Justice Howard’s Voodoo
A photographic essay of contemporary Voodoo spirits
Major religions don’t do much image control; with his long hair and white skin, the hippyesque Jesus of the 21st century looks identical to the savior of the 11th century. The Buddha is also presented as the same old, same old; hair or no hair, it’s the smilin’ guy with the big gut and funny hand. And fuhgeddaboud Muhammad, he’s been the same unshaven guy for centuries. With new converts daily to each of these faiths, its apparent that the priests, bhikkhuni and imams see no need to modernize their CEO upstairs; to paraphrase a famous Zen meditation, if you see the buddha on the road, don’t give him a gym membership.
According to Voodoo priestess and occult expert, Bloody Mary, “many scholars believe Voodoo to be the world’s oldest religion.” Unfortunately, being the “ur-religion” of this mortal coil hasn’t resulted in Voodoo having the legions of faithful enjoyed by more popular systems of belief. Enter Justice Howard, a notorious and remarkably talented photographer who recently decided it was time to bring the Voodoo spirits, mediums, priests, and priestess mothers into the 21st Century. So, even though 999 AD was a helluva year, and those traditional robes are stunning, it’s a Post-Millennial world now and a new look is in order.
Howard realized that, “a modern Voodoo photo series on this complicated, often misconceived religion had never been done like this before.” With the guidance of Bloody Mary, Howard embarked on a photographic crusade to style-up the images of particular Voodoo entities. The result is the book “Justice Howard’s Voodoo”, and it features a foreword by the famous cultural renegade John Gilmore .
What Howard achieves in this book is quite remarkable; with her skillful photographs she creates entirely new images for many established Voodoo deities. Consequently, when paired up with Bloody Mary’s “who and why” revelations regarding each individual sprite, the reader is presented with a “Thoroughly Modern Legba.” Styled by Howard herself, the models representing the different Voodoo players are young and attractive, featuring hair styles and tattoos that would make them seem equally comfortable both at Burning Man and a ritual in the backroom of Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo on Bourbon Street. Followers of traditional Voodoo style and dress may resent their religion being associated with contemporary Alternative Culture, but Howard is cognizant that traditional concepts must be made attractive to initiate a new generation of Voodoo devotees.
With this in mind, contemporary religions that refuse to update their sacred texts or modernize their main players for the New Millennia would seem to be guaranteeing their eventual obsolescence. Consequently, Howard’s work acts as photographic proselytism for a belief system beneath most people’s radar. None of the major organized religions seem to be averting global disaster, so why not take a tip from Howard and get involved in something attractively mysterious before the lights go out?
Please attend the Los Angeles book release party for Justice Howard’s Voodoo, beginning 8 PM on October 5th at Lethal Amounts Gallery, 1226 W. 7th St. LACA