The Mr. J cycle is about the neurotic psychrophile Joker, who collects everything that is related to his idol, but also at the turn of the whole history, he is trying to become more like him by falling into the abyss of insanity.

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The Mr. J

The main stylization of the character is inspired on the basis of film images, while some props and the way of presenting the character is based on the canvas of the comic universe.

… but first from the very beginning.

I love Joker!

He is one of the best constructed and well-grounded fictional characters, despite the fact, that he’s surrounded by a halo of mystery. Surely there is a reason for such attention – The Joker being the main antagonist of Batman, who is, by the way, my favourite superhero. Together, they are like a obcerse and reverse of the same coin and they complete each other the jing/jang way.

During the recent “Dwutakt” there was a lecture by Michał Siromski – “Suspect – Joker”, a deep insight into the psychology of The Crazy Clown, which I have listened to with great attention. Accompanying the preparation for the photoshoot, there was also an exhibition devoted to DC Heroes in Łódź, where a lot of space was dedicated for this very character.

Inspirations

The idea to run a photoshoot inspired by Joker appeared somewhere around April 2019 during another photoshoot with the same crew. Similar to our first project, when the model imagined some scenes from Roman Polanski’s “Pianist”, this time, the inspiration was fresh like hotcakes photos from Joker. A few days later we had much debate on this movie. As usual, there was a bulk of malcontents counter towards everything – the bad-actor-wrong-director-suppositions-on-how-the-film-will-destroy-the-origin kind. We were utterly calm that many of them will have to bark back what they wrote and the film will not go unnoticed.

It also appears that in May 2017 Dawid Hemke performed during a “Podlaski plener” a protoversion of the newest Joker.

Photoshoot preparations

Dawid Hemke

I challenged myself a year ago to drastically lose weight by the end of the year. I have set three thresholds – minimal (70kg), optimal (65kg) and maximal (60kg), and then I started working hard, which is going into starvation. I have mentioned about this goal in the spring-summer interview for “Miasto Kobiet” (available to read here, from page 90), having said that I then decided to starve myself to look like Christian Bale in “Mechanik”. It went like pushing molasses up a sandy hill, though the weight slowly decreased. In the beginning, I simply wanted to lose weight without any particular reason. Then I decided that it would be nice to find a decent photography theme that would complete the symphony of destruction. For a long time, I had the concentration camps idea roaming around my head within the perspective of current ideas of the Polish government on the idea of being different and in minority, though I failed at putting it together into a nice photo. By the end of April, we run a photoshoot with Dawid Galiński themed with the falling into depths of insanity. Driving around between different locations we have discussed the upcoming Joker movie in which Joaquin Phoenix, impersonating the main character, had lost 23 kilograms. I think that was the moment when an idea to add that little extra bit from myself to the topic sprouted.

On the 25th of June, I wrote to Dawid with a general idea that destroyed my brains. I was a little worried that it won’t click because he avoided motley of colors, which was to be present, like A-LOT, in that kind of project, though filtered through his sense of aesthetics. The topic, formerly named by me as “Tribute Joker”, clicked really well, and to force-motivate myself to lose more weight, we set the date for the photoshoot for the second half of October.

Another day here, another week there and upcoming months bred in numerous details and we completed the props and clothes. I started to post announcements of the photoshoot on my blog, and also, I have tagged some of my previous posts connected with the theme using “mrj” hashtag to avoid accusations of riding the wave of the popularity of the newest movie. The hardest part was to explain to the photographer and to put into his head the idea that IT IS NOT THE JOKER, so there is no point in looking up to any of his particular images. Sincerely speaking, this idea had become a really bad festering pustule and I wanted to get rid of it as soon as possible. Fortunately or not, the deadline for the photoshoot was moved, first a month ahead, and later, due to a lack of possibility to access the “Terminus A Quo Theatre” dressing room, where we planned to shoot the project, another month. Finally, we met on the 14th and 15th of December 2019. Aware of the upcoming words I can, with a clear conscience, say that this is one of the most important photoshoots of my life.

During the half of year of preparations to Mr. J photoshoot we exchanged ideas with Dawid all the time, and, as there are carts to horses, I repeatedly stated that it is not a cosplay, meaning a committed embodiment of a given image, but it is a mix of them.

I like the post-modern references, traverse, the winks, the mince of worn-out schemes and creating the new quality out of something that already existed. I love easter eggs, even though if I miss them, and they are noticed by someone else on the specialistic fansite. And I surely overdose all the making offs. The main idea of Mr. J’s project is that very kind of fun, Joker being the main character, and all of his big-screen interpretations, where each and every photo is glittering with a clownish puzzle. The complete photoshoot is a cinematic, coherent and cohesive etude, eternalized on single photos, which also stand up for themselves as such. It is a story about a psycho fan of the Deadly Clown who is collecting all the artifacts connected to him or even loosely connected with the theme. He’s working in a low-level gin-mill as a burlesque drag queen.

Sometimes the wink is so not obvious, that within the narration from photoset I explain what, how and why. Even though we failed to collect all fo the planned perks, there is quite a lot.

Picture-by-picture analysis

Clown glasses with a white mustache are a reference to the legendary painted mustache of Cesar Romero, which he did not agree to shave, playing the character Joker in the 1966 film. Green afro is, of course, Joaquin Phoenix from the latest Joker, where Arthur Fleck earns extra money as a clown. Also, the rainbow brush is a loose reference to the colorful flowers conjured from a magic wand, during the magic tricks shown to young Wayne. In the upper right corner of the frame, there is a tambour frame with unfinished embroidery of a wide smile, i.e. a farfetched easter egg associated with the scaled-up face of the New 52 Joker.

Initial makeup is associated with the Harlequin mask, which on the one hand is a nod to Harley Quinn, a psychologist trying to treat Joker, who eventually went crazy about him. On the other hand, the narrow lips are supposed to refer to the makeup of Jack Nicholson, who killed using a fountain pen in the movie “Batman”. On the other hand, too-stretched corners of the mouth are a distant echo of Martha Kane from Flashpoint. The sequined blazer is another wink to the Harley Quinn costume from the upcoming movie “Birds of prey”.

Dancing in front of the mirror is a clear parallel to the joker dance in a public toilet. Hawaiian shirts in the background refer to “Killing Joke”.

The moment of covering/discovering a smile comes from Conrad Veidt from the movie “The man who laughs” and serves to smudge lipstick so that the make-up begins to resemble Heath Ledger.

The inscription on the mirror “Why so serious?” is used perversely, because this sentence often fell from the lips of the character played by Ledger, whereas in writing, it appeared on posters promoting the film. In the mirror, on the other hand, there was a different sentence: “Put on a happy face”.

Repeated hahahahaha tattoos decorating the hand, chest, and neck, are a reference to the version of the Deadly Clown played by Jared Leto.

Haircutting has never occurred in Joker’s stories.

… but it serves to imitate Mr. J for the dual role of Cameron Monaghan, i.e. Jerome / Jeremiah Valeska in the series Gotham.

Vouguing’s pose is a travesty of this iconic image, intended to emphasize the fact that Mr. J is engaged in burlesque, and by the way, it is supposed to emphasize the emaciated body, at which, by the way, I failed, because I only achieved the minimum plan, i.e. 70 kg starting from the initial weight of 78 kg. The fan’s trumpet is a reference to the trumpet used by Arthur who was fired. In the lower-left corner you can see a T-shirt with a print of gangster masks from the “Dark Knight”.

All this is being watched by Fafik, whom I necessarily wanted to pack into this story, although he completely does not fit.

The lapel pin belongs to the Comedian of the Watchmen Universe, which in May 2016 was connected to the reborn DC Universe. The megaphone refers to Nicholson’s Joker, who used this device at the end of the movie. Behind the back, there is a costume… of Batman, in other words, an easter egg to an easter egg from the initial scene of “Joker”.

The anti-smog mask kept by Mr. J is another wink to Joker from the Burton movie, where a similar one was received by Vicky Vale in the museum. Similarly, with the turquoise tie reminiscent of a jack-o-neck founded by Jack for this meeting. In the background, Joker’s demonic mask glances from behind the drape.

Lily in the lapel like the one gushing acid. The red leather jacket evokes the gangster style of Leto, however, in color it matches the Phoenix version, and makeup is the result of the latter and Ledger.

Backstage and curiosities

The most important assumption was the exclusion of all types of weapons, although, on the other hand, anything can be a weapon. However, to break the rule, after all, the Joker is the embodiment of anarchy, so he has the rights and principles in… respect, the “innocent” pocket knife was on the set. “Smilex” cosmetics. Originally called Smylex, they were used by the Joker to poison/amuse the lives of the people of Gotham. I exchanged y for i to have a neat emoticon in the logotype. A clicking toy jaw appears in the final battle of the movie “Batman”.

Also then, the Joker put on glasses, joking with Batman that “probably won’t hit the glasses guy.” Clown nose worn by Arthur Fleck in “Joker”. The old camera refers to the cover of “Killing Joke”.

The presented mask must have been, therefore, the most important session purchase. The reason is twofold, which probably only the most extreme fans, know. Namely, this mask that was used by Heath Ledger during a bank robbery, is almost identical to the one taken off by Cesar Romero.

On the set, there was various headgear, mainly referring to the colors: purple visor, green cap, purple, sequin hat, in a set with a green, sequin tie and a black cylinder, reminding, again, of the killing pen. Somewhere in the background, a green wig glitters from the tinsel. I wrote at the beginning about the lack of weapons, which does not mean that there are no deadly items: playing cards, scissors, a disappearing pencil, and a deadly crowbar. Literally two planned things could not be completed:
Red Hood, a specific headgear from the Joker’s Moore’s origin.

He was supposed to make an intriguing lamp shade. Initially, I was searching the internet, then I wanted to make paper mache, but inborn laziness won.
Jared Leto’s silver teeth were to be used in the stage of revealing/covering the smile and then float in a glass. Some “Chinese supplier” failed here because the Grillz reached the addressee… the day after the photo shoot, and its journey lasted two months and two weeks.

Credits:
Title: Mr. J (2019)
Photographer: Dawid Galiński
Model: Dawid Hemke
Scenography / Makeup:
Dawid Galiński, Dawid Hemke,
Terminus a Quo Theatre
Place: Terminus a Quo Theatre
Props: Monika Bojsan Dawid Hemke, Savannah Crystal,
Ada Bednarek, Ewelina Włoch, Zbigniew Krysiak, Krzysztof Piwecki
Technical support: Maciej “The Beast” Fafanów