By Christopher Harrity
Originally published on Advocate.com November 12 2011 5:00 AM ET
Alexander Guerra is an artist and photographer from Miami specializing in self-portraiture. Currently he is engulfed in his alter ego The Rabbit. The Rabbit is the central character in his images, set in both surreal scenes and real environments. His work is a provocative mix of bizarre travel stories as well as more offbeat contemplative pieces. Guerra's Rabbits are awkwardly posing, sometimes suggestively sexual and mysterious, while other times playful and mischievous. Guerra builds a tension between the innocence of a bunny and a sexually aggressive, very male hare. The Rabbit is Guerra's demanding inner exhibitionist. And yep, we are there to be his audience.
Over the past year and a half, Guerra has unleashed his Rabbit army on the world, immortalizing his Rabbit in Paris, Tokyo, Rome, Beijing, and Sydney. His self-portraits become both his souvenir and the postcard sent home.
The Advocate: Why are you a photographer?
Alexander Guerra: The "why?" I do not know. I do know that my memory/mind is very photographic — always has been — and I've always seen things in these imaginary frames. That said, my images are an extension of my mind. A backup drive, if you will. A kind of flash drive that I share with others.
What started you on this particular series?
I started the Rabbits last summer in Paris (Le Lapin, La Nuit). My boyfriend is French, and this was the second time that we visited the city. The first time was a short trip and a rat race for me to see all the sites. This second trip was going to be a week long. Being a fan of fashion magazines, I knew I couldn't waste the scenery. I knew that I wanted to shoot around the city with a sense of a high-fashion editorial. I'd have this opportunity to immortalize my alter-self in arguably the most beautiful city in the world. The city of lights. So I did.
I get asked this question all the time. Recently, I was at my mom's house and, while cleaning out a closet, we found two pieces of artwork I made as a child. One was a rabbit I made out of paper plates and crayons, and the other was a story I wrote about an Easter Bunny. Since childhood I've been drawn to rabbits, but it was subconsciously as an adult that I would rediscover, accept, and evolve that desire to my alter ego.
Any interesting things happen while shooting on location?
This summer I was in Lisbon. A beautiful city and an amazing backdrop for my "LisBunnies." While shooting one night in front of yellow trolleys, these taggers began tagging the trolleys. What were my boyfriend and I to do? I could chase them in a bunny mask — and do what? We gave in to the moment. I shot some pictures of them, finished my shoot, and we hopped along.
Do you need to be sure to pack rabbit stuff whenever you travel?
Yrs! (Cue my boyfriend's eye roll.) This year I started making my own masks with lots of thought given to locations. I'm borderline obsessive-compulsive when it comes to my art. Like a celebrity wouldn't wear the same outfit twice on the red carpet, I find it hard to shoot the same mask in different countries and cities. Since I make them, there's nothing stopping me from making a new mask for each location, and I do. This summer I took a Mediterranean cruise. I packed four masks with potential wardrobes for each, including a girl's uniform skirt for my Roman the Rabbit. I also packed four Ziploc bags with enough thread, safety pins, and fabric to make four more masks while on the trip. I also like to incorporate local clothing bought while visiting the city. The red vest in Marry the Night was a purchase I made in Tokyo, which was way better than the tank top I originally brought for the shoot.
What do you still want to do with your rabbit-oriented work?
I want to create Rabbit sculptures and would also like to create multimedia work incorporating my childhood portraits in Rabbit masks. I'm currently working on the latter, which is a tie in to a childhood memory.
When I was little I loved to put on a show. My dad would take my brother and me to the movies and I would dance with my eyes closed in front of the screen and I wouldn't stop till the music stopped and the people would clap. I lost that around puberty and became self-conscious. The rabbit mask allows me to revisit that kid at the theater, and the multimedia work of meshing my childhood pictures and Rabbit masks is a visual extension of my childhood memory.