The artistic spirit takes many forms: it can range from an artist being committed to a clear vision they wish to produce, to an unpredictable creative force against which an artist may feel helpless to resist. Either way, what all artists have in common is that in the end they have the intent to bring something into existence, which didn’t exist before — not just an image or composition or performance, but above all an “idea” for which they are uniquely responsible, a particular idea which would not exist without them. Our spotlight artist this month, Chazz Gold is a living embodiment of creativity’s many wild and conflicting sides all rolled into one elusive, energizing, exasperating, and inspiring bundle.
Chazz was born in Portland, but moved to California as a young adult and spent many years frequenting various San Francisco and LA hotspots. Working at events like Lollapalooza he got to know various tour photographers from the likes of Rolling Stone magazine, and before long he was taken under their wing as a protégé, learning to get the most out of his images of the nightlife. A devotee of the burgeoning techno and rave scenes, Chazz became a club-circuit regular, and found himself with camera in hand photographing party-goers and performers alike.
Chazz’s work in photography developed throughout the latter ‘90s and early ‘00s with gallery shows and community experiments. But at the same time he was drawn further and further into the counterculture underground, being exposed to the most extreme temptations of that world. His creative work began to languish. “In 2009, I was into all kinds of mischief and mayhem” Chazz admits, “I was screwing up my life … wasn’t really doing anything good.” He ultimately hit bottom when he became the target of a home-invasion in which he was attacked and left for dead by a hammer-wielding assailant. Only a fortuitous 911 call by an unnoticed houseguest saved his life.
After 12 days in a coma, Chazz regained consciousness, and began the long road to recovery. His head injuries left him facing months of rehabilitation for motor function, cognitive challenges and impaired speech; he remains without the use of his right hand to this day. Where another person could have turned to fatalistic bitterness, Chazz chose a different route. “I feel like because I was injured on the left side, my brain chemicals had nowhere to go but my right side. It kind of flooded the right side of my brain with creative energy — I really believe that.”
Once he was able to leave the hospital, Chazz packed up and immediately headed for Portland, leaving behind the reckless lifestyle that nearly killed him. After some diligent research he stumbled on a battery accessory for his favorite Sony camera body which could basically serve as a left-handed grip adapter, and with that he plunged back into the creative work that infuses his life. He resumed shooting and shortly thereafter started taking classes to fill out his self-taught abilities.
During a course in creative lighting, Chazz hit on an idea for a class project using projected images to create unique figure studies. At first he used simple geometric patterns to create the effects he sought, but he was quickly drawn to a style of artwork known as “sacred geometry,” and his creative appetite grew. Before long Chazz was drawing inspiration from the school of “visionary artists” exemplified by the likes of Cameron Gray, Android Jones, and many others. In this, Chazz has discovered his current calling, a project he refers to as “Shapes of the Divine” (a name suggested by one of Chazz’s long-time friends and a cherished confidante). To say that it has consumed his creative path is to put it mildly — not even 18 months into the project at this point, Chazz boasts over 14,000 images from shoots with over 80 different subjects. These days Chazz says, “I try not to use anything … until I have permission from the artist;” however, even on those rare occasions when Chazz goes back and finds something he previously used and then reaches out for permission, he finds that once he explains that the proceeds from the project will go to charities such as battered women’s shelters, “The [artists] I have used … ALL have said ‘go ahead, run with it.’”
Ask Chazz what makes “Shapes of the Divine” the idea he finds himself committed to and he’ll mention the coffee table book he wants to produce, he’ll wax poetic about the celebration of sacred geometry and the physical form, but what really inspires him is the interactions he experiences with his collaborators. “I started getting people requesting to shoot photos with me because word got around that I create a safe space, a comfortable, warm space for them to get back to their bodies, [to] own their own bodies and be comfortable again… For a lot of people it’s like a reset, coming out of bad relationships, getting sober… I’ve heard a million different things.” This motivation underpins the book idea: “They talk about how much it changed them and empowered them, and helped them get through whatever thing they were dealing with at the moment, so I decided that if I publish a book of work, that maybe other people somewhere out there in the world will get that same feeling.” Each image in the book will be accompanied by a hand-written note by the model, along with each person’s chosen pronouns.
“Shapes of the Divine” is not the only work Chazz is doing. He still shoots the club scene and could recently be found with Living Prism capturing performances by Android Jones and Shpongle, and earlier this year he contributed work to a show called “Dark Circus” held at Everett Street Studios. As far as the evolution of “Shapes of the Divine,” Chazz is always on the lookout for anyone interested in participating, including looking to diversify his work to include male-identified body types and more. But one thing you can be sure about, whatever Chazz is doing, you can bet he’ll be doing it with his signature blend of dedication and abandon.
Chazz will now take us on a personal tour of his favorite pieces, but due to the NSFW nature of his work, you will need to view them in our online magazine.