Thirty years ago in 1993. I embarked on a new body of work that explored our rights in America to freedom of expression. My subjects were from all walks of life, from various races, religious backgrounds and sexual persuasions. This melting pot that stubbornly defines America formed the palette of a series of black and white photographs that defined an era. What was that era? It was the time in which sexual freedom and multiculturalism was on the rise.
Unfortunately, in these times there are certain bigoted elements of our society that continue to attempt to roll back the hands of time. Sadly, Facisim in America is on the rise. Obsessions as a body of work reminds us of what we once were and still are, a free and open society in which each individual American is free to choose and be who they are.
And what’s all this about being a sub? I could be a switch. Depends on how much tequila I’ve had before 10am.
Alice even tried to change my name. She thought it would be funny if I was called Celia, an anagram of Alice. Talk about an ego! You have got to be fucking kidding me. When did a “Celia” ever do anything to offend anybody? Lyra is much better.
My name comes from Orpheus’s legendary “lyre”.
And, of course, lyre sounds like liar. Works for me.
I burst into existence pretty much in parallel with Alice. As Alice alluded to, you cannot have day without night, light without darkness. I don’t flat line (well not for a long time I hope). I am the sine curve. The parabola – two standard deviations from the mean if you get the gist.
After Alice had done her sweet little photo shoot with Tony, and after we got rid of Patrick, off came those nice clothes, and then it was my turn. Alice, wrapped up in a shawl – how lovely. How feminine, like they said. But it doesn’t get your juices flowing, not like a black plastic maid’s outfit with a little bit of lace; like a bit of constraint, if you know what I mean? Alice – that sub – and chastity? I mean, honey, really? Pass me the fucking superglue.
You know it’s October 1, right? Locktober. When people challenge themselves to be locked up in chastity for a full 31 days – or whatever you can manage. Just try it boys. Give me a call on day 28, so I can laugh down the phone at you. And, you also know October 1 is Tony’s birthday, the same day, right? The day we publish.
Now there is a true visionary.
Of course, it’s a simple question. Am I, Lyra, actually real? Or are these just made-up words to create a story? Is this Fight Club all over again? Yes? No?
You’ll have to draw your own conclusions. But here’s the thing. There’s Patrick prancing around in NYC Central Station in his tie and sunglasses and cravat, doing his nails, and mostly, people are pretty cool with that. And he seems comfortable with it. Well done him.
And then there is Alice, and she’s looking a little pensive and nervous at the start, but slowly finds herself in those pictures. Tony teases out that more confident sense-of-self for Alice as the shoot goes on (cameras never lie when an expert is wielding them), and I have to admit it, however begrudgingly, she looks really good in that wrap-around dress. It’s just a single piece of cloth for fucks sake, held in place where the camera cannot see with grips and pegs, damn it.
The reason for Alice looking “really good” in nothing to do with Alice of course (though I would say that, wouldn’t I). It is due to the style brought to the shoot by KVaughn, who arrived with a suitcase full of the most beautiful materials as well as his signature scarves and in addition, lots of extras including rings, necklaces, and killer sunglasses. You can see some more of him in the BTS material – this section is reserved for me, so he’s not having a look in here! Anyway, we’d all like to thank him.
Where was I? Oh yes …
But she looks good. Even I fancy her. I mean I wouldn’t mind strapping on a … (Lyra, careful – Patrick and Alice).
Yeah, well, whatever. We all have a Lyra, don’t we? I can see her, hiding behind Patrick’s glasses as he looks to the sky, that twinkle in Alice’s eye as she lets that gold dress ride up a little too far. (That was me doing that actually – not Alice.)
Alice knows she wants to, but she lacks courage. I don’t. I imagine myself in a net, thrashing and spitting, angry that my own sense-of-self (as “inappropriate” as it might be), is being suppressed. And so, the pictures that they (yes – those two – Patrick and Alice) are letting Tony and I publish, are just the tip of the red-hot iceberg, dear readers. You have no idea, though I hope you can imagine.
You see, we have a problem. Anything on the Internet can be ripped out, de-contextualized, presented as something that it was never intended to be. And whilst the current cancel culture has its absolute place for people who are being hurtful, in the world of transport (from where I am led to believe, Patrick part-funds my outfits) as well as cancellations, there are reinstatements. And indeed, alterations. But Patrick (and to an extent Alice – though she just goes with the flow – ha, there I go again!) fear being ostracized. And perhaps they should. Or perhaps they/he should grow a pair, and then not put on that cage.
So, I’m censored. Isn’t life a bitch!
Lyra would love to show you everything (and I mean, everything!), but deep down, even she is nervous. Maybe. I’m Lyra and I am holding a grenade, my elegant, flirtatious fingers on the pin, playing with it, twisting it, teasing it, but for now, leaving it in place.
You just know I’d love to pull out that pin and toss the grenade, that sense of self-destruction bringing the most exquisite frisson. Oh, the edging. But there would be collateral damage, so much so, that it might actually take me out as well in the force of the societal explosion. And perhaps a little like Leland, Bob, and Laura in that amazing world of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, if I’m going, then I’m taking Patrick and Alice with me. I might live on my own, but they’d be done. And everything they built could crumble and collapse about them. Like at the end of The Dice Man.
Of course, if that Tony Ward character who really “got me”, came to Lyra and said, “I hate those cropped pictures, but I get that Internet misrepresentation bit, blah blah”, and then added “Tell you what, Lyra. How about a solo show – just you, not those other two hangers-on with all their baggage. I’ll protect your anonymity. Maybe we’ll do a book – or maybe an exhibit with massive pictures of you.”, then my mind would start whirling.
I’d think of Tony’s other work, of the world of burlesque, of edgy lifestyles, of sensuality, of eroticism, of sexuality. Of the conflict between biological sex and gender, of the blurring of identify.
If you take different colored lights and mix them, sometimes the result is an intense bright diamond-white, but do the same with paint and you end up with sludge brown. But mixtures, diversity, difference – they are wonderful things. They keep the world from being stale and boring. They should be celebrated. Not ridiculed.
“Ridicule is nothing to be scared of.”
But Lyra cannot exist on her own. She is part of Alice, in the same way that Alice is part of Patrick. I’m not sure Lyra and Patrick have very much in common, but they have a go-between.
Stephen King got “Lyra” in his writing. Nineteen years of digging. “I find I’m so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.”
So, for better or worse, for now, you’ll have to make do with a few doctored images, a sub-set (do you see what I did there?) of the type of censorship that the conspiracy theorists would have you believe is around us 24/7.
And yet, here it is. Or is it. Was there ever anything more daring? Tony knows. Lyra knows. Alice knows. And, I guess, Patrick knows.
It’s been a pleasure. Tony Ward and his whole crew have our admiration and love.
I hope I’ll be back in some form, but for now – “Lyra, out”.
About The Author:
Lyra is 56 (what, the same age as our other protagonists? No way!). If Alice is the light, then Lyra is the darkness. Patrick distances himself from Lyra, as she is nothing but trouble, and is often bang-out-of-order. She is the whole package – fuse, spark and explosive. She has no responsibility at all. Patrick and Alice are, to be fair, slightly concerned.
You will unwrap more about her when you read what she has to say about herself, though she is, of course, totally untrustworthy, so take it all with a pinch of salt.
We invite you to join us for an exploration of human vulnerability and the timeless beauty of the unadorned form. “OBSESSIONS” is an ode to the human spirit, a celebration of the profound authenticity that lies with us.
It wasn’t the first time nor the second but it was the first time that the realization come across my mind that there was a possible uniqueness to her.
Love can cause feeling to seem bigger, emotions to be expressed louder and touches to feel that much better – but a stranger says so then……..
When I adventured out on our first date I knew the attraction was strong. Be a lady I told myself and keep both feet on the floor.
Dinner was delicious but I couldn’t take my eyes off of his massive pecks which he seemed to flex ever time he put the fork to his full plump lips.
Part of me knew I would feel this lips before I knew his last name and I would feel them on my lips that can’t kiss back.
I quivered because time is not on my side when the desire peeks. She’s awake and my thong was soaked.
I shouldn’t have worn that skirt. How would I explain what he would see if someone were to turn up the lights in the restaurant or maybe that’s why they kept them dim.
I think he knew. My tell isn’t just in one spot, it was as if someone turned the air conditioner on freeze and my two full ripe melons had gumdrops waiting to be sucked right there across the table.
That’s when he said to the waitress – check please. He knew.
I wiggled and tried not to make any further eye contact but his scent had already filled our space. I needed to get closer.
He stood up and I could tell he had been thinking some of the same thoughts and he was not afraid for me to see.
He reached out his hand and asked- “shall we go” I smiled – never saying one word. I just followed his lead. He spoke but all I could do was to watch his shoulders that looked as if he had been lifting massive bolders daily. His amazing physique made me want to inspect more closely for the reason why his right pocket seemed to be bigger than his left.
We got to his SUV and he opened the door and help me climb in. As I did the heel of my shoe caught on the rug of the passenger side floor causing my skirt to lift. I didn’t pull it down. I just look at my red lace thong as it revealed itself to him. It was an invitation.
It wasn’t long before I felt this plump juicy caramel lips on my mouth and on how passionate. We were like animals in heat in a parked car not caring who was watching.
It happened quickly, his hand lowered to my tiny red thong and that’s when he discovered a new definition of juicy.
She was ripe ready and willing and he didn’t waste time. He didn’t know my last name or even my zodiac sign but he would soon find out that I am one of very few who upon reaching a pinnacle a squirt follows.
His girth caused a moan that had to be muzzled with his hand but he too was unable to hold his load. As he pulled my hair with one hand and held my mouth with the other his second insertion cause an explosion which It felt deep inside.
His only words were too wet too tight.
Editor’s Note: These pictures are from Tony Ward’s first book Obsessions, published by Editions Stemmle, Zurich Switzerland in 1998. An exhibition of photography by Tony Ward of the Obsessions pictures from the years 1993 – 1998 will be on display at Prism Arts Philadelphia from October 6th – October 27, 2023. For more information, link here: https://www.prismartsphiladelphia.com/events/obsessions-by-tony-ward