A look behind the scenes...
Two weekends ago I created an open call to women in my community to invite them to get their portrait taken. But this was no normal portrait session... I asked the participants to bare their faces to me and take their portrait with no hair or makeup styling. And then I let them apply makeup and style their hair to their liking. Two portraits were taken. A comparison really. The duality between private/public, undone/madeup, and even unattractive/attractive.
If you have been following my blog, you would have learned a little bit about the project I did in college, called Makeup Ritual. In art school I studied women, more specifically femininity, grooming habits, and even the objects that are deemed socially as a feminine object. I made many series, but Makeup Ritual struck a chord with my peers, as a photograph of female face draws attention. I showed the original series in 2012 at Art Prize in Grand Rapids, Michigan. See my blog post "Open Call" for photos from the show.
With growth comes transformation, and I wanted to transform this project photographically, (the way the ladies are shot is completely different) as well as to engage a new group of friends and community members in this process. I am always searching for meaning through my work, as to not get sucked into the artificial world of the image making industry. This project not only means something to me because of my passion around women's issues, or because of my history with it, but it means that I get to share an experience with women I care about (including the women I just met).
Speaking of transformation... the 20 women that sat for me over the two days of shooting transformed in front of my eyes; some more than others. But one thing remained the same: they all were critical over their appearance. Ritual is defined as: a series of actions or type of behavior regularly and invariably followed by someone; and can also be called a rite or custom. I believe that this daily practice is something that women don't think about too often because it has become a part of their life. My aim is to examine that act and try to better understand why we do it. Some women said they really enjoy it, some hate it and barely partake. But in my study, 19 out of 20 women felt the need to apply makeup to look their best.
As we shot and reviewed the images, I got to hear the little comments they may tell themselves in the mirror. I got to make small adjustments to their hair and their posture. I got to talk shop, if you will, about makeup and hair. More importantly I learned what made them come to sit for this project. One woman, my last portrait on Sunday, as well as my oldest participant this round said that she was doing this for her two daughters. She told me that they are both about to turn 30 and she was to show her daughters these two images. She wanted to hold herself to the same standard she holds them to as they age; which is that you are beautiful and that you are loved.
This message is the root of the photo shoot. Behind all the commentary on social norms, gender roles, and double standards, is the underlying concept that this art, these images, were more about the process for each individual and the thoughts and feelings that were had between the moment they sat in my chair for the first time and when they sat the second time.
Below are more behind the scenes shots from the weekend, as well as a couple examples of the before and after images I have produced for this project.