Every artist and photographer likes seeing their work published somewhere. Anywhere. Having someone outside ourselves declare that our work is worth sharing carries a validation every creative craves. There is both personal and social value to be able to point to a work and say, “It was published …”
That validation does not often come quickly, though, even in these digital times. Even online magazines still have publication schedules and those can require securing creative content months in advance of becoming publicly available. For the creative, that gap between completing a work and seeing it published is excruciating. We move on to other projects, of course, but we still want to make sure our work is noticed and not forgotten as sometimes happens.
Such is the case with our Brown Paper Project. This was our Spring project, the one we started shooting immediately after I finished the autumn/winter ready-to-wear runway season. We finished shooting April 1. Processing was completed, for the most part, by the end of May. This was not a fast nor easy process. I lost count of the number of times I trashed hours of work and started over.
At its core, the whole purpose of this project was to examine not only what we wear but how we wear it and why we choose to wear things in a certain way. Pulling inspiration from the runway designs of Rick Owens, We worked from the concept of finding ways to wrap and drape a material that, on its own, does not necessarily like to be wrapped and draped. This forces a consideration of how the material relates to the body and an examination of the choices we make deciding how to make the material “fit.” What does it even mean to say something “fits?” For several of the pieces, we used heavy twine as the means of securing pieces together, though that proved to not always be as effective as we might have liked. Each of the ten looks, barely enough for a capsule collection, was a unique piece, couture if one really wants to look at it that way.
What became obvious during processing was that each look needed a photographic treatment that was as unique and different as were the styles. While the models had given me perfectly acceptable editorial poses, I wanted more than a static representation of something that could easily be mistaken for a craft project gone wrong. Working with double exposure and then bending those in various ways put the brown paper designs in a whole new perspective, changing not only the design but the appearance of the person wearing them. This is what fashion often does: change the perception of the person wearing it.
Finding models for this project proved challenging. We knew we wanted to work with models we’d not seen before but explaining to people you don’t know about a concept they can’t easily imagine doesn’t always produce a great deal of enthusiasm. The ones who said “yes” were those who are both creative and adventurous. Only a couple had worked with us before and even for them, this was a new adventure. We want to thank each of them: Antesha Prosser, Blair Lawson, Colleen Grady, Kia Love, Kwani Young-Cornell, Loren Hawk, Samantha Lefler, Sarah Harris, Sarah Arvin, and Victoria F S Nieke.
Kat Franson provided each of the makeup looks, pulling together colors and shades for each model, often creating and blending colors that did not exist in her extensive palettes. I asked her to create looks that were contrasting rather than applying the same look to each model. This was not a moment to be subtle and she stepped up with bold looks that fantastically augmented the brown paper styles.
The Indianapolis Review
Two different magazines with very different purposes published subsets of the images. The first was the relatively new creative arts journal, The Indianapolis Review, a quarterly publication that highlights poetry and prose as well as visual creatives of different media forms. Their format for images is limited, making room for only five images from the full set. Here are the images they chose:
PATTERN Magazine, with whom we have a long relationship, chose a larger subset of the images, focusing, as they do, more on the fashion aspects of the work. Samantha Ripperger, a recent graduate from Indiana State University, curated the collection titled, “Renegade Shoot: Her Textured Appearance. ” Here are the images she chose (yes, there is some overlap)
Of course, as always, some of my personal favorites were not among those chosen for publication. Who we are, our past and experiences, shape what we like about an image and when I’ve spent countless hours working on some there is a tendency to develop an emotional attachment based on how challenging the image was to create, or what story lies behind the model’s expression, or some other less-than-obvious quirk about the photo. Here are the outstanding, unpublished images.
So much time has passed since we shot these photos that some of the models have moved on to other challenges. Blair is doing the modeling thing in New York. Samantha headed west to work in Beverly Hills. Colleen is currently trekking solo across Sri Lanka (you can follow her adventures here). Others have had stressful personal challenges because even when you’re beautiful life sometimes sucks. We’ve moved on to other projects as well, exploring new textures and concepts we’ve yet to shoot or make public. The days we shot this series feels, in some ways, as though it were an eternity ago.
For you, though, they’re new and we hope you’ll enjoy them. Let us know in the comments which ones are your favorites. We don’t often do large projects like this because of the severe time displacement but this one was well worth the challenges and the wait.