Ransom & Mitchell's phantasmagoric photo narratives, San Francisco show

I've posted many times about the genius of Stacey Ransom and Jason Mitchell whose phantasmagoric photo illustrations are like pages from a living comic book. Stacey builds incredibly-elaborate sets, essentially from scrap, flea market finds, and duct tape, and Jason takes photos (and makes films) with the eye of a master painter. The results are noir narrative images that, for me, convey the feelings of the surreal reality I inhabit in my dreams. Ransom and Mitchell have their first solo show of photographs opening this Saturday, September 8, at Varnish Fine Art in San Francisco. The exhibition, titled "Smoke & Mirrors," includes images from their ongoing series of artist portraits in which they worked with underground and pop surrealist creators and other fringe characters like Scott Musgrove, Mike Davis, Jess "Bloodmilk" Schnabel, Greg "Craola" Simkins (top), Charmaine Olivia (above left) to bring alive these subjects' inner visions. I was deeply honored when they invited me to be part of this series and created the magickal portrait above right. From Stacey's blog post that includes a preview of the exhibition, behind-the-scenes photos of the shoots, and the transformed gallery space:

Through a combination of cinematic lighting, theatrically-designed sets, and an illustrative approach that is inspired by the Italian and Dutch Master painters, we aim to create worlds that cannot exist (and quite possibly shouldn’t).

In our show “Smoke & Mirrors,” we are presenting two unique bodies of work, consisting of fourteen cinematically themed tableaus, twenty seven artist portraits and two short films. For our narrative pieces, we have combined epic scenes of lush grandeur with uncomfortable emotional themes that address issue of obsession, consumption and longing.

For our portraiture, we have sought to tell personalized stories about each artist and filled their scenes with clues about their inner truths.

Preview "Ransom & Mitchell's Smoke & Mirrors" (Ransom Notes)

More images below...

Portrait of artist Scott Musgrove, “The Last Good Man” / 2012

"My Heart Is Where My Head Was," 24"x36"/ 2009

“Nos Fiere Quod Seminat (we become what is sown)” / 2011



    1. Only if it says:
      “As a child, Pesco spent too much time watching ‘In Search of…’ and ‘The Twilight Zone’ when not hanging out at the local magic shop.”

      1. Is the magic shop still open? A visit would make a great BB post. Loved Steve Martin’s reminiscence about his time in one in Born Standing Up. I’ve always wanted to do a book collecting photographs of shops and the ones that still remain.

        1. That’s a great idea! Sadly, this one has been closed for many years. Curiously, it was a display counter and shelf that the proprietor rented in a corner of an independent drug/variety store (when independent drug/variety stores still existed).

      2. That’s the difference between us. You were at the local magic shop and I was under the covers with a flashlight reading demonology texts.

        1. That came later. And even then, I didn’t understand what I was reading. But damn I loved the illustrations.

          1. I may have been the only fifth-grader in the US in 1967 who wore a pentagram to school and knew how to do an exorcism.

          2. reply to Antonious: Didn’t have a pentatgram at that age, but did understand exorcism. My favorite book was ‘The Black Arts’  by Richard Cavendish. It is still in print and is the most level-headed book you’ll find on the subject.

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