In a famous city not far from Chicago, America can see a crumbling tragedy of something that was once beautiful but is now a living nightmare of wreckage and crime. Gary, Indiana; once a successful steel town and a picture of the suburban dream, home of Michael Jackson, beautiful beaches and breath taking architecture. These days, this city is mostly know for it’s crime and destruction and is a place that most people try to avoid.
One of the philosophies behind Tio Trash and the things that inspire me as a stylist / visual story teller are finding the beauty within the down trodden parts of life. There is color, character and beauty within the hopeless, damaged and ugly things in this world if you look at it from a different set of eyes. This philosophy that really churns my artistic inspiration made some of the old locations of Gary, Indiana a perfect place to tell a story of finding the exquisite beauty inside raw devastation and ugliness.
Good friend and photographer, Tony Caldaroni has a photo collection I have always been blown away by, “Urban America – Gary Crumbles”. This stunning and emotional collection captures incredible images from the remains of some of Gary’s iconic buildings and community staples that are literally now in crumbles. The photos are both beautiful and moving, really capturing the devastation of something that was once so strong and happy. Tony approached me with the idea of putting together a Tio Trash “Halloween Fashion” shoot at some of these locations, the idea was too good to be true. With just a few days of planning, Tony and I assembled our impromptu “Tio Trash Power Team”, and created some of the most amazing images you will see on Tio Trash.
We knew this would be a risky and even dangerous adventure, but with Tony’s experience, good planning and the much needed protection and assistance from professional body guard and friend, Jon “Big Jon” Fier, this shoot became a successful possibility, one I will never forget.
To maintain a haunting Halloween theme, I wanted to create a story that reflected not only elements of horror, but elements of lost love, tragedy, insanity, and abuse; elements as powerful as the setting we would be shooting in. I knew that Tio Trash models, Lily Savage and Yuri De Luna would be perfect for this shoot. These ladies have a powerful connection to the camera, but also to the energy in their surroundings and I knew that they would be touched on a deep level by the crumbling walls around them and the echoing voices of the past now silenced and stale in the cold murky air. This was an adventure for all of us, and together we brought and discovered life to a place that others deem as dead.
I put on my Danielle Steele hat in attempts to churn out a lusty drug store romance novel style story.
This is our story; a chilling and romantic tale, just in time for Halloween.
An icy cold bride with an ethereal glow waits to hand over her body and soul to her waiting lover, a strong figure in black. She weeps inside as the world around her crumbles, wondering what her life could have been. She needs her lover. She wants to serve her lover. She also wants to run away and never look back, but it is too late, she no longer belongs to herself. Her fate awaits just down the aisle, with stiff hands and eyes like black holes.
The City United Methodist Church, built in 1925, is the remains of a Gothic architectural masterpiece, a former pride of Gary, Indiana. This once elaborate and ornate church took high dollars to stay in its’ immaculate condition, so with the decline of Gary’s population, came the decline of the church. These remains are of a more obvious beauty; the archways, the stones, the stain glass windows and the light streaming in through the holes in the ceiling and floors above.
She walks slowly down the aisle, a magnetic pull lulls her in. This is not just her future, this is her eternity.
While Tony snapped shots of my freezing beauties, I kept imagining brides of the past walking down this very aisle. Were they happy and in love? Were they sealing a fate they had to settle with for reasons they had no right to choose? What sort of secrets swirled around the enchanting air, or had they all floated away with the spirits who had been set free? People once filled this church singing, praising their God and showing up just to be seen. Life had fluidly come and gone through this beautiful building and soon it will be no more.
“I have little left in myself — I must have you. The world may laugh — may call me absurd, selfish — but it does not signify. My very soul demands you: it will be satisfied, or it will take deadly vengeance on its frame.” ― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
She now belongs to her; a life full of torture and pain, yet a life she cannot exist without. Just as she fears her, she needs her. Just as she needs the blood in her body to live, she needs her lover in her soul to exist.
“You’re in my every breath and every thought, intertwined so deep inside me that love’s not a strong enough word—you have my devotion, your name branded on my soul, my wolf yours to command. A hundred years? It’ll never be enough. I want eternity.”
― Nalini Singh, Kiss of Snow
She stands glowing, not with the glow of a newly wed bride, but with a glow that she must keep if she doesn’t want to be forgotten. She doesn’t know what will happen tomorrow, but she knows how her days will end.
With a beautiful church with the rich history and aesthetic details like the City United Methodist Church holds, there are so many possible stories to tell. Because of the dark romantic feeling of the structure and the energy, I wanted to tell a cheesy/steamy romance tale with a dark twist of an obsessive, desperate and dangerous love. This is the story of Jane Eyre, Phantom of the Opera, Othello and the thousands of classic love stories we know that tell this tale.
I challenged myself to style these stories using (mostly) items found from local thrift stores, also a great way to show how to assemble an inexpensive Halloween costume. The I found the white dress on Lily from Aurora Community Thrift Store in Aurora, IL. For around $10, you can find a heinous but quality prom dress from the early 2000’s (spaghetti strap/A-Line) and turn it into a costume for any time period. This dress was simple, bridal looking, and the lacy texture pattern on the dress was perfect for this ghostly bride. You can easily add toile beneath to give it some “poof”. Whether you want to be a Zombie Bride or a ghost from the past, a simple white dress is an easy thrift store find.
She now belongs to her lover, her master. Her soul is just a quiet shadow looming in the hallways, lost and dark. Only blackness radiates from behind her glassy eyes, and her heart, though frigid, feels love for only her master. She can always feel the coal like eyes on her at all times, she can feel her beside her, behind her, inside her and around her – even when she is nowhere to be found.
Within the massive and beautiful church are many rooms to explore. Rooms that were once classrooms, a gymnasium, a theater, and more. Rooms that were used to educate and create. Now these rooms are filled with trash and remains of people who are wasting away. Garbage and needles cover the ground while names, threats and words of wisdom proudly mark the walls in colorful spray paint. Not only does the physical crumbling of the building speak of the local tragedy, but the stories left behind of the lost and drug addicted people display themselves on things like mattresses, boxes and old jackets. The souls of those that lost themselves within the decrepit walls are still hiding in the shadows, weeping and begging to be released.
“Every time I close my eyes
It’s like a dark paradise
No one compares to you
I’m scared that you won’t be waiting on the other side”
-Lana Del Rey, “Dark Paradise“
And it is a life of love and agony, submission and power, giving and denying. She does not know how to love in any other way.
Old objects collect with the rubble and dust, tangent memories of people who once bustled inside this magnificent building. An empty fire place sits hollow, with nothing left to burn. It was the perfect setting for this dark romance.
“And there’s no remedy for memory your face is
Like a melody, it won’t leave my head
Your soul is haunting me and telling me
That everything is fine
But I wish I was dead”
-Lana Del Rey, “Dark Paradise“
“She wanted him to tell her that when you love someone so hard and so fierce, it was all right to do things that you knew were wrong.”
― Jodi Picoult, Plain Truth
Photography By: Antony Caldaroni
“If you want to be given everything, give everything up.”
― Riley Murphy
Our dark powerful Master, is portrayed by the alluring model, Yuri De Luna. This character gave me another challenge to style via thrifting. Using satin black pants (owned prior from H&M), I stumbled upon what I fondly referred to as the “Matrix Jacket” at St. Vincent thrift store in Aurora, IL. With a simple black tank and a spooky cameo necklace from Party City, this jacket transformed her into a strong, sexy and feminine Master to be both feared and admired. It’s one of those pieces that to see it hanging alone in the thrift store, you grimace as you briefly imagine it on a short haired “Church lady” with high waisted matching pants and a turtle neck, but if you can isolate it and picture what else it can be, you can give it new life.
This doorway stands in front of what was once a gymnasium / basket ball court, now completely exposed to the outside.
Lily Savage embodied sultry submissive perfection in this black silk gown, a timeless staple from her personal wardrobe. Although this once served as Lily’s prom dress, her prom was not as long ago as mine, (for example), and this classic style can bring simple beauty and elegance for many times to come.
As she lit the darkened hallways, she watched the flames dance, little twinkles from Hell. She felt her somewhere close behind, unable to deny the burning sensation in her heart for the things she most desired.
No matter how far across the seas she had to travel, she would always return. For a woman that could have anything and everything, there was only one thing in the world she desired, and she would make sure it happened, even if it killed someone.
Here we have another thrift store win with both of these looks! The satin red dress featured on Lily, is a $7 Goodwill find. The military jacket on Yuri came from Aurora Community thrift for about $10. Both of these items make for great “old timey” costumes and can be drastically changed simply by hair and make up choices.
The Tio Trash team had a very memorable experience in the City United Methodist Church of Gary, Indiana. Exciting, moving, and even haunting for a few, there was so much beauty to be discovered beneath the piles of failure and traces of pain. Human energy was very much alive in this building as it’s now home to junkies, runaways and the people of the streets. It’s a loud presence of the past in the chillingly still down town of Gary, something to be noticed and not forgotten.
For amazing, creepy footage live from inside, check out what Lily Savage captured on her YouTube Channel: Lily Savage !
The next stop in our fashion / photography Gary adventure was the old and abandoned, Palace Theater. The theater opened to Gary’s residents in 1925, but has been abandoned for over 40 years leaving crime, drugs, and beings unknown to take over the inside.
Step right up, and get your tickets for our next chilling tale!
The old ticket booth at the Palace Theater in Gary, Indiana.
Above the Palace Theater, remains random dilapidated apartments and offices, including a creepy old doctors office. This was the perfect set to create a kinky medical story from your wildest horror fantasies.
Model, Lily Savage, alerted me to the horror film, “American Mary“, starring horror’s sweet heart, Katharine Isabelle.
“Doctor” Mary mutates a patient.
“American Mary is the story of a medical student named Mary who is growing increasingly broke and disenchanted with medical school and the established doctors she once idolized. The allure of easy money sends a desperate Mary through the messy world of underground surgeries which leaves more marks on her than the so-called freakish clientele.” – Twisted Sisters Productions
The Doctor will see you now and she’s got what you need to feel much better. Step into my office, I will make all of your aches and pains disappear.
Inspired by the signature “Mary” look, Miss Savage assembled a black leather skirt, black tank, and black heels to become the sadistic and depraved Doctor of our story. Yuri, on the other hand, summoned her own inner demons and let the crazy take over as she became the demented loony tune patient and receiver of Doctor’s unorthodox procedures.
The patient is ready for treatment. There is no cure for her condition, but I know a very controversial procedure that might do the trick.
I will first need to remove all sharp objects from the operating room. My patient may experience heightened strength and sensitivity and I cannot take any chances.
There is nothing to be afraid of, you are in very good hands. A little pain will be well worth it if I can get you feeling good.
A doctor should never assume that she can safely contain her patient.
Not only do these photos give me goosebumps galore, but for some reason I am hearing a thick Eastern European accent, several Rihanna songs and a little Michael Jackson as well. This scene was a creepy blast to shoot! Avoiding constant death and danger in an old crumbling building is one way to get a rush, but playing the parts of the demented doc and patient were a delightful treat for my twisted little Tio Trash starlets, who clearly NAILED IT! It was quite amazing how rooms full of dirt and decay lent themselves so brilliantly into our stories!
This was absolutely the most interesting and exciting photography project I have ever been involved in and I can’t savor it enough!
All seriousness aside, there is no creepier place than these dark and deserted buildings in Gary, Indiana. The brutal reality of the situation is devastating, but bringing a little life and energy to a place like this is both eye opening and invigorating. My mom and her family grew up in Gary, Indiana and I have heard the stories about what a wonderful place it was to grow up before crime and poverty to their tolls.
This experience was another reminder that as ugly as life can be, there is always something beautiful to be found. Whether in a memory, a ray of hope, an unlikely or unusual prettiness or the vibrance of the human spirit, we have to look in all the crevices and corners to find what is truly beautiful.
Behind the Scenes …
Once a beautiful church, now a junkie’s palace.
Desperation; the rough and raw reality.
Getting into character despite her surroundings.
Good thing we had flashlights …
The old ticket booth from the Palace Theater.
Even I got the chills at this one!
Antony Caldaroni: Photography, Imaging, Editing, Creative/Ideas, Trail Leader, Rock Star
Not only did Antony guide the way through these treacherous trails, I have to thank him for his real life guidance and constant support in my Tio Trash ventures. I am constantly in awe of his talent, creativity and positive energy. I am so thankful to have another experience working with him at Tio Trash! I still cannot get over these amazing photos, seriously !?!?!?!
Follow his website, AJC Imaging, to view more photos from the shoot (coming soon), and all of his other amazing photo adventures.
Jon “Big Jon” Fier: Body Guard Extraordinary, Crew Member
This mission would not have been possible without Big Jon! Gary is not exactly a place to play without supervision. We were able to keep peace of mind with Jon keeping us safe and guarded. Not only that, Jon is responsible for much of the amazing lighting and photo assistance and was an overall HUGE help! (no pun intended) Thanks a million!
Models: These ladies were such team players, hiking around in dangerous conditions, freezing their little butts off ALL DAY, and getting down and literally dirty in these filthy old buildings. Their cam chemistry is unbeatable and I couldn’t have asked for more perfect girls for this shoot! I’m glad you ladies are sick individuals and love this stuff!
Lily Savage: Model – Bride/Doctor
Once again, super star Lily brought style, energy and spunk to the Tio Trash set. With her love of horror films and all things creepy, Lily was an essential creative brain behind the stylings and shots. Her fabulous hair and make up were done herself as well!
She captured tons of creepy footage on set, make sure to tune in to her YouTube Channel: Lily Savage to check it out!
Yuri De Luna: Model – Master/Patient
Miss De Luna combined her seductive charm and love of the “dark side” to bring life and energy to the set. Her artistic eye and creative contributions kept the photos flowing all day. Her energy and humor were much needed in this depressing and cold setting to get us through the day! Love you!
THANK YOU AND LOVE TO ALL!
Stay Trashy, Stay ALIVE!