I spent the summer leading up to my senior year of high school on a project that got me accepted into Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle
Though financial circumstances pushed me toward the University of Idaho, and I no longer desire to pursue a career as a professional fashion photographer, I remain proud of my accomplishment and the project that earned it.
I titled it “The Decade Project.” Though its focus centered on fashion and its evolution throughout the decades, the series reflects the idea that though societal, economical, political, and personal situations ebb and flow from crisis to bliss, the persistence and general makeup of the human spirit remains similar throughout the ages.This is the reason I used the same three models.
I endured heavy research pertaining to the history of each decade from the 1920s forward and educated myself on the hair, makeup, and clothing trends to properly costume my models. By having each girl represent a different woman’s story through each decade while still keeping them recognizable, I hoped to procure questions of what beauty really is, what it means to be a woman, and how fashion fits in with these more complex bubbles, not as something that is materialistic, but rather as an art form.
Each photograph has a distinct behind-the-scenes story. There were arguments, near traffic accidents, hour-long hair and makeup sessions, creative problem-solving, confused passer-bys and wardrobe malfunctions. This is part of the reason why this series means so much to me, because in attempting to recreate other stories, we created our own.
TITLE: What Is Beauty?
STORY: We gathered all the mirrors in the house and arranged them on the wall in my bedroom. The 1920s was a revolutionary decade for fashion, where women really began to toss aside practical clothing in favor of aesthetics. Because of this change, and because of the strain the Depression put on women to uphold this new standard of beauty while pulling out internal characteristics such as strength, helpfulness, and creativity, I wanted the use of several mirrors to symbolize the many faces of women and a single question pertaining to the true definition of beauty at this time.
This photoshoot with Emily proved one of the more difficult ones. Because mirrors were everywhere I was very limited on angles for fear that me and my lens would appear behind her in the reflection. Because Emily’s hair was long and 1920s women predominantly favored short hair, I had to curl her entire head of hair and then pin the ends underneath to create a thick, short bob.
The slip Emily wears was the one my mother wore to her wedding. We had to be very careful not to smear any of Emily’s dark makeup on the fabric. Because it was much too large for Emily’s frame and the sentimentality of the garment kept us from stabbing pins through the straps, we had to use hair clips and pins to tighten the straps. Once again, this caused an issue with the mirrors; if Emily moved too quickly, not only would the clips come undone, but my lens would easily capture the securing instruments, making for a tacky photograph if gone unnoticed. Luckily, her arm hides the clips in the finished photograph, her clothing and hair remained stable, and I am nowhere to be seen.
TITLE: Fast Company
STORY: Not everyone suffered the Depression the same. In fact, several parties took place during this time, especially among upper-class and previously upper-class families. It’s as if times of darkness call for celebration.
This photoshoot took place in the confines of the dining room in my house. Because the lighting in there is questionable, we eventually took the window, where I asked Emily to look as if she were waiting for company to arrive. The light from the window helped tremendously.
TITLE: Daily Oblivion
STORY: Everyone may have known about the war, but there was a great deal of suffering and despair that went unsaid in America until after the war was over.
I wanted Emily’s emotion to portray this. I wanted to depict a woman who is going about her life at home, hearing about the war without fully understanding it.
We played a lot with coloring in the different shots. In this one, I emphasized the red of her lips as if to represent the smallness of her focus on the issues she reads about in newspapers in comparison to the grander picture of what is her reality.
STORY: This picture was inspired by a photograph of Amanda Seyfreid in Teen Vogue, where in a vintage bathing suit she closes her eyes and leans toward the sun.
I chose a completely different angle with Emily, and made more dramatic coloring choices. I wanted her red shoes to stand out without taking away from the meditative emotion of the photograph.
At this time, vintage bathing suits were hard to find unless we wanted to pay a large amount of money. Instead, we paired my black halter suit top with a pair of Emily’s old volleyball spandex, tucking the edges of the spandex into themselves to hide the Nike sign.
I photographed her on the docks of the old Rooster’s Landing in Lewiston. She was deeply embarrassed walking in heels and a high-waisted suit from the car to the docks, but once I pulled out my camera she felt like our purpose was understood by onlookers and did a fantastic job of making the photograph a priority over her self-consciousness.
TITLE: Hitting The Books
STORY: University of Idaho students might recognize the administration building towering over Emily in the background.
We hit up campus and tried to work with the wind, a pair of fake glasses and a bundle of heavy Harry Potter books in hand, to capture the scholarly side of the sixties. Educational, social, and civil rights movements affected campuses all over the nation in the ’60s, and this picture was a tip of the hat to that.
TITLE: Class of 1976
STORY: Some family friends let us put their vintage “hippie van” to use for this sassy ’70s photo.
I remember Emily calling me after a shopping trip to Spokane to say, “I bought a pair of high-waisted pants that we can use!”
Well, the pants weren’t as high-waisted as my parents’ bell bottoms were, but they would have to do.
Nevertheless, I have no complaints about this photo. I love the use of colors, the unique expression on Emily’s face, and the fact that her hair sorta-kinda stayed styled after spending way too long trying to get it just right.
I wanted something lighthearted that spoke of carefree high school years, and that is what I got.
STORY: The professor at Cornish told me that this photograph was his favorite of the series because it could serve as commentary to so many different situations; abandonment, city life, even prostitution.
I love that so many questions rise from this photograph. I had a clear vision in mind, but without the proper tools, I knew it would be hard to get a clear picture of Emily in her sparkly dress waiting in the dark.
We gave it a shot. We walked down the street and I asked her to stand under the light of a streetlamp. She paced back and forth for me. Every shot I got was simply too dark and grainy until I went against my usual standards and used flash.
For this picture, flash was totally the right choice.
I love the grunginess, and how this photograph can be applicable to a wide range of time periods and, as the professor said, situations.
TITLE: Even If It Breaks Your Heart
STORY: Downtown Moscow is the perfect place to tell the story of a musician.
We kept the guitar case empty, so that posing and carrying the guitar case wouldn’t wear on Emily. This was one of the few pictures we didn’t have as clear of a vision for, so we tried several different alleyways and street corners until we captured a shot that had the right hint of ’90s rock’n’roll.
STORY: For each of the 2000’s/today photos, I let the girls choose their own outfits as long as they were able to design styles that differentiated from one another.
Emily choose a tiered flowered skirt and basic tanktop and hung a key around her neck. She wanted, she said, to look more like herself than she was able to in the others, having represented several different women for months. She let her hair dry naturally out of the shower, applied minimal makeup, and ended up looking very much herself: simple, collected, and down-to-earth.
STORY: This has to be one of my favorite photographs of the entire series.
My mom purchased a beautiful, vintage, olive-colored coat in Seattle that we nabbed. The cap was my Great Aunt Marge’s, a true antique piece that I was excited to use. Holly was horrified to put on the lipstick I suggested, but the color ended up being perfect and was put to use several times after.
I love how though it is summer, the overcast sky and colors we chose makes it look like autumn. Autumn represents a time of transition, much of which women during the ’20s were experiencing daily.
I remember Holly actually being quite resistant to being photographed that day, but once we got onto the road and kept a look out for cars coming from both directions, Holly did a wonderful job keeping her face a relaxed balance of serious and hopeful instead of angry!
TITLE: Faith In Small Places
STORY: We received an uncomfortable amount of speculation from the inn next to the ornate Catholic church in Uniontown, Washington, but we worked through it and got this movement-filled shot of Holly in a rose-printed dress, representing the women of the Depression who used faith as their guide.
TITLE: Filling Their Boots
STORY: Many women assumed positions in the work force during the ’40s, when many of the men left for war, leaving gaps in industries that couldn’t slow.
Holly’s look is inspired by Rosie the Riveter, a character created in the ’40s to encourage women to join the workforce and believe in their abilities to be successful there.
It took a Google search on tying headscarves, a jumpsuit, workboots, and Holly allowing us to smear mud on her face, chest, and arms to get this shot of her looking happy and resilient at work.
STORY: I’m going to be honest: part of the reason we chose a face-shot over full-body was because we simply could not get our hands on a dress that was true to the ’50s style. So, instead we chose to focus more on the aesthetics of the makeup and a prop that became prevalent in the ’50s–Coca Cola.
STORY: I obtained a fantastic dress in Texas that was very much ’60s glamour, and couldn’t wait to put it to use.
Holly’s hair and makeup is inspired by fashion icons of this time, such as Brigitte Bardot and Sharon Tate. We went to the arboretum for the bright light and pops of color to emphasize her appearance and a lucky-girl emotion.
TITLE: No More Walks In The Wood
STORY: Some don’t like this photograph because it is contradictory; a very mod outfit in a natural setting.
This was my purpose.
I made these conflicting choices because the ’70s was filled with friction-inducing ideas about the environment and industrialism.
To get Holly to this area, we had to pull off the highway at the top of the Lewiston grade, jump a fence, and hike a trail, all the while praying that a cop wouldn’t see my car and ding us for trespassing. I believe one of us got hurt and the other got an allergic reaction to a weed or bug bite, both of which were nursed after the picture was taken.
TITLE: Leave This Town
STORY: Holly started out with this cropped sweater and a fake belly button ring. No lie. As you can see, the ring didn’t make an appearance.
I had a lot of difficulty getting Holly’s hair to stay teased and full. We also had difficulty figuring out exactly what we were wanting to do with this picture, but in the end, we were able to capture a wistful picture of Holly before by a pink, weathered door, gazing past the lens and into the road. It was as if the meaning took place after we captured it: angst onset by a tacky small town that no one ever leaves.
TITLE: No? Watch Me.
STORY: Holly may have looked the part, but definitely did not fit in at Moscow’s skate park. She felt uncomfortable, surrounded by people who actually knew what they were doing, and had trouble making any of the shots taken with a skateboard in hand or underfoot look genuine.
In the end, we tossed the skateboard idea and had her kneel instead.
TITLE: Friday Night Lights
STORY: Holly chose a white mid-length sleeve, jeans, and Texan cowgirl boots for her current-day picture. Happy and laughing, with curled tendrils spiraling over the wooden beam of a playground, Holly’s humor became the centerpiece of this picture.
STORY: Lauren had the clever idea of taping a match to the end of a painted shishkabob stick to create the stylish cigarette holder many women in the ’20s carried with them. We would strike the match, quickly blow it out, and then Lauren would immediately pose for my quick-to-come click of the camera.
This is actually the first shot we got–and the last the flapper dress saw of us. Lauren’s mother took it away after we admitted to spilling candle wax on the skirt, which became quite the tragedy considering we had promised to keep it safe.
TITLE: Barton Hollow
STORY: I wanted a Bonnie-and-Clyde type of story to resonate from this photograph. The legends of romanticized crime from this era are timeless, exciting, and will be told for decades to come.
STORY: We chose the colors of the American flag to be prominent in Laure’s prideful ’40s picture. With blue-bowed pigtails, high-waisted shorts, and an ice cream cone fresh from a diner in Uniontown, Lauren had a lot of fun portraying a classic version of America’s youth. And eating the ice cream, of course.
TITLE: Finding Him
STORY: The prom dress is more modern than ’50s, but the bell skirt was exactly what we wanted to exemplify a pert ’50s prom look.
We tried to hurry while taking this picture, because the person who so carefully pruned the leafy archways leading to their house were not home for us to ask permission to use their walkway. We knew it’d be extremely awkward if they showed up while we were snapping pictures, pushing us to get a good shot quickly.
TITLE: Where Have All The Flowers Gone?
STORY: Lauren got to represent the counterculture of the ’60s revolution. Though today’s stigma of hippies pertain to peace within, history shows that those involved in free love and anti-Vietnam protests were very much troubled by the world they lived in, which is what drove them to advocate for peace, equality, and freedom.
I wanted Lauren to give me that emotion of disturbance and skepticism, and through the use of her big, beautiful eyes, she did a wonderful job.
TITLE: Flower Child
STORY: There were tall purple flowers alongside the highway, and we got this shot of Lauren wading through them just before their season was over.
We also almost got hit by another car in the process of parking.
TITLE: Growing Up, Getting Out
STORY: The concrete threw waves of heat at us the day we hit up Lewiston High School to get Lauren’s ’80s picture out of the way.The texture of Lauren’s hair was very accepting of the teasing and heavy use of hairspray we used to scrunchie it up into an ’80s style ponytail, and I’ve never had so much fun with an eyeshadow palette before. Past highlighter dances contributed to the availability of neon clothing.
STORY: The plaid shirt, leggings, and boots are very nineties grunge. The use of a vintage camera and a random blue chair we found discarded in an alleyway of downtown Moscow were perfect props.
TITLE: Give Me My Freedom and I’ll Handle My Chains
STORY: On passing my father’s auto body shop, Lauren spotted a Jaguar and took to it immediately.
I didn’t have any plans of using a sleek car for Lauren’s current-day picture, but the beauty of art is that sometimes the product is better than the original idea.