Elmo Tide doesn't have a website. There isn't a biography or resume or mission statement of his to be found online. What he does have is a Flickr page that has been updated exactly twice: once on June 28, 2008, and again on July 31, 2010. His photos have shown up on dozens of alternative art blogs, always with a link to his Flickr page, never with any context; often with the question, "Who is Elmo Tide?" My attempt to uncover the truth ended up sucking me into the warped recesses of Elmo's tide pools. Who is Elmo Tide? He is an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in bacon.
His photographs seem like anachronistic souvenirs from a time that never existed, a weird mix of sleaze and nostalgia littered with archetypes of cowboys, firefighters, wrestlers and strippers. Robert Frank and Fellini go to the carnival.
He declined my first request for an interview but later agreed to answer a few questions by e-mail. What follows is the highly entertaining yet utterly uninformative result.
Who is Elmo Tide? Why the mystery?
Elmo Tide lives in fading shadows and regret.
Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares? What happens?
Elmo had dreams. They lifted rage to be heralded as passion and fear to be lauded as irony. In them he felt superior and in his isolated elated thoughts of immortality his endless dread of complete and utter loss wrestled with tubes of empty model airplane glue until waking was as impossible as ending anything that was never begun.
Do you have a desk job?
A desk job is very much like a nose or a boob job in that being unhappy with who we are we hide behind someone else's creation. I made a very small desk from an old matchbox and 4 blood stained tooth picks. I carry it in my breast pocket. In the matchbox is a tiny tome written in classical Arabic which I cannot read.
What did you want to grow up to be when you were young?
When I was little I wanted to grow up to be young. Or fire.
And there it is folks; Elmo Tide reveals himself. Without really saying anything.