NEW YORK — For those who sat alone at the lunch table, for those whose houses were wrapped with TP, for those who scowled through their senior year portraits — the time has come. Independent curator James Fuentes and jewelry designer Waris have set out to create a new and improved yearbook, featuring 450 artists, fashion designers and musicians of what they call The New York School Class of 2002. “Most of these people weren’t so cool in high school,” says Fuentes. “This is their redemption.”
After hours, in the showroom space above Agnes b, designer Peter Som, photographer Ryan McGinley and the members of the design team As Four file in to sit for two frames each in front of Tom Warren’s camera. “I wore a crested Black Watch plaid blazer and pleated skirt for my yearbook picture,” says Christine Kim, a curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, as she strikes a pose. She has worn her gold high school ring to commemorate and Som’s sexy top.
“We’re recording history while it’s happening,” says Fuentes. “It’s a way to immortalize the community. Ten years down the line when some of these people have become famous, it will be important to remember everyone else who was around at the time. Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum. These people are all influencing one another.”
So far Fuentes, who closed his Broome Street art gallery last year, has ushered 100 subjects through the process — including Thuy Pham of United Bamboo, Benjamin Cho, Zac Posen, DJ Paul Sevigny, actress Paz de la Huerta — and will continue tracking down those most likely to succeed throughout the summer.
“We tried to come up with one criterion to determine who should be included, but that changes,” he says. Instead, the two co-editors fight it out, taking turns justifying each inclusion to the other. “Of course it’s going to be really opinionated,” says Fuentes, “but there’s no way around that.” The resulting 300-page book is slated for release next spring.
Kai of As Four looks over Fuentes’ own yearbook from Mount Saint Michael Academy in the Bronx, complete with black marker scribbles that distort Fuentes’ hair. “We don’t have yearbooks in Germany,” says Kai. “I’m an American now. This should be part of the immigration process.” He takes his place in front of the camera dressed in a spangled top and gold pointy boots for the occasion.
“What’s your costume for?” asks Warren.
“This is my everyday costume,” quips Kai.
Back in high school, dressing like a freak got many of the book’s subjects into trouble. These days, it’s all part of a fashion star’s appeal. But some things never change. Zac Posen drops by the shoot to see how his new yearbook photo turned out.
“Oh great,” he says. “I’ve got a huge zit in this picture.””