Every week this year, the Lainsville Freak Town Herald is chronicling some of the alternative community's biggest players. This week, Todd Jones models for one of the top controversial BDSM photographers in the area, possibly even the country.
The Red Spotlight: Tomasz Dusicielski
by Todd Jones, FTH staff writer and wolf magnet
About that picture? Yeah. Hold on a minute.
We got a lot of feedback from our first Spotlight feature, mostly because Hawk swears a lot and we didn't edit it out. I don't really understand how someone can complain about profanity from someone else who threatened to use yours truly as a sex toy just to keep up his reputation, but you can find some of the best responses in this week's letter column.
Keeping with the theme of 'tall, intimidating men in leather business suits', I sat down to have a chat with one of the more prominent fetish photographers of the last decade, Lainsville's own Tomasz Dusicielski.
Actually, when I showed up at his studio-slash-apartment downtown, he almost slammed the door on me. "I don't want any, go find some other shit," he said, and I had to actually stick my foot in the door to keep him from slamming it. I hurridly introduced myself and reminded him that we had an interview appointment. "Oh, you are fox bitch who was playing with wolf last week." Thanks to Hawk, I had a new reputation.
Tomasz was a cougar and like most cougars, he looked pissed off just by existing. He had a tendency to squint and turn his ears back a lot, and was prone to flexing his hands like he was going to swat me. He was clearly tolerating my presence, and just barely at that. However, as he tried to be polite, it became pretty obvious that he barely tolerated anything. The simple act of making me coffee unleashed a steady stream of rowling displeasure at everything in his kitchen.
While Tomasz called his coffee machine a dirty pair of whore's underwear (At least that's what an intern who knows Polish said when I played him the interview recording), I had a look around. He lived in a big loft apartment where the kitchen, living room, and dining area all merged into one huge space. Mixed in with upscale black leather furniture was camera equipment: hot lights and strobes, seamless backgrounds, gobos and tripods. I knew cigars for the first interview; I knew camera equipment for this one.
Which Tomasz did not care to talk about at all. "This machine stuff, I don't care about it, I just want to take pictures. I need to have light, so I buy light. I need to have camera, so I buy camera. I need victims, so I go out and find people."
"I don't say victims, what are you talking about?"
So I played it back for him, and he hissed in my face. I mean all-out fangy big-yawn spit-spray throat-rattling hiss.
Tomasz was Polish, and the only person I'd ever met who was human-born. He had come to this country with his family and ended up in Albany. His family struggled to make ends meet, doomed by his father's gambling addiction.
Then, shortly after his tenth birthday, Tomasz got sick. "I had the flu, but then I stopped having all the, I don't know, sneezing and coughing, and just had fever and aches and had it for months and months. Then it got worse and finally one day I faint in school, so my parents take me to hospital, and I was there for ever, no one knew what was wrong, only that I was maybe dying. It was animal sickness."
Animal sickness is, of course, the retrovirus that threatened to wipe out most of humanity and that started the whole hybrid community. These days, there are only a handful of cases each year, mostly in developing countries. That explained why Tomasz got the short end of the stick; by the time he was admitted to the hospital, his body was starting to turn into one large cancer. That meant one treatment: being turned into a hybrid. The disease has a much more effective treatment if caught early during regular screenings, but the last ditch attempt is the hybrid conversion.
Tomasz spent two years having his body killed and replaced in situ with that of an IPC-2 cougar. To compound the trauma, he was made a ward of the state halfway through as his parents tried to declare bankruptcy and ended up being deported. Without his family there to help him through the process, he had to gain his wits with the help of medical staff that, in his own words, "were useless shits of humans." Afterwards, he was sent to a foster family that were oppressive Catholics.
He spent the rest of his school years struggling to stay in his grade, suffering from broken English and a bad attitude, not to mention poor social skills. He blamed the transformation. "I am like an animal that can think too much, or maybe a human that cannot stop having animal thoughts, it invades everything, I am distracted and I hunger and lust for things and it fills me up until I want to scream and run around and, and make biting on everyone and even worse, I don't know."
Interviewing him was very hard, because he would often decide to tell me something irrelevant to the question I'd ask, or he'd tell me to fuck off or mutter something only to come back and answer it later in the evening with no provocation. Not to mention the poor command of English, something that he admitted he could probably work more on. "But then I would be some good statement of how it works to be a hybrid, but that is not true, hybrids are slaves for humanity and I am broken."
Despite being churned up by the state medical system and spit out as a broken, snarling, chirping cougar, Tomasz managed to find his niche. He befriended his downstairs neighbor (who, interestingly enough, is also someone I will be interviewing) and ended up buying a digital camera off him. Tomasz immediately discovered that his unusual state gave him a unique perspective and started documenting everything he could with the camera.
"No, that isn't how I say it," he corrected me, as he started setting up an array of lights. "Things happen, and they mean other things, and I like to document the... I like to see the time and space of a situation, the horror and beauty and matter-of-fact? Is that the word? And I am freak, I like to have sex and do terrible things at same time, and so that is what I take pictures of."
His studio was rimmed with some of his photos, almost like a ceiling-edge wallpaper border, placed up high enough that they'd never be in most shots. They had dates underneath, like a giant timeline. The actual quality of the photography didn't change much but his style slowly morphed. His early shots were shockingly candid and stark, frank work that evoked Robert Mapplethorpe. They grew increasingly polished, but still frank and disturbing, often triptychs that explored some poor sap's sexually violent torture.
Tomasz agreed to be interviewed on one condition: that I would model for him. Okay, sure. I'd seen quite a bit of his artwork before, especially some that he'd done for an ad agency that wasn't particularly erotic (although unsettling.) I also promised that we'd print his choice of photo from the shoot alongside my shot of him looking like he wanted to throw me out of his apartment, which was how he looked the entire night.
After I saw his little timeline of photos in his studio, I wasn't so sure I wanted to model, and I was definitely sure that we'd have fun trying to print an unedited photo. One of the models in some of his early shots was a fox, and that fox was not shy. Or, if he was shy, Tomasz took pictures of him anyway. The final one he appeared in looked like some kind of alien-machine rape scene.
Tomasz disappeared into a room that he announced as his dungeon, which he suggested I not go into if I was squeamish. I wasn't really squeamish, but I also thought it might be some kind of foreshadowing trap so I stayed put.
He returned with one of those big black trays that you mix cement in. "You stand in this," he said, and put it in front of the sofa.
Now, you really do have to read this next part in order to truly understand what Tomasz is about. It's frank because he's frank, frank and broken. Also, I have the go-ahead to freak people out from the editors. If little old ladies who complain to the FCC when they see boobs on TV are reading this newspaper, they shouldn't be writing in to complain. It's called the fucking Freak Town Herald for a reason.
Tomasz set up his camera to be triggered remotely and then came over to me. He wore a black leather suit, with the blazer made out of black hornback alligator leather and the pants of regular cow or lamb. His cowboy boots matched the jacket, and as he finished setting up his camera, he pulled on a pair of black riding gloves.
He walked up and came up behind me, then grabbed me around the front of the chest. "Now I take pictures of fox who makes porn video," he said, and then strangled me with his black-gloved hands. "I know who you are, I see you with wolf-dog and some human. Fox is filthy."
I moonlight as a videographer for Rough Trade Studios. Yes, it's true. I film porn. That's all the plug I'm going to give myself.
He strangled me, and I peed myself, and that's why there's a photo of me looking like I spilled coffee on my lap next to one of Tomasz looking like he wants to claw my face (I was the cameraman for that secondshot) off my head.
I am convinced that the editors are going to use this series to humiliate me. You're all coming along.