In My Carry-On: Dazed & Confused, Making It Up As We Go Along

Dazed & Confused Making It Up As We Go Along

Astoundingly, I received the above book months ago but because it was sent to my LA address, I didn’t have a chance to pick it up until last month when I was back for a stint. It weighs a ton, but was well worth stuffing in my carry-on luggage for the inspiration it’s provided.

Remember the ’90s? God, I sound like an oldie… but I do, and with so much reverence for all the wild, in-the-flesh, musty, tactile, in-your-face creativity that was overflowing during that bizarre ‘tween period.

In the Naughty ’90s, technology was present and it facilitated our lives–made things more convenient. But it hadn’t yet robbed people of the type of free-form hand-drawn creativity that feels like it will soon be extinct (See: the democratisation of creativity via Sketch-Up, Garage Band, etc.–which has its good side but its bad side is bordering on Aspergers Syndrome).

Anyway, Dazed & Confused started in those radical ’90s (and continues through to today). Poring over the pages of the spectacular book Dazed & Confused: Making It Up As We Go Along had the visual effect on me that Brian Eno’s early arty albums have on my ears (and soul). It made me want to get my hands on the proverbial lump of clay and create!

I am proud to say that I used to write for Dazed & Confused. But it’s clear from this predominantly visual book, that the photography, fashion and styling were what this rag was known for. Although I must say I once read a brilliant piece by Malcolm McClaren on Oscar Wilde, cowboys and punk rock; it blew my mind.

The magazine boldly went into terrain other magazines recoiled from: disabled models, shots of bloody knickers and even airbrushing a photo of a Michael Jackson lookalike so that the imposter looked more like the King of Pop (the latter was a cover that actually fooled the public and made a statement on airbrushing).

One of the things that someone in the book says about Dazed is that it was basically celebrating the brazenness of youth. I have to agree. There is something about being 22 and feeling like the world is moldable to your fantasies and inclinations. It’s that sense of play-time embodied in the Club Kids of Manhattan (another ’90s sensation). It’s raw, it’s visceral, it’s ‘fuck you.’

This book packs all of that in one 321-page punch. But as much as the tome shows how Dazed celebrated ballsy youth, the magazine also looks at age through a different–albeit at times campy lens. An incredible photograph by Ben Toms (from 2011) beautifully depicts a regal looking white haired woman with a sullen young woman’s head on her lap as the pair sit on a park bench. There’s also a super-cool shot of John Waters by Jason Nocito and oh so many other incredible images by Juergen Teller, Sofia Coppola and the list goes on.

As an anthology, the book does a great job of capturing the spirit of the magazine and the times. Of course the rawness of those early days in the ’90s is gone. But the seemingly more polished veneer of the newer images and issues of Dazed & Confused still possess something of that rebel spirit.

Here’s hoping that the brilliant tome inspires people…not just to create, but to get away from our computers to do so, off the Matrix where blood and sweat aren’t just code, but blood and sweat!