diani

Photo © Stephanie Diani

CBK: How did you recruit the models?
Some of the models were friends, some were assistants that I’d worked with, one was a naked sushi model I’d met while on assignment. The guy with the beef tongue Mohawk and chicken feet epaulettes was a waiter and classically trained opera singer that I met via a friend. I thought he was striking and we talked about doing a shoot together. I don’t think this was exactly what he had in mind.

Photo © Stephanie Diani

Photo © Stephanie Diani

CBK: How did you match the pieces to the models?
I’d buy the meat with the model in the back of my mind, but often it wasn’t until I got it home and sat with it for a while that the right combination of clothing item or accessory and person would pop in to my head. The bull testicles reminded me of earphones right away and I thought it might be funnier for a girl to be wearing them than a guy; the model who ended up wearing them looked so innocent it seemed like a perfect paring.

Photo © Stephanie Diani

Photo © Stephanie Diani

CBK: The models all look so serene in the pictures, was that really the case in shooting?
They were all very good sports, considering I draped them in moist, smelly, raw meat. I tried to be very up front with them in the casting process so there were no surprises on the day of the shoot. But sometimes it took a few frames and some idle chit chat for them to relax enough to give me something interesting. And as soon as we got the shot I’d hustle them off to the shower to get cleaned up. There were two or three vegetarians in the group, and one of those, a woman, was a bit squeamish. Oddly enough, she was the only one who didn’t shower afterwards.
CBK: Any special challenges working with Offal?
The smell. I’m not a fan.

Photo © Stephanie Diani

Photo © Stephanie Diani

CBK: What has the reaction been to this series?
People either love or hate this series. It was meant to be somewhat satirical and I wanted people to be slowly drawn in. A selection of the images got into a Slideluck Potshow in LA a few years ago. They were projected, huge, against the wall of a large studio in Culver City. When the first shot came up I heard rumbling; “that’s disgusting” “jesus” “oh my god.” But as the images continued a few people started chuckling, and by the last shot most people were laughing and clapping. It was the perfect response.

Photo © Stephanie Diani

Photo © Stephanie Diani

CBK: Are you a vegetarian?

Nope. Though I try to only buy responsibly-raised meat. And I feel like someday I should slaughter and butcher an animal that I’m going to consume a la Omnivore’s Dilemma – a chicken, pig or the like. If I eat it, I should know where it comes from and how it was killed. But then isn’t that desire just another example of the cognitive dissonance/guilt that’s rampant in the hipster/eco/foodie world? So will looking an animal in the eye before killing and eating it really change anything in the world? I don’t know.

Photo © Stephanie Diani

Photo © Stephanie Diani

CBK: You have one of the most entertaining bios we’ve ever read. Scuba diving in Fiji, jumping out of airplanes, a degree in classical archeology and a black belt in Korean karate. What’s next on your bucket list?
Well since I wrote that bio, I’ve had my aura red by Richard Simmons, briefly (very, very briefly) piloted a helicopter, and finally rode down my first water slide (in July at Indiana Beach in Monticello, Indiana, and the four-year-old that I went with was much braver than I). But I’ve got a few things left to do:

1. Try surfing at least once. For god’s sake, I was born in California.
2. Hike Mt. Kilimanjaro.
3. Go to Diani Beach in Kenya. How could I not?
4. Photograph George Clooney. I know, it’s a cliché, but still.
5. Take flying lessons. I’ve always wanted to, and the helicopter was really fun.
6. Eat my way through the south of France.
7. Make a soufflé.
8. Watch the last episode of Breaking Bad. DONE.
9. Did I mention photographing George Clooney?

 

Photo © Stephanie Diani

Photo © Stephanie Diani

See Stephanie Diani’s work www.stephaniediani.com

One Response to “Offal Taste”

  1. Brenda mcclain says:

    The text makes this feature. The very first time I’ve actually THOUGHT about this. Bravo!