purity ball

in 2007 stacey delorenzo at glamour magazine sent me to colorado springs to cover a purity ball, an elaborate party where a father signs a vow to protect his daughter and his daughter pledges her chastity to her father until she marries. the ball was conceived by pastor randy wilson of the generations of light ministry. unsurprisingly, he is a father of 5 daughters. i was lucky enough to cover a purity ball hosted by its originators.

i was so excited to photograph this event. it's such an unusual occasion, a curious mixing of religion, sex, childhood, and valor. the coupling of tuxedo-ed men with young women and girls dressed in white party dresses ensured great visuals. photographing the purity ball was an exercise in keeping an open mind. regardless of my beliefs this was an event that had tremendous significance to the participants, half of them young girls. i had no desire to ridicule them or to make them look naive.

the evening started with a dinner, then came the reading and signing of the oaths (a few of the very young girls couldn't write yet), some exchanged rings or jewelry, next came a dance showcase performed by young ladies. some of the dancers were attendees, others were siblings or friends who had attended their own balls. the evening culminated with father and daughter walking beneath upraised swords to lay a white rose at the base of a large, wooden cross the dancers had carried into the ballroom.

the evening presented a surprise; another photographer, from O magazine (who was also a client of mine). neither of us knew the other was going to be present. we introduced ourselves and were polite but as the night wore on it started to get a little competitive! not only were we vying for the best angles i had to make sure not to get him in my framing. i felt i had to keep track of whom i was selecting to profile and made sure we were not photographing the same father and daughter. i had the advantage of being able to approach the young girls without suspicion or threat just becasue i was a woman. i was so glad i wore a black cocktail dress and asked my assistant to wear a jacket and dress shoes for this shoot. we blended in well and our semi formal attired implied a respect for their ceremony.

in addition to the documentary style photos of the event i set up a portrait studio in a little used hallway just outside the ballroom. i photographed fathers with the daughters prom style on my 4x5 film camera and gave away polaroids to my sitters as momentos of the evening.

as i write this is surprises me how much has changed in less than 10 years, not only in my own work flow and choice of camera equipment, but with photography in print and social media. personally, i started out shooting film on a 4x5 linhof, to shooting digital on an alpa and leaf back, to canon 35mm digital, and recently reintroduced a 4x5 linhof to my camera case.

 

                                                pastor randy wilson with his daughter

barnard's move in day

anna nozaki at B magazine asked me to photograph the incoming freshman on move in day at barnard college this past august. it's not often i get asked to photograph documentary/reportage style stories so i was super excited. it's a luxury to have all day to flesh out a story, instead of the more common hour or two for a portrait. i covered the full day from new students waiting patiently in the check in line with all of their possessions backed into suitcases and shopping bags from bed bath and beyond, the orientation welcome ceremony, the family lunch on the lawn, to the emotional farewells. the most intriguing part of the day for me was documenting the freshmen as they moved into their dorm rooms. the young ladies were clearly excited, anxious, scared, apprehensive, hopeful...all of it at the same time.

the scene i found behind every dorm room door was different. some came from far away with both parents, others came from queens or the upper west side and seemed to be moving in alone, secure in the knowledge they'd be going home for dinner that weekend. beds were being made, suitcases unpacked, furniture put together, decorations were carefully arranged on walls so visitors could see at a glance their allegiances, interests and passions. they were busy turning the blank canvas of their dorm room into an expression of who they were.

some observations: a record player. a ukelele. lots of brand new bedding. framed baby photos. bored younger siblings.  one young lady's collection of stuffed lions, tigers and bears. another contemplating a farewell to arms and les miserables with a hand painted quote by albus dumbleldore hanging on a shelf in front of her.      

i remembered my own move in day when i started college and feeling the pressure to define myself for this world of strangers while i was simultaneously trying to figure out who i was. it seemed impossible i would sift through all those people to find like minded friends. i could feel the same struggle going on with the new barnard students. many were unpacking a few feet from their new roommate(s) without any interaction. it's difficult to know how to intimately share a small space with a total stranger, albeit one that may be your future best friend.

every parent was required to sign in and wear a guest pass. i couldn't help but notice this significant reversal as the parents were now considered guests in their children's new residence.

i really enjoyed being in the midst of so many young women again. it reminded me of my years photographing the teenagers for my mendham girls project. i saw only potential and power in every lady i met and i was excited for them. as a parent it was touching to see the different degrees to which some of them were still hanging onto their childhood selves. 

there are two other documentary style stories i have worked on that i'd like to share. more coming soon!

 

B magazine

one of my longest standing and favorite clients is B, the barnard college alumni magazine. this is solely becasue of anna nozaki who art directs, designs, photo edits and produces each issue. she is a one woman whirlwind of talent and creativity. she's got a fantastic eye, likes to challenge herself and pushes me in just the right ways to get some of my best work out of me.  and she's a terrific knitter. some of my favorite shoots together were shot in black and white, the first one was shot on type 55 (this is how far back our relationship goes.)

for the next issue of B anna asked me to document the freshmen move in day and it was one of the most interesting and exciting assignments i have been asked to photograph. i'm known primarily for my portraits but photographing move in day surrounded by glowing young ladies really too me back to my days photographing the teenage girls for my mendham, new jersey project and i think i got some good pictures that day. i loved being around the young women while they were filled with excitement, anxiety, hope and fear. it was an intensely emotional day. i'll post photos as soon as the issue is out!

kids!

 i've been photographing in studios more. i like having a little more control than i usua;;y have when on locattion. seeing more, so to speak, without distractions. while i am best known for working with daylight i have an extensive background working with lights from my assisting days. i guess it's a good thing i assisted everyone from fashion to still life to travel photographers way back when! i'm still working my way through it and having a great time playing. here are a few that i quite like so far.

i've been photographing in studios more. i like having a little more control than i usua;;y have when on locattion. seeing more, so to speak, without distractions. while i am best known for working with daylight i have an extensive background working with lights from my assisting days. i guess it's a good thing i assisted everyone from fashion to still life to travel photographers way back when! i'm still working my way through it and having a great time playing. here are a few that i quite like so far.