Giu & Shane
I have an infatuation now for looking like something beyond human as I feel so restricted in this carnal role in a world that couldn’t perceive me correctly if it tried.
Marte Gastaldello: I can see in your work recurring elements inspired by your personal aesthetics that have become representative of your long-term collaboration. What are the main influences behind your style?
Shane Reynolds: I think that we both constantly find ourselves in a crossroads of sex, religion, and escapism. When we met at the age of nineteen, we nearly mirrored each other.
Two bleach blonde kids in black leather with a taste for rebellion. We both grew up in very religious households which aimed to make us feel ashamed of our true identities and I think that in our collaborations, there’s a repeating theme of “reclaiming” those very things that were used to cast judgment upon us. We play around a lot with the use of Catholic iconography, power dynamics, and an overall celebration of sexuality and identity. I find that people who grew up in strict and controlled environments, often tend to have a big imagination and a desire to get out and be somebody. We spent a lot of time fantasizing about a different reality than what we had and I believe that lends itself to a feel of escapism in our work. I also personally have always had a fascination with American culture of the 60’s aesthetically. The hairstyles, fashion and films of that decade are an endless supply of inspiration. I often incorporate them into projects to juxtapose them and again “claim’ them in my own twisted way.
Giu Zurlo: Posing and expressing myself as other people or as “me” as I could possibly be is a form of reclamation for a body I was told wasn’t for me to enjoy, expose or feel comfortable in.
The main elements in my work with Shane stem from our mutual experience with strict religious backgrounds that essentially taught us to hate ourselves for who we were. Shane inspired me alot in his work, which when we met consisted of replacing classic catholic iconography with queer scenes and models, and has since only grown to be truly works of Art in collaboration with queer artists and brands that put a positive spin on our roots.
The artists that inspire our shoots are Lady Gaga, Madonna, Steven Klein and many others. We create custom sets or garments to achieve these various looks.
We also like to play with the era, Shane is heavily inspired by the 60s and the 70s mainly. We’ve did the famous “Tank” shoot inspired by the late 1800s. It truly depends on what we’re inspired by. Sometimes fashion editorials that we put or religious or queer spin on to make it ours. We always have some kind of kinky or fetish element to our shoots as also, that I feel is very representative of us and the queer community in general as we are so fetishized.
MG: How does it feel to embody all these narratives, classic icons, religious figures and supernatural beings? Have these roles affected your identity?
GZ: I feel like i’m constantly in a state of discomfort, being constantly perceived differently than how i feel i am makes me feel incredibly misunderstood and out of place. The ability to shapeshift is so important to me as it gives me an outlet to tune out and portray a new being completely. Embodying beyond myself and taking on new characters in my work has made me care so much less about how the world perceived me because I feel almost as though “nothing is real”, in a sense that everything visual can be fabricated and you can literally look like whomever you want and people are always going to perceive you differently in some way than how you do yourself.
I feel so comfortable posing and I enjoy putting a new face on so much that forming this artistic bond and friendship with Shane is truly special to me. Being on the same page about visions and creating together have given me a lot of satisfaction in my artistic career and are some of my favorite projects I’ve worked on. This goes beyond posing as in real life, I’m in constant change of my physical appearance as it’s almost a game now, truly like dressing up a doll. These roles have strengthened my sense of identity and it feels more something only for me.
I identify as genderfluid as I don’t feel as anything could truly identify me and use any pronouns as ones label of who I am doesn’t bother me anymore as I see it superfluous. I have an infatuation now for looking like something beyond human as I feel so restricted in this carnal role in a world that couldn’t perceive me correctly if it tried.
MG: I have noticed how, when you make Giulia interact with other bodies, they become plastic props to a background scene. What does portrait photography mean to you? Have you ever tried this technique on yourself, with self-portraiture? How does it differ from the way you work on others?
SR: My muse is my muse, and therefore is the main attraction of any world created within my photos. Giulia is a longtime muse of mine. For me, a muse is always synonymous with power and admiration. In turn, we end up with photographic scenarios of Giulia being worshipped by half naked men as a modern Joan of Arc, a captured mermaid that’s the object of obsession, or taking on the streets of Milan with a posse of Italian men to accompany her.
To me, portrait photography is a half and half of documenting and reinvention. I can make someone take on a new identity. It could be someone they’ve felt they identify with forever, but never thought they could be. With the right setting, lighting, and all the latex in the world, we can bring it to a visual reality. That’s what I find constantly exciting. Watching someone take on the role of someone empowering and unapologetic and especially seeing that excitement in them when they see the photos. We all have so many different parts of ourselves, more than we realize, and watching people express themselves through my lens is something I will never grow bored of.
Self-portraiture is something I played with a lot when I first began taking photos. I would set up my cheap old camera, one light, and a bed sheet backdrop in my Grandmother’s garage, and let my imagination run wild. I unfortunately have not utilized it to the full extent of my ideas quite yet but I plan to. I will sometimes jump into my photos where there are multiple people in a sort of “Hitchcock” way to add more to the chaos but I’d love to make myself my own muse. Truthfully, I think most of my ideas for photoshoots begin with imagining myself somewhere in the photo scenario, then using others to execute it. Self portraiture is a little more vulnerable because it takes me out of full control of knowing exactly what is about to be captured and trusting the process of self timer. Giulia and I took so many photos of ourselves with endless concepts in school and I always found it so exciting to step into those cinematic settings and personas, becoming a part of my own vision.
Giu Zurlo and Shane Reynolds in conversation with Marte Gastaldello
Photography and collage by Shane Reynolds @chainreynolds
Muse Giu Zurlo @bbydickcheney