I love looking at photographs of people I know. I love to stare at them -- like really stare into their eyes and examine the muscles of their face, frozen in time and wonder what they were thinking in that moment. Michael Traister's show Paying Customers Only: The Faces of Izzy's indulges that desire for me, and so much more.
It's such an intimate show; dozens and dozens of black and white photographic prints hang modestly by clips and cover the walls of Izzy's Coffee Den on Lexington St in downtown Asheville. Each photo is of a paying customer to Izzy's coffeeshop. I wonder if Traister had any plan in mind for the order in which the photographs are hung, but they appear to be randomly displayed and the association of each person to their neighbor was often very funny to me.
It was such a delight to scan the many familiar faces and read their names written in ink on the lower left corner of each photo. What a relief to put a name to a face in this small town where so many of the subjects of this show I've seen a million times. The way Traister captures the essence of each person is remarkable. For example, there's a photo of a guy who I think is the biggest turd in town, and he is captured giving the fuck you sign. (Now I've really enticed you haven't I? Bet you can't wait to see who I think the biggest turd in town is.)
I was so delighted by this show that I checked out Michael Traister's online portfolio. Turns out he has been shooting bands and sock monkeys professionally for several years...normally both of those things (bands and sock monkeys) don't entice me as photographic subjects, but Traister really does a great job with both! His sock monkeys aren't kitschy, but more like... badass. Like the black and white photo of rock icon impersonator, El Vez holding a sock monkey complete with sombrero.
See for yourself: www.traisterphoto.com
The exhibit at Izzy's will be up through the month of October.
It is not to be missed.