For one of my school assignments, I decided to do a creative photography project around the idea of “the other” in society. It started as just another school project, but by the end, I was engrossed in the process, and I continued to wonder how else I could facilitate the conversation about the elimination of bullying, binary-reliance, and discrimination on social media. By entering myself into a dialogue that was previously closed, I explored the idea of “the other” firsthand, where I learned the true meaning of being different.
Seven looks, nine hours, and 1,500 photographs later, I had what I needed to start exploring, but it wasn’t until after I started to edit the pictures that the conversation really began. When we first started shooting, I didn’t think much of what I was wearing, or the work I was doing, it was just a pair of heels, a long, over-exaggerated coat, and some makeup – nothing bad could come from that, could it? After all, I was in a safe place with someone who loved me, so I had nothing to worry about. Upon completion, however, my friend, Grace O’Brien, who co-collaborated and photographed the project, told me how proud she was of me because it was “a big thing I just did.” I didn’t really think much of her comment at first, but when I jumped into the shower to wash off the grime of the makeup and the oils from shooting for nine hours, I instantly realized how much more the shower meant. For me, I dressed up like this for the project, so I could stretch my creativity, and further facilitate the discussion I mentioned earlier, but for some who don’t feel right in the body they are in, they dress up to return to their normal. I felt the need to wash away something that didn’t feel right, something I would be judged for, something that wasn’t me. This got me thinking about the thousands of people who don’t feel comfortable in the skin they’re in, and the only way to return to their normal, their safe-place, their equilibrium, is to put on the makeup, the heels, and the dresses, because for them, this is home.
Very quickly, this project’s importance grew exponentially in my eyes, and I finally felt like I was doing some important work that was more than just a school assignment. I took the idea and ran with it, and I cannot wait to continue to explore what “the other” has in store for me.
For the full experience, check out @tales_of_the_other on Instagram, and let me know what you think!