Growing up, my dad liked to quote an old song called “Warpaint” by the Brooks Brothers: “With all that lipstick powder and paint, you all dressed up like what you ain’t.” It was his defense against the inevitable growing up of his teenage daughters, but never once did I buy into it. Instead, I embraced makeup, hair styling, clothing, and more as a path to self-expression.
Living in Los Angeles- one of the most image-conscious places on Earth- and working as a photographer of primarily women, it is apparent to me now that crafting a self image is both a creative exercise with endless options and often highly (and unfairly) scrutinized by others.
My personal projects often deal largely with acceptance of self and understanding of others. But rather than believing people are best as “natural” I believe people can present themselves however they want to. The outside is a fun canvas so why not use it to express what is inside?
The goal of this project was twofold:
1.) champion the use of makeup, or any other appearance alterer, as a tool for self-expression
2.) show that ultimately, it is WHO you are, not what you wear, that makes you awesome
I wanted to anchor the project in a field I work frequently in: cosmetics marketing. The language of the cosmetics industry, similar to fashion, operates on seasons. For example, we often see in lipstick certain colors marketed for certain seasons: pinks for spring, oranges for summer, deep reds or plums for fall, and primary red for the holidays. This is why I chose to have the names of the seasons running though the video and to have the looks based on seasonal colors: to relate to the framework of the cosmetics industry.
I also wanted to present a wide variety of people. The girl who begins the video, my friend and outstanding model Claudia Cooper, is someone who looks like the type of model one commonly sees in cosmetics advertisements. From there I slowly added in models less commonly seen in cosmetics advertising: professional models of different races, and non- professional models of different races, ages, sizes, and genders.
Once the rotation of seasons and models became obvious, I added in larger stand alone text containing words like “fun,” “confidence,” “style,” to show that while certain colors may be in vogue for certain seasons, positive individual traits are ALWAYS IN SEASON, and in fact, what matters most.
The concept could have been accomplished using stills edited into a video format, but I thought it would be much more effective and engaging with a little life and movement injected into it- so decided a moving image was most appropriate. The transition from still to motion was intimidating for me at first, but ended up feeling much more natural than I had anticipated.
All told, it took three days to shoot all 11 models. I had a detailed story board that I had worked on tirelessly for a month until I was satisfied with the concept. I had a running shot list with makeup looks that I had worked out with my artists: Jamie Dorman, Andrew Velazquez, Ren Bray,and Gellisa Fevrier. There was a lot of dancing around/pumping people up (I have no shame) and hair "wafting" and all around good times. It was a blast!
Everyone involved also seemed to really enjoy the process. My friend Kendra wrote to me afterward, "I thank you for this project of yours! It's not only about fun, seasonal make-up and outward beauty, but about the confidence that radiates from within, and beautifies, every season, throughout the year!"
Shout outs to all my wonderful models: Mariko Amekodommo, Brianna Canillas, Claudia Cooper, Sepideh Haftgoli, Kendra Kabasele, Erin Noble, Janice Paik, Tonoa Smith, Diep Tran, Janee Valteau, and Andrew Velazquez.