Sometimes life is funny the way we are so interconnected. I went online searching for a model for this image and was delighted when the sweetest girl offered herself up to flop over in some flour for an hour. When she arrived to my studio for the shoot, which was located inside of an abandoned high school, she told me that her mom used to attend that very high school. We imagined that she sat right there in the very room that her daughter was about to create art in. It was a really magical moment to realize that.
When I began this series, I started asking people – strangers or family – what they felt they couldn’t tell other people. A lot of people answered with a similar sentiment, which was the feeling of wanting to be one way, but everyone seeing you as someone else. I know the feeling well. There are times in our lives that we want to change, to grow, to finally become the person we have been dreaming of being. But we have already created an identify for ourselves (or society has) and we find ourselves unable to embody the future version. We are pigeonholed and molded into who we “should” be instead of who we might become.
When I began thinking about how to visually portray this idea, my mind kept going to black and white – contrasting colors – something striking. That was when I had the idea to allow race to play some part in the image. There are always many sides to an idea, so instead of holding tightly to the theme of being held back from who you want to be, I recognized it could also be the theme of having your current identity stripped away by what others want or expect of you. The flour coating her body and exploding all around her spoke to me as a way of communicating the force of that push and pull. The way the flour stuck to her face seemed to me like a mask – the one we hide behind or the one we are given.
This image left me with yet another very difficult task. Getting 600lbs of flour up and down the stairs. By this point in the shooting process I was berating myself for agreeing to a second floor studio. It felt like every day I was battling with those stairs, or the fear that my floor would cave in. Alas, it never did, but my muscles definitely felt the burn of the heavy lifting. You know the funny thing about flour? When you get it wet it turns to dough. Cleaning was no easy task, particularly when it insisted on lodging itself between the old splintered floor boards.
Before cleanup came the shoot, however! And it was a very, very fun shoot. I bought a sleeping pad and laid it on the floor in the room. I then covered the pad with a white sheet that stretched most of the way around the room. After that, we poured flour onto the sheet and made sure the room was solidly covered. When my beautiful model arrived, I briefly explained that I had laid down a pad and that she should crouch down and side flop over onto the mat. I wanted to ensure maximum poof.
(I should definitely make t-shirts that say “MAXIMUM POOF”, right?)
We never could get the right amount of poof everywhere, but I did get enough of it that I could add some of the better poofs in with the better body position for added effect. I was so worried she would hurt herself as she fell into the flour, but she insisted she was fine and wanted to keep going. I suppose diving into a bunch of fluffy powder is kind of fun, right? So we played and played for about 30 minutes until we were all floured out.
This is one of the simpler images that I created for the series. I chose to make the walls very dark, painting them before the shoot. I really wanted the attention to go to the place of most contrast in the center of the image and not pull from that. I remember struggling on this day technically. It was very, very hot so the flour was sticking to us all. Aside from that, it was quite dark in the room so getting a shutter speed that could accommodate the movement of the flour and her body was a challenge, but eventually I found a setting I was happy with.
Very limited editions. Each print is offered at 42×42 inches with an edition of 2, and 8×8 inches with an edition of 3.
Photographed with a Sony a7ii and a 25mm Zeiss lens.
Model: Ana Clue
Assistance: Kelly McGrady