The Art of Brooding with Michael the III

Sulking Isn’t Just a State of Mind, It’s an Aesthetic

    Put me in a room filled with cackling chimpanzees and I won’t break. I’ll be the first to tell clowns to stop clowning around. When it comes to being saturnine, I could do that all the way to Saturn and back, and then once more just to prove my point. In short, if brooding is what you’re looking for, Mr. Photographer, I can give you that. What else would I be doing? Living in the moment? Smelling the roses? Smiling for Patrick Demarchelier? Is that what you want from me? Believe me, Mr. Photographer, I can refrain from smiling any way you want. Honest.

    I ask for so little, really. Just the chance to do my thing for you in front of the camera—to project that appealing form of emotional darkness devoid of important reason I know so well. Is that too much to ask, Mr. Photographer?

    I’ll stand over here in line and let you take my picture, Mr. Photographer, while I make my little speech. You’ll see I can brood from over the shoulder, under the elbow, or even with legs straight up in the air; indoors or outside; this season or next; print or digital; sauntering down a runway or in an Evanescence music video.

    Tell your stylists I can brood in beige, plaid, or even gingham. It’s true that in a wedding gown, I give new meaning to the phrase “what a beautiful, brooding bride.” If you only give me the chance, I can prove my range to you in knitwear or glamorous faux-fur jackets in melancholic shades of pre-sexual-content-ban-Tumblr pastel-pink. I’ll be moody in mauve strictly for you, or positively remote in my rose-colored jacket. In evening wear, I can be all dressed up with nowhere to go at the drop of a disappointed hat.

    If dressed down is the look you’re aiming for, well I can do that too: down south; downtown; down-by-the-bay; I’m downright versatile, you know. You’ll be pleased to see how unpleasant I can be in denim—they’re not called blue jeans for nothing. Say, do you like Tennessee Williams, Mr. Photographer? I can brood for the teary-eyed too. I’ll rip my shirt off and then your heart out with the performance I’ll give. “But Papa!,” I’ll shout in denim-on-denim-on-denim, “I gotta get out of this town—I just gotta! There ain’t nothing here for me and there ain’t never going to be! I can’t love nobody. I can’t even love me.” And I know a barnyard door that’s not too far, if that’s what you like.

    I’d sacrifice it all to brood for you, Mr. Photographer. Yes, I’d even consider becoming a vampire in the name of fashion. If it’s the dark, sombre nature of those who have witnessed the cyclical idiocy of humanity itself that you desire, oh I can surely sulk like that. With today’s headlines, I’m practically doing it already. I’ll wear soft, shadow-colored fabrics which won’t snag nor tear when brushed against a sharpened pin or tooth or wooden stake. Night shoots will be my sole availability. Of course, I’ll miss simple pleasures like giving hickies or bathing in holy water, but it’s a small price to pay to work with you, Mr. Photographer. And have you ever seen a vampire in poor fashion? They practically dress to kill. But don’t worry, I would never bite you, Mr. Photographer.

    Michael the III wears Off-White mask and Saint Laurent shirt.

    Michael the III wears Saint Laurent shirt.

    My competition is non-existent. Look around. Have they ever been dedicated enough as to observe the ongoings of a party while propped poopily against the wall? Have they ever not blinked for exactly one minute and forty-seven scowling seconds? Who else has single-handedly converted a bedroom into a boudoir? Or been on the market for an old Swiss castle with antique journalling station, fainting couch, howling hallway, bell tower, backup pair of shackles and an island in the kitchenette? Can they say they’ve written love letters to the moon? I thought as much.

    I’ll even brood way up in a tree for you, Mr. Photographer. In nature, I’m a natural. Just help me get up a little higher so you’ll capture my better angles. Am I despondent enough up here? Are my drooping eyes drooping low enough? Are my sinking thoughts fashionably sunken? I’m remembering when I discovered my boyfriend wasn’t cheating on me, after acting newly single (three times). I’m recalling the perversity of a self-checkout machine and the audacity of those who take their time using them. I’m remembering who Gossip Girl turned out to be. Is that enough for you, Mr. Photographer?

    What do you say about me as a Hitchcockian damsel-in-this-dress? Perhaps I just got slapped in the face by a pigeon, or I’m afraid of showers. Maybe Cary Grant just stole my jewels. Or maybe we don’t have budget for Cary Grant, but stay with me here. Okay fine, Mr. Photographer, don’t take my advice. I was only suggesting it. Never say I didn’t try to overstep my boundaries. I suppose I’m meant to go on modelling like this all day long, not even getting a word in edgewise when it comes to making decisions around here. Just who is in charge, exactly? Say Mr. Photographer, haven’t you heard about me before? I’m Michael the III, remember?

    Michael the III wears Gucci hood and Random Identities coat.

    Michael the III wears Gucci hood and Random Identities coat.

    I probably didn’t need you in the first place. My portfolio already presents itself like Tolstoy reading Lord of the Rings, listening to Lana Del Rey. Flip to page 379 and you’ll see me in Better Homes & Gardens, languishing by a fireside (for so long I left with toasted briefs). On page 1253 in National Geographic, I’m more stone-faced than the rocky mountains. And on my iPhone, there are precisely 13,002 pieces of evidence of my broodiness, neatly tucked into a folder entitled “selfies.” So no, I don’t need you.

    Go ahead. Pick from your blessed bunch. But when you’ve cut whomever isn’t cutting it, Mr. Photographer, the choice you should have made will await you at the piano, ready to duet and feeling absolutely awful, thank you very much for asking. Don’t look so surprised. I’m sure I mentioned I play the brooding artist, too. Hadn’t I told you before that torch songs light my fire? You know me, Mr. Photographer, never one to boast.

    You can say it if you’re looking for something else, you know. Someone with less opinion. A different direction. I’ll be fine with that. I just need to hear the words and I’ll stay right at the piano, writing my songs, minding my own business for a change. I wrote a song the other day, in fact: “Climate Change (Why Must It Happen To Me?).” You should hear it. It’s a masterpiece. I could’ve been a part of the Great American Brooding Songbook, you know. Then maybe this would be me photographing you! If only the golden age of songwriting hadn’t already passed us by. I wouldn’t mind having been a part of the Silver Age either— that is a real thing you know, silver ages. But that leaves me as a Bronze Age songwriter today, and I don’t like the ring of that at all. Oh, Don’t worry about me Mr. Photographer. I’ll sing on.

    But if you don’t select me, Mr. Photographer, I don’t know what I’ll do. Say the word and release me from your clutches. Don’t you think I have better ways to occupy my time, like going home and curling up with a bear or a rabbit or a barracuda? Pets are always there for me, nothing at all like photographers who say they’d love to work with you only to decide on somebody younger or more upset-looking. That’s the problem with this industry. You’ll never see what’s moping right in front of you. I am the frowning fantasy fashion wants us to believe is real, and still I’m subjacent to the rest. Do you know how much work it is to organize a soliloquy with 10 outfit changes? Have you considered how much makeup I had to swatch for this, or the amount of money I had to spend on pants alone? I hate you, Mr. Photographer!

    Hold this pose? Oh really?This one? Oh, you’re right. I couldn't truly hate you, Mr. Photographer. I always knew you’d come around. Sure, sure, I can model in silence. No problem at all. I’ll be the most silent model you’ve ever worked with. You won’t even know when I enter the room. I’ll communicate in body language and I’ll text you what I’ll have for lunch. And don’t worry, if I do have something to say, I’ll just stand here and vibrate. Did I mention I might be telepathic? Well, it’s just that I saw a commercial once that said… oh, right. Silence. Well, you won’t regret this, not at all. No, I’m not smirking. I’m really not! You think I’d smile at a time like this? There’s something in my eye. Honestly, Mr. Photographer. Honestly!

    Michael the III is a writer, model, photographer, songwriter, home-owner and cuddler. His work has appeared in Gayletter, THEFINEPRINT, Document Journal, and more.

    • Photography: Michael the III
    • Text: Michael the III
    • Model: Michael the III
    • Styling: Michael the III
    • Hair and Makeup: Michael the III
    • Emotional Discontent: Michael the III
    • Set Design: Michael the III