The other night I was with several close friends. The 5 of us watched Antonia’s Line, a Norwegian film from the 1990s. Not for the faint of heart, it is a wonderful film about the strength of the matriarchal line of 4 generations of women. It's fantastic. After the film my friend asked me to take a look at some vintage dresses that had been in her family for many years. She was looking for an appreciative home for them. As a collector of all things vintage I was so excited to check them out.
For me vintage pieces are full of stories from history. They carry secrets and love and wisdom from their experiences. It's an idealistic belief. But it's mine. So I collect histories from others and add new memories. The dresses my friend offered me were truly amazing and came with stories of proms and graduations and celebrations. They are full of rich tapestries of stories.
On the drive home I thought about my studio portrait sessions and how I might use these dresses. What stories I could create. Immediately I had a vision of a line of girls fiercely gazing forward in these stunning frocks. The movie we had watched helped me envision little girls being raised to have a mind of their own and the passion to follow through on what they want from life. I knew just the girls to call.
Some of these girls have known each other since they were babies. Others have spent the last 4 years in school together and then there is one that is a newer friend who met the other girls for the first time on the day of the shoot. But you would never be able to pick out who's who. That is the great part about kids. Give them a few minutes and they are all best friends.
I feel strongly about giving my daughter the tools to be who she wants. I have been pushed at times to portray girls as not so “girly”. I have been sent, by well meaning friends, articles and photography showing girls being tough in boy clothes or dirty from being in the mud. I love these portrayals! Yes, let's all raise strong fierce girls!
I truly believe that whatever you identify as, is what you should BE. I believe you should not have to give up getting all dressed up to be considered a strong female. There is a mental association that happens when girls get in a dress that says they are only feminine and not fierce. My goal with this portrait session series is to show that you can be both. That you are both. That being dressed up doesn't take away your power. On the contrary I believe it adds to your power. Being able to own all sides of yourself is one important part of claiming your identity. Whatever that identity is. No one should be put down or seen as less than no matter what they wear or identify as.
So yeah, this is a specific series. It's about claiming the feminine. About seeing that as wonderful, beautiful, and delicate, as well as strong, fiery, and fierce. Because I know lots of fierce girls who love to play dress up and who also climb trees, dig in the dirt, play sports, and stand up for themselves. I want these girls to know they can be all those things at the same time.
That they can be feminine and fierce.