Wednesday, July 28, 2010


The story is left unfinished because like the man it refers to, there is no ending in sight. What better way to start talking about Justin Monroe than with the creation of a modern fairy tale, meant solely for adults? After all, the man himself is like a living animated character, for only in those fantasy worlds do we usually find this type of creativity, or this level of imagination.

There is power in the images created by photographers, be it the ability to inspire us, shock us, arouse us or make us think, and it takes a unique vision and keen talent to be able to stand out amongst so many talented individuals. When the photographer becomes the celebrity because of his work behind the lens, or when his talent can somehow eclipse the incredible beauty of his subjects, you know you are dealing with something special.

In Justin’s world, it is not enough to showcase beauty. It is not enough to take an eye catching image. He doesn’t just craft photos, he creates worlds, sometimes alternate universes where anything is possible and anything goes. He has flipped pure sexuality on its head and dived deeper into the mystery of desire.

I remember the first time I saw a Justin Monroe photograph, but more importantly, I remember what I felt at the moment. It was total wonder, mixed with awe and (as a photographer) a bit of envy. How the HELL does he do that? I can still hear that in my head. And yet, I could say that about quite a few photographers whose work I admire. But with Justin, it’s different because you never get used to his style. You can’t, because the moment you attempt to put him into a box or categorize it, he changes and is trying something different. The minute your eyes relax and you’ve accepted what you are seeing; he has already pushed two more buttons, as you try to keep up.

Sex is overt, in your face and unapologetic in Justin’s world. All those thoughts that we store only in the deep recesses of our personal fantasy brain hard drives, he brings to the surface and showcases. And while some of his images may give Middle America a collective heart attack, it would be impossible to deny the sheer genius of his work.

Truth be told, not everyone is a fan. There are those naysayers who complain that Justin is just a reinvention of David LaChappelle who was also known for the bright colors and images that told bizarre stories. They cry out that David had a book called LaChappelle Land and that Justin has only borrowed that style and replaced the celebrities with porn stars and gay pop icons like Amanda LaPore. But this is merely a surface argument and proves that they have not taken the time to explore the incredible depth and diversity in Justin's work. Every great artist, and Justin is just that...a great artist, can be linked to some form of inspiration, and regardless of the similarities in the style of some of their work, Justin has moved beyond what LaChappelle created, pushed the envalope and broken more boundaries. Sexuality in LaChappelle Land was suggestive. In Monroeland it is overt, explicit and impossible to deny.

Andy Warhol was a revolutionary artist, who some argue was one of the greatest pop artists of his and later generations. Some of his most memorable work involved transforming the art of others until it became a distinctly Warhol piece. Justin has done this as well, crafting his own twisted take on Alice in Wonderland in his first book, DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE, and he has taken it 3 steps forward with his soon to be released new book PLAY THINGS. He is the modern day Warhol, and like him, has a stable of regulars that appear in his work. How long before we will see the creation of films and the making of celebrities from his choice of models? Does the future hold a movie called Justin Monroe's FILTH?

There is only one way to get inside the mind of such a visionary artist like Justin Monroe, and that is to allow him to speak for himself, eliminating the ribald speculation about what he does and how he does it. After all, it is a world that he created that we are allowed to enjoy, with him sitting high on a throne gauging our reactions.

Enter the king...

©2010 - Sean Dibble

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David Costa