Rio Abundez

Photo by Rio Abundez

This content is co-presented by PlayThey Studios.

On Thursday, July 14, Pony will display an array of film and instant photos by Rio Abundez that highlight the beauty and oddity of Seattle’s queer nightlife scenes. If you take part in Seattle’s music, art, or party scenes, you may recognize Rio, who prefers they/them pronouns, for their masked outfits and interesting cameras or for being a skilled collaborator and beloved personality. I sat down with Rio while preparing for a mutual project to ask them about more about Creatures of the Night.

What’s the idea behind this show?

I want everyone seeing the progress of these parties. For a while, I’d been taking pictures for parties. When I first started going out, I was like ‘I’m 21. I can go out now!’ and I slowly started picking up my film cameras. They’re all toy film stuff and just thought ‘why not? Let’s take pictures.’ At first they were really cute and candid. People just [posing] like ‘Oh look at me. I’m smiling with my friends or hanging with my friends.’ Then you know you have those pictures of people [who are] a little too drunk and slurry-eyed, but they’re really cute and super nice to [see and say] ‘oh I had great time at that party!’ I kinda just kept shooting and shooting parties throughout the years and actually just going through all the stuff.

Is that what launched the collaboration with Pony?

Yeah, I was organizing all my film. I have boxes and boxes of my 35mm and all of the other films I use. Just going through it, I realized I’m the only person who’s seen some of this stuff. I haven’t shared them or posted them online for anyone to share. I found a couple rolls that I never developed. They’re like mystery rolls, you know? I just put it out on Facebook: “Hey I wanna do a show.” The next day the two people who organized the last few art shows at Pony, Ben Gazy and Anouk Rawkson, sent me a message. I party there all the time. Some of the photos, a lot of them, are at Pony. They were like, “Why not just show it here?” I was so happy. My favorite place showing all my favorite people!

Are you showing pictures from the beginning?

Yeah, the beginning, I’d say like 6 years ago, 6 years of partying. There’s a lot of stuff, not just partying. There are punk shows with local punk bands I really did like and follow. Mostly a lot of prints, a lot of 35mm, 110mm, 120mm and some instax/instant photos.

What’s your preferred type of film?

Lately, it’s been the instax because you have that satisfaction of getting it right here and now. It’s right there so you can say “Oh my god, it looks awesome” or “Oh no, I should shoot this other way.” It’s like having digital, you know, you can see what you’re having.

Have you always used instant film?

I started doing a 35mm with a regular lens or a wide lens. I did a fisheye once in awhile. I just started with point and shoot. Then later I started playing around with film where I would wind it back and do double exposures or just keep rolling it back until there end where there are five layers. There’d be all these people. Everyone’s dancing, smiling, having a good time. It kinda gives you the feeling of “Oh that party was a lot of fun,” like “I wanna be there!”

Which venue gives the best pictures?

I’d say The Cockpit. Yeah, just the vibes. There’s so much stuff going on in the background. There’s wood. There’s concrete. There’s some art on the walls. It keeps it busy and interesting. The eagle was pretty cool at times, when they had parties there.

Which party serves the best looks?

They’re kind of all done now. The last one was Cathedral. Shade was popping. There was an old party at The Cockpit called Butch Queen. That was always really nice. And Fringe! People used to come all dressed up. It brought them out even if people didn’t really dress up. They’d slap some glitter on, at least a sparkly top and some lipstick. It’s like however you wanna dress up, do it! Be yourself. Like if it’s a party, I’m dressing up. I don’t need a reason.

Are you going to develop some of that mystery film?

Oh yeah! I’m getting that stuff developed this weekend to see what’s happening. I have about six rolls that need to be developed, and there’s about nine rolls that I haven’t shared with anybody. That also includes my instax. The one album I remembered, it was the time Julianna Huxtable came to play here at Chop [Suey]. It was a good party. I brought my instax [that night] and took photos but just working/busy and I totally forgot to share them and upload them to social media. I got some good shots though. My plan is to get some of my favorite ones blown up. I plan to do the whole thing Pony style, you know, collage-work all over the bar. It’s super busy, but it’s gonna be really fun.

Come through Pony (1221 E Madison) from 4pm-9pm on Thursday, July 14 to see Creatures of the Night, the artwork of Rio Abundez.