Sometimes it’s a good thing to play dress up, even as an adult.  I bought this beautiful ballgown for what I thought was a black tie event, only to learn recently that it is not and therefore need to return this beautiful garment.  Before I did, I decided it might be fun to take a few self portraits in it (tags still on).

It can be rewarding to allow yourself to feel pretty.  To dress up and do your make up just for the hell of it.  Because you are gorgeous.  You may not appear so every minute of every day, but trust me, with the right clothes, make up, hair, lighting, photographer (;)), and most of all ATTITUDE, you can turn it on.

In addition to dressing up, I like to play with editing.  Black and white or color?  I like them both!

This past weekend Dan, Calvin and I head down to Sinking Spring, PA to visit my in-laws.  I have been visiting Liz and Brent’s home now for almost 6 years (!).  It has always been a warm and comfortable place to visit.  There is something about Sinking Spring that is just so.. easy.  Sinking Spring is a suburb of Reading, PA situated in Berks County (about an hour outside Philadelphia).  Though close to the downtown, the town is actually quite rural.  I’ve always been intrigued by the real estate and Pennsylvania Dutch culture (and food).  You can clearly make out the different developments of clustered homes amidst green rolling hills and farms.  Some have big 2000s McMansions, others 1960s ranches, and others, like Dan’s, 2 floor colonial and farmhouse style homes built in the early 90’s.  One thing that remains consistent is a sense of pride of the homeowners.  There are well-manicured lawns and smooth sidewalks everywhere, scattered with big playgrounds and baseball fields.  In my memories I always see American flags and older men out on their lawnmowers waving and saying “good day!”.  Not the reality – but it illustrates how I find the community so wholesome.  And did I mention green?  It’s like as green and lush as Ireland was…

Anyway, I digress.  This photo series was taken with my iPhone and only too late into the trip did I decide to document some of the area and interior of Liz and Brent’s house.  I am also including some portraits and moments of the family (including their other child, Bogart) hanging out in the backyard on the glorious 80 degree Saturday.  Next trip I will bring my real camera and do something more extensive that shows more of what I am fascinated by.  I definitely need some photos of sausage (Bratwurst?) and pickled red beet eggs…!

The lovely Marina contacted me for a headshot that she needed for an upcoming award she was receiving.  She was extremely nervous – and when I saw her I immediately thought she was crazy to be worried as she is gorgeous!  We decided to hold the session the BC campus.  Snow was still on the ground, but I knew the medieval/gothic stonework and architecture of the school would provide a unique backdrop.  Also, Marina graduated from Boston College twice – for undegrad and graduate studies.  So it holds a lot of meaning for her.  While she ultimately needed a traditional headshot, my favorite images are the dark and more mysterious ones that we were able to take in the Rare Books section of the Burns Library.

This reminds me – school campuses are a great option for an on-location session!  They typically have a variety of visually interesting places to explore, nice landscaped grounds, and, most importantly, hold significance if it is a place you studied.

© Doug Dubois

I was introduced to Doug Dubois’s work while in graduate school.  Professors wanted me to take a look at his project “Family Photos” which document his own family, a project that had similarities to the one I was working on at the time.  I admired how his portraits often showed the subjects within the context of their environment.  Here are just a few of the images, but you can see more here.

What I want to focus on today, however, is Dubois’s latest project, My Last Day at Seventeen. For this project, Dubois focused on teenagers from Russell Heights in Ireland, a place near his Cork summer artist-in-residency at Serius Arts Center.  The project lasted over the course of 5 summers.  From the Time Lightbox feature:

 “The photographs here look at the bravado and adventure of childhood with an eye towards its fragility and inevitable loss,” DuBois wrote about the project. In each interview, discussion, or piece of literature covering the topic, he is quick to include that this “eye” was that of a “middle-aged American photographer on a group of young people from a few blocks of a housing estate in Russell Heights, Ireland.”

In that moment of uncertainty, however, Peggy Sue Amison, the director of the Sirius Arts Center, connected DuBois with a group of at-risk youth. After a couple of weeks worth weekly meetings, the first sparks of “My Last Day at Seventeen” ignited when Kevin and Eirn (two youth from the group) took DuBois to a place they called “the steps,” the gateway to Russell Heights, and opened DuBois’s eyes to a world of the not-quite adults, struggling — publicly and privately — through the last moments of their childhood.

DuBois gained entry in Russel Heights through his relationship with Kevin and Eirn, two Irish youth who would become central subjects of his work — Eirn uttered the sentence, “My last day at seventeen,” that would become the project’s title. Kevin and Eirn introduced DuBois to their families and friends, inviting him back to Russell Heights each summer.

Now, I personally am always sucker for coming-of-age themed anything.  Books, movies, photography.  And this work draws me right in.  I admire how Dubois alternates between close-ups of these teens expressive faces – often in dramatic, almost cinematic lighting (although I imagine it’s natural light, often during golden hour – summer just is special in that way), and pushed back with some context of the environment – like he did with his family shots.  I think it is important to give this context in order to give that context of the world in which these kids are growing up.  The close ups, on the other hand, draw us in, and show us how close Doug really got to these kids.  It’s those images that connect us, that show us the longing, the despair, the temporary “bravado”..

Below the images you will find a promo video for his Kickstarter project that I also recommend checking out..  He’s very close to his $27,000 goal – and I am proud to be a backer and look forward to receiving my book copy in the future : )

© Doug Dubois

© Doug Dubois

© Doug Dubois

© Doug Dubois