The work of Genie Kausto, a creative, character building duo made up of hair artist Evanie Frausto and photographer George Kan, has many descriptions. From “camp, comical, stinky” through to “whimsical, subversive, stupid” and even “gross”, the pair’s unique partnership sees them meticulously form narrative-driven worlds, within the proportions of a photograph’s frame.
Built from a mutual fascination with character, for Evanie, “looking back, I’ve just always loved hair,” he tells It’s Nice That. From wrapping a towel around his head to being a scene kid and bleaching and hacking at friends’ extensions, hair’s ability to be an immediate visual portrayal of personality has always been an inspiration. “It changes the way we move,” Evanie adds, “our gestures, the way we think, it’s playful and liberating.” Although handling a separate creative media, “I think that’s where we’re really in sync,” chips in George. “What I think photography has is the lack of control, and the possibility of the camera also seeing the mistakes. It’s very theatrical, because not only does the camera get the character, but it also gets the person underneath.”
Within their work, this focus on character sits centre stage but the props and storyline around it differ hugely from shot to shot. Inspired by “so much”, a nugget of influence Evanie and George both reference is Paul McCarthy’s film, Painter. Made in 1995, the film stars the artist himself, “as a kind of cartoon version of a painter,” as Evanie puts it. “He’s got a prosthetic nose and hands, so you can’t really see him.” The beginning minutes of the film, before it gets too absurd, is the section the pair love and pull from the most, as “a great example of what I was trying to say about photography,” says George. “Where it sits on the familiar vs strange line. McCarthy’s video is also about the artist’s work being as much the fashioning of a person as doing the painting itself. And that sits with us too, particularly in the days of Instagram.”
Although hardworking in their creative endeavours as Genie Kausto – before lockdown both worked all day, came home, ate, then worked late into the night – it was only earlier this year that the pair were first paid for their work. Creating a series of images for Vice, having “just that little bit of money gave us suddenly the possibility of getting the stuff we wanted and actually prioritising time for making the images,” explains George. “It really advanced our work I think, having that experience.” Lockdown was soon introduced afterwards, but this hasn’t put any kind of dampener on the pair’s work, using the restrictions of being at home to their creative advantage.
For example, within Couples Retreat, a recent series by the pair, Evanie and George utilised the opportunity to use the house as a set “and letting more of a narrative creep into the pictures,” points out George. In another, Family Portrait, they roped in George’s family who they were quarantined with. “I loved incorporating people,” adds Evanie, “because it was really fun to see everyone get so into it. Even though George and I had come up with the characters and things, everyone really grasped their character and went for it when it was their turn. It was about bringing humour into the moment, creating this space for shared fantasy and play.”
With themselves often portrayed in the work too, when discussing how the pair think audiences might respond to their output, both agree that there aren’t any specific hopes: “We do it because we do it.” However, sometimes unexpected reactions reveal a new side to the work, George describes: “We live in the kind of area where people don’t dress very outlandishly but, during one of our government-sanctioned walks, neighbours would come up to us in the street, people whom we had no idea had seen our stuff, and they would say how much they were loving the photos and were eager for the next one,” he explains. “I think that’s the highest praise one can hope for.”
Genie Kausto for Office Magazine
About the Author
Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.