Joey Phoenix Media
Photographer • Videographer


Salem, MA Portrait and Event Photographer

From Poly Sci to Olympus: Five More Shoots to Go

Joey Phoenix, Virginia 2011
Joey Phoenix, Virginia 2011

The last 5 years have been the most unlikely years of my life, and looking back at the changes I've made in my personal and professional life just kind of make me sit back and go "huh." The one thing I've learned more than anything is that trying to figure out things on your own can be exhausting, but if you put one foot in front of the other and ask for help when you feel yourself about to topple over, you'll get to where you want to go.

At the moment I feel a touch of toppling, but we'll get back to that later.


5 years ago, nearly to the day, I received my acceptance letter to Boston College for graduate school in Political Science. At the time, I was finishing up my senior year of college, spending far too much time on a tennis court, and doing very little (if any) art-related anything. At the time, I didn't even know I had it in me.

4 years ago, nearly to the day, I wrote my first article for a Boston-based comedy podcast and got paid actual money for doing it. This simple assignment, which would continue throughout 2012, led to me quitting my day job at the bakery I worked on in Belmont to begin freelance writing full time (with the encouragement of my dear friend Kevin Danielsen) and to finish my Master's Thesis, titled "Living in Truth in the Age of Automatization."

3 years ago, nearly to the day, I published by thesis on the Boston College database, with this abstract:

"Living in Truth in the Age of Automatization" is a discussion of dehumanization in the period of technological and bureaucratic supremacy. The article uses the writings of former Czech president Václav Havel and American novelist Kurt Vonnegut to argue that neither the automatization inherent within the Eastern Communist Model nor the mass consumer culture of the Western Capitalist Model are ideal, and to discuss the possibility of a third way, a way called "living in truth" which protects human dignity and the right of every man to pursue meaningful work in a society."

Meaningful work can come in a variety of forms. I've come to learn that art, too, is meaningful work...although so often it's not seen that way. It is a real job. Yes. I have to believe that.

My advisor laughed at my thesis. He said "You're not planning to pursue a PH.D are you?" I said no. I was going to be an artist. He said, "Good Riddance."

Criticism aside, I had a hell of a time writing it. I also got to read all of Vonnegut's work for credit which is pretty much the best thing. Also, about this time, I got paid for my first photography gig. So there.

Naturally, this last thing got my brain gears spinning. I had long been acquainted with the works of brilliant photographers like Kirsty Mitchell and Brooke Shaden...and I wanted to start doing it myself, all of the time. My early efforts were painful, but little by little I started to improve. My concepts became more elaborate. I started working on my first series, the Evolution of Time, which led to the creation of the Pied Piper, an endeavor I still remain quite proud of.

The truth is, creating this series of photos made something inside me wake up and say, "Hey, this is what passion and accomplishment feels like." I won't make the claim that this particular creation was in any way brilliant, but it was certainly a milestone in my life. I knew then that this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to create.

So that's what I've been doing.


2 years ago, I put the Evolution of Time series on the shelf in favor of a new series: Ancient Muses. I had recently moved to Salem, which I will openly claim as the premiere art hub Massachusetts (except for maybe Northampton), and the mystical energy of the place inspired me immensely. This past Sunday, I completed my tenth shoot in the series (those pictures and that story are forthcoming). This means that I am two-thirds of the way through.

Which to me, is huge. I start a billion things but I rarely, if ever, finish anything. I am dead set on finishing this one. I know without a doubt that I never would've made it this far without the generosity and aid of some incredible humans who have stood by me, many from the very beginning. You know who you are and you mean the world to me.

Here are the highlights to date.

Each shoot requires weeks of planning, in some cases months. I have to track down locations, props, find the right model(s), hire/bribe a production team. I enjoy every minute, but it isn't always easy. Art is never easy, but it's valuable.

Here are the blog posts about a few:

Artemis • Hermes • Athena • Aphrodite • Poseidon • Demeter • Zeus • Apollo

To finish the last five shoots here is what I still need.

Ares (To be shot May 12, 2016) 

Location where we could spin fire in MA legally. Also need costumes for Ares and his fire maiden. Also need to reimburse makeup and costume team for their transport/materials. total cost ($100-$150)

Dionysus (To be shot June 2016) 

Location where two scantily clad gentleman can be together amongst a sea of flowers. Costumes for both. Transport reimbursement for all involved. Total cost ($100)

Hera (To be shot July 2016) 

Model (one person has been asked, waiting on response). Full costume (old wedding dress, headdress), throne of some sort. Transport costs. total cost ($50-$75 - counting on thrift store serendipity).

Hephaestus (To be shot August 2016) 

19th century inspired leg brace (Hephaestus is a cripple), location which is similar to a forge (preferably one that contains an anvil, if not I will have to manufacture an anvil), place where I could have fire legally, transport costs. ($150-$250, depending on the leg brace and location and permits if necessary).

Hades (To be shot September 2016) 

Full 19th century gentleman's funeral costume, including top coat and tails, transport costs. ($250)

And, at the end of all of this, I would like to have these exhibited in a show...something to which people can come and see them and understand why I've done all of this. But I have to finish this first before I can get to that point. However, cost to put a show together? roughly $500.

So it goes.

Will the art get made? Yes. Is it expensive? Yes. It is valuable? I think so. However, it's not up to me. Art, unfortunately doesn't exist in a vacuum. Also, at the moment, I'm exhausted. I want more than anything to keep doing what I love, but everything can and will be put on hold if the financial burden of this experience becomes too much for me to handle alone. So, if you care at all about what I'm doing...tell me. Your encouragement could mean the difference. If you have a location to offer, offer it. I will make you cookies and make sure you have admittance to the gallery when it finally opens. If you have an old wedding dress or an anvil or absurd circus costumes, let me know, I can use them. If you support what I do and want to help me with costs, I will be the most grateful person alive. And more importantly, the art will get made.


But really, if you value my work, if you believe in what I do, tell me. I have a chronic illness and a fickle brain and I would rather be doing this then anything else. I'm not meant to be in an office or behind a counter, it makes me miserable. I want to see ideas transformed into reality, I want dreams to come to life, I want to continue to feel something. Spending time on these projects allows me to do that.

So yes, do you see I'm toppling?