Saturday, August 29, 2009

Brandon Norris and the Powerful and Mysterious Juanita More

Event and portrait photographer Brandon Norris welcomed a huge throng of over 150 friends, models, and photography lovers to his August 27, 2009, A Sobering Affect: Queer Portraiture by Brandon Norris show opening at the Electric Works Gallery in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood. His inspiration, and the hostess for the event, Juanita More toured the expansive space with him, greeting and receiving compliments for her “golden glory” gowned look.

The first public view of Brandon Norris was of an intriguing young man in just his underpants kneeling on a collectible Booty Call flyer, photographed by Juanita More. Booty Call is Juanita More’s remarkable Wednesday night club at QBAR for people who feel left out or uncomfortable in the Castro Triangle scene of millennium clones and East Bay hipsters.

At the show opening Norris was wearing big glasses, flipped-up hair, and a plaid shirt for what was described as a high country look.

Norris began his photography as a 15-year-old with a film camera, but he did not consider himself a photographer until he started using a digital camera in 2007 to photograph queer night life, which escalated to his becoming the Booty Call club photographer.

Brandon Norris’ new show is curated by Natalie Pavlovsky and she points out in her notes that unlike the Booty Call images, these portraits do not use costumes, sets, and props. The emphasis is on the youthful clear eyes of the models, and on the chest hair or lack of it. One model’s chest and shoulder hair drew the long-lingering primal viewing interest of some guests. Also of special interest to many visitors to the show were a redheaded model and Stephen Quinones, who have been on public display for years as Castro Street business employees.

Most of the show opening guests were similar in appearance to the show models, young men in their 20’s, and mostly white. Some handsome Latino models showed up and they received long-lingering glances, and Juanita More’s striking outfit and makeup received surprised expressions from women.

Brandon Norris is one of Juanita More’s Moreboys, and the panorama of these men can be viewed on her website. Norris is described with warmth and affection, and for the quality of his photography.

Juanita More is a San Francisco character, and an artistic phenomenon. Her accomplishments are described with a typical toned-down humility on her popular website. She is a champion charity fundraiser, and there is a safer-sex message that she mentions, and she has received well-deserved honors. Juanita More is well known as an intuitive DJ, giving fans what they want, and she frequently helps out good causes.

The yearly Trannyshack Pageant features pre-show performance by Miss More, and every year she and her co-stars outshine the dozen plus contestants. One year it was a re-mounting of the Cotton Club, and another year she appeared on stage surrounded by toughs circling her with menacing gestures. A backstage check revealed the toughs to be the impossibly cute Moreboys in heavy scarred dockworker makeup.

Brandon Norris and other Moreboys starred in one of San Francisco’s most stunning parties at the Museum of Modern Art a few years ago. Miss More’s designer, Mr. David, had designed fantastic gowns, scanty outfits, and even animal costumes for Juanita More’s guests on an elevated platform with its own bar and music system. Museum goers gasped and stared on four sides as Juanita More’s guests danced and drank, oblivious to onlookers below them.

What Juanita More is most known for is providing inspiration for young creative men like Brandon Norris to find their way in the art world. And also she is the mysterious presence and persuasive photographer who can lure usually cool and unapproachable young men to her apartment for intense sessions that result in some of the most provocative imagery seen in this decade. How she can not only photograph the men and then receive permission to place the stunning and highly sensual photographs on her website should remain a mystery. There are so few mysteries now — like Donna Sachet’s real name and whether Heklina will bring back a weekly Trannyshack Club.

Brandon Norris is talented and lucky to have drawn Juanita More to him to develop and showcase his work. And San Francisco nightlife needs more artistry, the kind that can show two studs tongue wrestling, as seen in a Booty Club photograph, and make it look like something that would make a fine framed enlargement over someone’s couch.

[Photo caption #1: 8/27/09 — Photographer Brandon Norris and Juanita More.]

[Photo caption #2: 8/27/09 — Striking image of young redheaded man by photographer Brandon Norris.]

[Photo caption #3: 8/27/09 — Model Alvaro Gonzalez and photographer Brandon Norris.]

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