From Southern California, public radio for your eyes.

Portraits of Michael Jackson tribute artists

We always see impersonators on Hollywood Boulevard, but a lot of us don't know their stories.

For Los Angeles photographer Lorena Turner, Michael Jackson's death in June 2009 sparked a curiosity.

Turner, who spends half her time in New York, attended two different public memorials for Jackson in LA and Harlem.

Immediately, she was surprised by the different ways people were representing their love for the pop singer.

"You'd never think of Michael Jackson as a type, you think of him as one person," she said. "But really, that's not the case."

By the end of 2009, Turner had started a portrait series and set out to photograph Michael Jackson tribute artists across the country.

With her lights and camera gear in the backseat, Turner went from Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston and College Station to New Orleans, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and, of course, Las Vegas.

Turner did lots of internet research to find her subject, including the website Gig Salad.

She offered $75 to most of the tribute artists and access to the pictures of themselves in return. She learned that "tribute artist" is the preferred term over "impersonator."

Over the course of more than two years, she found that each double had very different stories.

Turner spent a few afternoons in 2011 with tribute artist Jovan Rameau (slide #1) who made $400 to $500 a day on Hollywood Boulevard.

On the other hand, another artist she photographed made only $30 a day, which he spent on food.

She met Michael Jacksons of different races, genders, sizes and shapes.

Turner was very struck by Jen Amerson of South Carolina (slide #7) – a white, divorced woman with two kids who is from a working class family and went to art school.

"It didn't seem like the logical choice," Turner said.

Amerson performs for predominantly African American audiences, yet she said no one has ever commented on her race. Only her gender.

Turner did find one commonality among the tribute artists she photographed:

"They're all looking for a break," she said. "They're looking for a high-paying, well-respected way to perform, like a show in Las Vegas."

Turner is making the portrait series a book. "The Michael Jacksons" is set to publish this spring.

The book is in pre-sale right now. Turner is waiting to publish until she pre-sells enough copies, but she's hoping for Spring 2014.

June 25 marks the fifth anniversary of Jackson's death.

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