Update: Tyler Shields says a cop who saw the photos told him, “I guess if I had to be mased, I wouldn't mind being mased by those girls.” Full interview with the photographer at the bottom.
After the Occupy Wall Street raids, and especially one pepper-spraying incident at UC Davis, cops around the country are getting flak in many forms: Anonymous leaks. Twitter wars. Brutality blogs. Christmas sweaters. Memes for days. Actual punishment (sort of).
It's official: “Fuck the po-lice” is making a comeback! And on any topic so totally trending, you can expect L.A. photographer Tyler Shields to throw in his two cents, a la bloody Lindsay Lohan at the onset of the vampire craze.
In his latest photo project, titled “Occupied,” two blonde bombshells (one of them reportedly his girlfriend) break out some serious “use of force” tactics on a team of SWAT officers, from pepper-spraying them as they sit in peaceful-protest formation to beating them with their own batons.
Kind of a great way to let out the rage many are feeling in response to police aggression toward Occupy. We're not sure if the cops in Shields' shoot are real ones; they do seem a little too good-looking for that. (No offense, next LAPD officer to pull me over for texting and driving.) Still, there is a small sick satisfaction in watching the tables turned, is there not? Even though the female aggressors are super 1-percenty, and wearing American Apparel next-to-nothings, and probably turning the cops on more than terrorizing them.
But that right there is the beauty of an uber-sexualized, Hollywood-grotesque Tyler Shields think piece!
When he began doing gallery shows, he took the foreboding feel of his images to another level, leading gallerygoers into theatrical surprises. He now releases shots on his website and makes them available for purchase via British-based A Gallery U.K. [where he's now showing “Occupied”!], and the more controversial shots almost always make the gossip-blog rounds. …
“I'm not trying to shock,” Shields contends. “I'm just trying to play with all of those things that the news and culture tell you you should be afraid of. Seeing blood and guns and violence does something to people.”
Now, Shields writes below his “Occupied” photo set: “This was just about as crazy as it looks and yes we used real pepper spray.” (So authentic! And kind of pointless, but whatever.) He then prods his potentially outraged/confused/amused audience with the teaser: “It's easy to be the bully but it's not so fun when you're the one being bullied.”
Is being manhandled by half-nude models really considered bullying these days?
Update: Shields tells the Weekly over the phone that he's gotten “a bunch of feedback” on the reverse-brutality shoot — both negative and positive.
“It's interesting because some people who I maybe thought wouldn't be as into it, are,” he says. “A lot of girls have written me like, 'This is amazing, I love this.'”
One particularly angry email came from a real-life cop. “He was just basically like, 'You're disgusting, I can't believe you would do this. This kind of stuff actually happens on the job.'” So Shields wrote back. Something along the lines of, “I'm not actually telling girls to dress up in lingerie and go beat up the police, nor could they if they wanted to. it's a representation.”
He says that calmed the officer down. According to Shields, the response email read, “I guess if I had to be mased, I wouldn't mind being mased by those girls.”
As for the shoot itself: It took place in downtown Los Angeles, where Shields says he dressed up some local actors, including Scott Patterson, as SWAT officers. And behind the camera, the photographer consulted heavily with an ex-military man “experienced in the pepper-spray stuff.”
The spray, as advertised, was 100 percent authentic.
“We looked into what it would be like to make fake pepper spray,” says Shields. “But there was no way to to do it.”
Not that he ever planned on avoiding the real thing. “I wanted all of these actors to know what it's really like,” he says. “When we did [the pepper-spray] shot… I took four pictures. Within 30 seconds, everyone was gone. They couldn't breathe. In the UC Davis stuff, they got one or two sprays. We unloaded the whole bottle.”
The spray actually started dripping down the actors' chests and crotches, Shields says. But what's a little Earthly pain in the name of art and Occupy?