The Story of the Orange Dress

Do you have a singular point in time and space that you can point to and say, “wow, that really changed a lot for me”? Or “I can’t imagine things having stayed the same after that”?

This was one of those moments for me.

Returning home after shooting with Arianna all afternoon and into the evening left me the most content I had been in a while. It was a really, just, good feeling, and I found that I had fallen in love with being shot and modeling in the span of hours.

I have been told before by friends and family that “oh, you could totally model!” only to bring it up with my parents (as a teeny, tiny, minuscule hypothetical, mind you) to be told, “THAT IS NOT WHY WE ARE SENDING YOU TO L.A.” I love my parents, and I absolutely hear where they are coming from; I am going to UCLA because it is an environment that will foster growth for me in every aspect of my life, especially academically. But, in my eyes, why not have some fun with it? I’m going to be living in the heart of one the best places in the world to explore this possibility: why not take advantage of it?

Walking back into the house through the garage, setting down bags of clothing changes that never took place (I’ll get to why), and seeing my tiredly happy face in the mirror subconsciously brought a smile to my lips. I took in the black floppy hat sitting crookedly on my head, the rumpled crochet details on my dress, and the massive eyelashes that made me look like a spider in real life but translated beautifully on camera. In that moment, there was one thought that kept announcing itself in my mind. I turned to my mom, who was closing the garage door behind me, and said, “Mom, I can do this.”

I can honestly say that this one shoot, done for fun with a friend, not only changed how I see myself in light of photography, modeling, and self-expression, but also my parents as well. It transformed their extreme skepticism into an acceptance that this is something that I actually want. Seeing it physically take place, even on a small scale, gave them enough faith to say, “OK. Maybe this is something that we can learn more about, really educate ourselves, and see what can happen with it. BUT SCHOOL IS OUR MAIN FOCUS, AND YOU NEED TO START RESEARCHING CLASSES.”

Yes, Mom, I’m on it.

So, to quickly get back to the “why” that I mentioned somewhere up there- my lack of outfit changes- my friend Arianna and I were looking to create a bright object against a variety of different backgrounds as one of the looks we would be shooting that day. We started the afternoon at the National Arboretum here in Washington, D.C. After getting there, taking in the terrific scenery, and getting some shots done of me in that boyfriend-jeans-and-white-tee outfit you see up at the top, I went to the bathroom to change into the orange dress. Where I learned, from a nice lady, that the park was closing and everyone now had to leave. After that point, I never changed out of that look. The orange dress changed everything.

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Stellar planning on our part, getting to a location to shoot 15 minutes before it closed, and not having a clue about its operating hours. But this ended up being a good thing: we made our way to the Adam’s Morgan district in D.C. and soon fell in love with the variety of unique backgrounds we had to shoot against. Tiny shops that lined that streets begged us to step inside their doors and take just a shot or two, an interesting alley here invited us to explore its depths, and a massive mural that demanded that we pay it attention. It was such a terrific day. We took hundreds of shots, took photos in a busy street, experimented with the hubbub of people and places, and it all came together for me.

No matter what actually happens when it comes to the photography industry for me doesn’t hold the final answer. What makes me incredibly happy about this day is that I found something that I have a passion for. It’s easy to think that we are passionate about something just because we are good at it, or because it’s something that we’ve always done since we were kids. But I know that photography, and modeling, is something that I truly love, and I am not afraid to put in the work I need to in order to make my work something worth looking at.

I am not one to shy away from a challenge.

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Jeans + t-shirt: Hollister, Co.

Dress: Urban Outfitters, Kimchi Blue “Trapeze Dress” in Orange

Watch: Marc Jacobs

Bracelets: Alex and Ani

Aliana

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