About six months ago, I flew out to Chicago to photograph three incredible human beings. One was a part-musician, part-comedian. The other two will be revealed in later “people of Chicago” posts. Today, I’m focusing on Matt Griffo.
What first got me interested in photographing his face was his voice. Not only that, but the way he crafted his songs, most being slightly inappropriate, had mothers to requesting him at children’s birthday parties. That in itself I found hilarious enough to want to get to know this person.
We had greeted one another by me standing in his front yard and ignoring him as he waved from down the street. I forgot that not everywhere is like New York and not everyone is looking for spare change for the “subway system.” Sorry Matt.
Despite being around people constantly, I was feeling pretty alone in Chicago.
Before the trip, someone had recently stepped out of my life and I found myself staying in on the weekends to avoid an awkward encounter. I was hoping that by leaving town for a few days, I would start to heal. Instead, I found the pain followed me on the flight there and seemed to hit at the worst of times, which meant any moment I started to relax. It threw my game off, I felt myself fumbling with the lights and my camera settings I knew by heart as I tried to maintain my composure as a Normal Human Girl around Matt and his wife. It felt like a disaster.
For reasons still unknown to me, they invited me to his lady’s burlesque show that night.
Burlesque has always fascinated me, watching strong-willed, powerful women twirl around on stage took not only killer legs, but also a lot of courage to sometimes be almost completely naked in the process. I probably watched the movie Burlesquea dozen times in the year it came out, completely entranced by the outfits, and of course, my girl Cher. I’m going to leave this video here so you can see what I mean. “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” STILL makes me want to cry every time I listen to it.
But this was to be my first, live burlesque show; no way was I going to miss this. Getting there earlier than need be, I took my seat at the bar off to the side and observed the people who trickled in and sat on the other side of the room. Everyone seemed to have someone there to see the show with, even the bartender was preoccupied with grabbing some girl’s butt behind the bar. At this point, I wasn’t sure if I had made a big mistake in coming here. As I got my wallet out to close out my tab, Matt materialized in the seat next to me. I guess I hadn’t seemed like too much of a bumbling mess a few hours prior as two large pizza slices plop down in front of us. Again, maybe I’m just not used to the Midwestern niceness, but after the second slice sat there untouched, Matt let me know he had bought it for me. In New York City, you know not to touch another’s pizza slice, so I figured the same rules applied.
But hey, I’m learning.
Watching the show and obsessing over the amount of sequins on everything, I forgot about the pain. Maybe it was going to be waiting for me at the door, ready to attack once I had emerged. But for those few hours, I felt as free at the incredible women who dominated the stage. The bartender even managed to detangle himself from the other girl, walked over and poured me, as well as himself, a hefty shot of whiskey. No words were exchanged, we both just drank and after slamming the glass down he returned to work . I’m still trying to figure that one out.
Seeing Matt look at his wife with love in his eyes made me a little more hopeful for the future. Both of them surely had gone through their own scores of heartbreak over the years, feeling something similar to what was churning inside of me at one point or another. It made me realize it doesn’t matter in the end, it somehow ultimately lead them to each other. And after seeing the two of them interact, that was all the proof I needed that things were going to all work out eventually.