90s Lilac Dreamscape

the idea

I have had this very loose, amorphic, abstract concept for a photoshoot I’ve had in mind to execute for a very long time but never felt quite prepared to do. But to explain this properly requires a bit of context, so let’s start with that.

I don’t attribute myself as sexy or seductive. I mean, I know how to exude that idea by ways of makeup and garments but when I do so I can’t help but feel some sense of imposter syndrome. When I’m out with friends I tend to have more of a background sort of wallflower personality and the people I am with are naturally more outgoing so they become a sort of foil. It’s usually good enough since strangers engaged with my friends would see someone who was dark and mysterious and I wouldn’t disabuse them of that notion. It’s a character I could lean into; most of these are single interactions anyway and I’d never see them again anyway.

Some years ago I took up ballroom dancing and would attend classes and parties to practice. At some point I was talked into doing a performance with a dance partner and we ended up with a routine that had a mix of tango and rumba. In one section of the dance I was supposed to do an off-the-cuff sexy move. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what to do, and the more I was told that ‘it’s easy, just come up with something’ the more I would hesitate and freeze, because I just didn’t know how. I would be incredibly self-conscious on where my limbs should go and what the rest of my body should be doing, followed by an unrelenting stream of invasive thoughts like ‘Am I doing this right?’ ‘Does this look dumb? I feel like I look dumb.’ ‘Now where am I supposed to look?’ ‘What does my face do?’ ‘How do I look seductive without making it a caricature?’

These shortcomings I saw in myself served as the foundation of this project. I wanted to see what I was capable of doing, to experiment in areas I was not familiar or comfortable with, and maybe play in becoming other characters (which are really just different extensions of me). I wanted to break out of the comfortable but confining role I’d become so accustomed to residing in.

Lingerie shoots are another area that inherently make me feel uncomfortable. Some years back I had a bad experience with one that left a lasting impression on me:

The photographer I was working with kept moving the goalpost on what I would be wearing. And it felt like I was being railroaded during our time together. What started as a fun outfit shoot quickly became a lingerie one, and one I didn’t want to do. I didn’t say anything or push back at his suggestions, and looking back I should have. I had the mentality of not wanting to rock the boat and not wanting to be seen as one of those ‘difficult’ models. The experience made me feel super self conscious and dealt a blow to my self confidence. I was also very new to the idea of a professional photographer/model relationship, not to mention the shooting process, and I didn’t want to be problematic.

So it took me a really long time to try again. I still don’t shoot with very many photographers (although I would like to). It’s difficult for me to feel confident. I feel like I would be a waste of their time because I won’t know what to do. Acting seductive is hard!

So this project felt like a way to regain ownership and autonomy of my seductive side.

Fashion Video – 90s lilac dreamscape

Both the video and the photos were shot in a day. It was a pretty on-the-fly set up with whatever we had on hand. There is a fun challenge in seeing how far you can get by being industrious in utilizing what was available. We used our home box fan to create a bit of movement with the hair and rearranging things to create the space that we needed.

It has been a long, long while since I attempted any sort of serious lingerie shoot (as mentioned previously). I’ve taken a couple of selfies here and there but it was more like dipping a toe than anything else.

Then there is how one feels about their body. I found that it takes a conscious effort to not be overly critical about yourself. I am no stranger to this despite feeling overall positive in what my body has done for me. I am happy in what it has done for me, and the challenges in carrying two difficult pregnancies in where I was mostly bed bound by one and needed a wheelchair for another. I recognize that there are parts of me that will never be the same and injuries that will never truly go away, but at least it was a battle that I won. Because of those experiences I no longer feel so much as a stranger to my body like 20 years old me in comparison to present day. I have the knowledge of what I am capable of and there is a certain joy I carry within myself now that I did not have before and this shoot is in a way a celebration of this chapter in my life.

When it comes to music I collaborate a lot with darkhalo. Not just because of convenience but also there is an understanding that we share when it comes to our approaches in creative endeavors. Maybe someday I will have the chance to work with others but at this moment this feels right to me.

I knew what I wanted the visual part to look like, and I left it pretty open ended when it came to music. I gave a lofty explanation of what I think would match but the details I like to be hands-off. I like being able to let other artists add their personalities and it can enrich the overall journey.

In recent years I’ve modified the initial stages of my musical creative process to be more productive and less targeted, attempting to be less judgmental about what’s evolving in those ephemeral early steps where something is being formed from nothing. From there I’ve found I can start to filter that which still catches my attention as time passes and develop the best ideas into full tracks. As a result, I have hundreds of small ideas and motifs in various states of completion lying mostly dormant on my hard drive. So when Sporkii asked for an original piece of music to back her colorful, dreamy, sensual 90s video montage, I began by combing through that pile of ideas and listening with fresh ears, mentally pairing each as a potential starting point.

Eventually I pared it down to five or six candidates and we listened through them together. From there she chose a few that she liked most and I sought to combine those through the lens of the aesthetic she’d established.

One of them was an almost saccharine ambient piece that didn’t quite make it on to my previous album, most noticeably used here as a soft introduction. The second formed the bulk of the track and was extracted from a meandering 90-bpm piece in which I was experimenting with mashing up some contemporary retro-future synthwave chords with glitchy IDM percussion. I’d abandoned the initial attempt some months ago, but in this new context I thought the big shimmering chord progression seemed well-suited to her confident, sweet-forward aesthetic, and decided to lean into that with full force. I reduced some of the glitchiness of the drums and layered two more sparkling synths from Massive X, plus a heavenly vintage patch from the Roland SC-88 to really push the early 90s dream girl feel.

It was nice to condense the whole thing into less than a minute as well, which felt like an opportunity to maximize the sound without needing to spend time building and balancing for emotional impact.

–darkhalo

the wardrobe

I knew early on when I was fleshing out this idea that I wanted to mix and match from different designers. A sort of a personal blend with a scrappiness street bent. My inspirations and ideas are motivated mostly from the street snap photos; I like the idea of mixing and matching and wearing things you want; identity and story shines through in the details.

As a disclaimer these were all bought by me.

teale coco

Harness and matching choker from Teale Coco.

I like that the straps are wide, I found that it didn’t dig into my skin and it was comfortable to wear. It also made it easier in making sure that the straps weren’t twisted.

It definitely took a few practice rounds to get familiar with how to wear the harness. In my order they had enclosed a postcard that had instructions and photos to help orient you, and I’ve kept it as part of the set. I just know I’m going to forget and will need it.

I had a positive experience purchasing from the Teale Coco website. It was easy to navigate and I especially liked being able to filter by color as it made it easier to match. The hardest part was having to choose what type I wanted, because if let to my own devices I would want to own every piece. I have a feeling that the harness I own from them won’t be the only one…

Tell Tale

The Lover Lace Bralette + The Romantic Lace Cheeky, both in the color lilac. I’ve taken to bralettes as of late. It’s easy for me to find my size and not worry about the cups not working out for me. This set was pretty comfortable to wear and a good price point to boot. I wanted to dabble in adding some color to my wardrobe without having to fully commit if I didn’t like it.

tullevess

The coat is from tullevess. For something made of tulle this thing is heavy! It’s so voluminous that it barely fits in its storage box. I love how the ombre creates a lot of variety in color and value. I don’t have a stock photo of this coat since it was a custom piece.

I really liked having this coat in the shoot. It made me feel way more relaxed and comfortable to have this large article of clothing at my disposal and also helped in slowly getting comfortable showing more of my body at my own pace.

the bodysuit

I bought this off of Etsy but one can easily find it on Amazon. I would have preferred to work with a designer but time was of the essence. The same goes for the leg warmers and thigh highs.

conclusion

This was my favorite out of the bunch.

Ultimately I found this shoot to be really fun, and felt like it opened me up to this sort of thing as a new and more positive experience. I was in control of what I wanted to wear, and I was the one that controlled how much or how little I felt like covering up. There’s a reason why that one photo was my favorite. I was genuinely smiling and laughing throughout the shoot. I didn’t feel super self-conscious, and it didn’t feel like what I was doing was wrong or terrible. We would be in constant communication and I could ask to review the shots at any time.

If something didn’t look quite right I could ask if we could try again and to figure it out, whether it be posing, lighting, camera angle, etc.

I feel like this experience might also serve to help me in the future, if I ever decide to venture out and collaborate with other photographers.

A silver lining of this pandemic (and occasional lockdown) was that it opened up a bit of time and space in my head to come back to some of my creative ventures.