Becoming Victoria F. Gaitán
- Victoria F. Gaitán in her Arlington studio (Photo: Jay Westcott)
The biggest challenge of filling your mouth with corn syrup and gurgling it out into your lap, slowly, while dressed in a corset and covered in whipped cream as a photographer snaps away, isn't, well, everything that I've just mentioned. It's brushing your teeth afterward. No amount of Listerine or time under the Sonicare will vanquish that sticky film of syrup from your molars.
Persistently yucky teeth are just a byproduct of modeling for photographer Victoria F. Gaitán's darkly beautiful and unsettling series of photographs in which she captures young women — and, less often, men – in Rococo settings, oozing a dark substance from their mouths. For days afterward, my jaw ached from the sweetness.
But when I had a mouthful of corn syrup and maraschino cherries and several cups of whipped cream dripping down from my hair, I didn't think about the marathon tooth-brushing sessions to come. I didn't think about anything, really, and that was what was remarkable: Thrust into a highly unusual, highly uncomfortable situation, I became a robot, focusing only on taking Gaitán's commands as they were issued. I didn't feel like myself, because at that moment, I wasn't.
Gaitán asked me to start with a slow dribble out of my mouth. “Try to look sad,” she said. I let the corn syrup pass through my lips, and down my chin, and, since I was perched on my knees in front of her black backdrop, it landed in my lap. She asked for more, and I opened my mouth further and it came out much faster now as her camera clicked away, pouring through my lips and pooling in my lap. There were cherries in my mouth still. She wanted me to spit them out. Whipped cream slid off my chest, down the corset, onto the pants. I was ready to try again.
It was only a few hours later that I was able to truly reflect. What had I just done? What will people think when they see it? And most of all: What did it mean?
- One of Gaitán's photos of Judkis
Gaitán, 39 years old and a tall, stunning blonde, speaks quietly with an Australian accent. She grew up in Adelaide and attended the University of South Australia to study photography. In 1996, she came to New York to intern for Rolling Stone for two years, where she cropped and edited photos of musicians, but didn't take many of her own. Then she moved to London, where she worked as a commercial photographer, and was mostly unhappy for the following decade.
"I was trying to chase work that paid, and my heart wasn't in it," says Gaitán. While she struggled with her career, Gaitán met her now-husband Alberto Gaitán, a multimedia artist in Washington, through friends who connected them online. They talked on the phone every day for two years, and then she moved here to be with him. Free from the commercial obligations she faced in London, Gaitán vowed that from now on, she would do her own thing.
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