I first met Alexis Arquette, then known as Robert, when she was a 14 year old boy. I was in my fourth term at Art Center and always on the lookout for interesting subjects. I was immediately struck by his beauty and punk-gender bending style. So I arranged a photo shoot and his Mom dropped him off at my school. I lit him with just one old style tungsten light (we were not yet allowed to use strobe) and let the background go black. I remember this as a magical shoot, one of those where all the stars aligned and I felt it was the best work I had done at that point. It was not until I drove him home that I learned of his famous family.
This shoot inspired me to shoot more portraits of rebellious teens for a class "book" project, an assignment due at the end of the semester. We had to design, then print them, then have them bound. It was a big deal at the time. It was also truly a grueling process, just to get the tryptic above (which is a page from the actual book) aligned onto one print took hours. I remember breaking down in tears from frustration at one point. Which is why I think the ability to print a book easily online today is an amazing gift of technology.
Later I met with Robert's Dad, the actor Lewis Arquette, to give him prints and showed him the book. He asked if he could pay me to print another copy for them and I politely told him, "There is not enough money in the world to get me back in the darkroom to do that."
Sadly, it was announced last week that Alexis had died and I cried as remembered the sweet little kid I knew. I only saw him one more time, a few years later, still a he but not long before he would transition into a she. When we recognized each other, he gave me a big hug and we chatted about where we were and where we were going.
A lovely, old soul who's quote for my book seems aptly prophetic of a life bent on pushing boundaries...
"I guess in a way I mess with what society thinks is right and that freaks people out. I like freaking people out. "