One of my Christmas “stocking fillers” was a book by Tony Stamolis, titled T&T&A. The middle T stands for tacos, the T and A stand for exactly what you’d expect.
Stamolis is, I suppose, what you’d call a glamour photographer, if such a thing still exists these days. He takes pictures of naked women, but the end result is a long way from hardcore pornography. The girls are an interesting bunch, of the tough, chipped-nail-polish, dodgy-tattoo variety. Some of them are very sexy-looking and some of them are just plain rough-looking, though perhaps we’d disagree about which are which.
In either case, there’s something quite special about Stamolis’s photographs. Sure, they’re titillating and meant to be, but they’re portraits as much as pinups. Stamolis makes the women look interesting, flaws and all. He makes them look like individuals.
But the unique selling point of T&T&A is that interspersed with the photographs of the women, are photographs of tacos. And of course there’s an unavoidable tendency to think Stamolis is making some visual pun involving food and women; that they’re both fast and cheap and tasty. Although again, some of those tacos do look a bit unappetizing.
Or maybe he isn’t really dealing in visual metaphors. Maybe he’s just taking photographs of the things he likes; hot babes and hot tacos. And it works. I find myself returning frequently to the book, looking at the women’s piercings and facial tattoos, looking at the guacamole and the shredded lettuce accompanying the tacos. The appetite does indeed get stimulated.
At the back of the book there’s a list of the models’ names and also where the tacos came from. Quite a lot of the taco joints are in Fresno, which is, or was, Stamolis’s home town, and inevitably I haven’t been to any of those. Some are in New York, but I haven’t been to those either, and although a few are in L.A. I’ve only been to one of them, and that’s Machos Tacos, in Los Feliz, tucked in beside a car wash, just off Hollywood Boulevard. I had fish tacos there, which were pretty ordinary but they hit the spot at the time.
Stamolis did an interview with the Portland Mercury in which he described the reaction of an anonymous viewer who looked at the book and “he didn't know whether to go to the bathroom and masturbate, or run to the nearest taqueria.” Stamolis adds, “I thought that was kind of ridiculous.” Ridiculous or not, I think there’ll be a lot of people who find it entirely understandable.