When I did some research about the historical background of this story, I also collected pictures about fashion and hairstyles. I have always wanted the photographs of this series to be recognized as being inspired from the 1910s, but I also wished to make the characteristics of this period my own. And though I am not interested in fashion (I’m guilty of not reading magazines), my photographic work forced me to have a look at it and to become a kind of fashion stylist myself. Strangely enough I like it a lot! Maybe I like it because I just have to be inspired, and it is me who makes the dresses, chooses the jewels and deals with the makeup. I think that what I don’t like about fashion is the must-have trends we are supposed to follow from someone else. But fashion as a creativity playground is something else.
1910s historical makeup look
Only actresses and prostitutes could be made up. Any ordinary everyday woman was not supposed to do so. Women had to buy makeup in secret. Little by little it started to be more widespread but they were careful that it did not show too much. Some of the most famous brands we know nowadays were founded during this era. And after the war things were so very different and it led to the 1920s when makeup was a must.
What women wanted to achieve at that time was to show they were healthy. Some well known tricks of those days were pinching your cheeks and biting your lips to increase blood flush. Then women started to use rouge under powder. Remember you had to look healthy so it had to come from inside, not painted over.
The complexion was as fair as possible. On this point I don’t have much to do; my skin is unable to get tanned. Some brown or gray shades could be applied on the lids but very slightly. Mascara was invented at this time but you were not supposed to wear that. And no eyeliner. Ouch.. my gothic mind is suffering here..
The feminine challenge
When I was hunting for vintage photographs from the 1910s, I was struck by the pervading feminity. How did they do? There was no real makeup and the corsets of these days did not push up the breast the way they did before and the way we got to like it later. How can you be so feminine with no makeup and just a light breast line?
Today I tried the look. I applied just the minimum of what was tolerated in the 1910s. It was a strange experience to make up and be careful not to look made up at the same time. I kept this look all day long to see how I felt and as a rehearsal for the beginning of the shooting due next week.
This challenge was a sort of answer for my thoughts. Everybody saw posts about celebrities with and without makeup or experiments showing plain women transformed into sex symbols. The real power of makeup nowadays seems to transform people, to replace who they really are by a fantasy of who they’d like to be, to hide behind a mask. And this idea made me uneasy. Are we fake people pretending to be different? Are we so afraid of what our body is really like? The texture of the skin is hidden and we draw our eyes in a different way as if there was some error to check out. Because these posts I was talking about are made to make fun of the natural look of these celebs, not to point to the power of makeup.
This experience showed me that true feminity comes from inside. The make up is here to reveal the natural beauty, not to replace it. These vintage pictures show a feminine atmosphere and it comes from inside, from the poses but also from the eyes. No makeup can change what we can read in the eyes.
The photo challenge
It is not possible to take photos with no makeup on at all. I mean professional photos. The skin has a natural brilliance that reflects light and it appears on photos as over brightened and clipped areas. And it can’t be retouched by routine editing most of the time. It would require more time consuming tasks to get rid of them. The face has to be at least powdered to avoid this.
Another problem is that lighting and photography tend to desaturate a little bit the colours of makeup. As a consequence more makeup should be applied than it would be necessary for an everyday look. The right balance between not less and too much would involve much trial and error I think.
Maybe those were the reasons why actresses were allowed to have makeup on.
I like makeup but I’ve been wondering about the way it should be used for quite a long time now. So I think this was a constructive experience to understand the different ways makeup can be used. It can conceal, reveal or be a fun game while dressing up.
Does it inspire you? What are your feelings about makeup? Do you wear some? If you are a photographer, did you have to deal with problems involving makeup? What do men think about it?