Los Angeles, CA -- (ReleaseWire) -- 03/05/2014 -- Although it’s been five years since Michael Jackson’s untimely death, his memory burns brighter than ever.
For the community of Michael Jackson tribute artists and impersonators, Michael Jackson is more than just an icon – he’s a way of life. For these ‘representers’, their individual relationships with the King of Pop are complex, intimate and powerful.
Fascinated by this cultural phenomenon, photographer Lorena Turner began the project now known as ‘The Michael Jacksons’ in the summer of 2009. After witnessing the tribute artists perform at the memorial services for Jackson in both New York City and Los Angeles, Turner was struck by the range of ethnicities of the impersonators and tribute artists. Crucially, Turner noticed the audience reaction to the impersonators – crying, screaming, open adoration – it was clear that the boundary between ‘fake’ and ‘real’ was thin, perhaps even non-existent.
“It became clear to me that these people weren’t so much honoring Michael Jackson as much as they were creating a hybrid identity through their representation of him,” says Turner. “In other words, they were performing a convergence of their own identity with Michael Jackson’s, and in doing that they were stand ins for the affection that people, their audience, had for the real performer. At the time this seemed significant and important, so the next logical step was to find and photograph as many performers as possible.”
With ‘The Michael Jacksons’, Turner has documented thirty-five different Michael Jackson impersonators and tribute artists, through portraiture, interviews and analysis of Jackson’s lasting impact on both the personal lives of the ‘representers’ and their wider communities.
Raw, vibrant and richly detailed, ‘The Michael Jacksons’ is an examination of those who choose to ‘live Michael Jackson’ and the definitive tribute to the complicated, troubled and deeply gifted performer who remains unforgettable to this day.
Michael Jackson died in Los Angeles on June 25, 2009. Since then his popularity as a figure of representation has soared and a kind of sub-culture has emerged that both celebrates and builds upon his artistic accomplishments. Michael Jackson representers (tribute artists, impersonators and look-alikes) are both male and female, and come from multiple age groups, races and socio-economic backgrounds. They hail from large cities, suburban sprawl and small rural settings. To them, Michael Jackson is a lifestyle and a place to focus both their personal and professional aspirations.
The Michael Jacksons is both a monograph, featuring over 35 MJ representers who live and work around the US, and an ethnography that seeks to deconstruct and understand the motivations of these fascinating people.
Featured representers: Devra Gregory (DEV as MJ), Scorpio, Apple G. Jackson (Brandon Hunt), Jovan Rameau, The Prince of Pop (Omar Rajpute), Sean Vezina, JenNjuice4MJ (Jen Amerson), Aamir Smith, Agent M (Mario Coleman), Derrian Tolden, J Michael Lucas, Bobby Wolfey, Hollywood MJ (Christof), Mikette (Dominique Wilson), La Quinton Holiday, Lorenzo Coleman, Prince Michael, Maxx, MJ of NOLA, MJs Raven (Crystal Pullen), Mjx Expressions, Santana Jackson, MJ.5 (Charles "Scooby" James), Shari Wilson and Ian Smith
Most recently, The Michael Jacksons book has been featured in Slate Magazine, The Daily Mail and Fast Company and is currently available for Pre-Order at www.TheMichaelJacksons.com. The Michael Jacksons is slated for publication by Little Moth Press in early June 2014.
About Lorena Turner
Lorena Turner is a lecturer in the Communication Department at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Her photography projects have taken her to Colombia, Cuba and Rwanda, and she shows her work both nationally and internationally. Lorena has been working on The Michael Jacksons since June of 2009 with the objective of uniting photographic documentary methodologies with sociological research practices. She lives in Los Angeles and New York City.