Gloria Swanson by Edward Steichen
The inspiration for my Black Lace Portrait series came from the iconic 1924 portrait of Gloria Swanson by Edward Steichen. When I first came across the photo, I was immediately intrigued by the way the lace both concealed and revealed the subject. The veiling of women is a powerful act. In some cultures, veils are used to hide and repress women and their sexuality. When that veil is made of lace, it takes on new meaning. It evokes a sense of mystery and power and, yes, at times, seduction. She is in control. This is further enhanced by the context of the 1920s, suggested through the use of makeup style and accessories. This decade was witness to the growing liberation of women, from a greater presence in the workforce to less restrictive clothing to the vote. By keeping the variables simple – lace, tank top, turban, and pearls – my intent was to let the essence of each woman shine through. Thoughtful, flirtatious, dreamy, intense … my job as a photographer was to encourage these expressions and capture them on film in order to explore the power and beauty of women.
I should note that the lace has a magical effect; it disguises the years. The women pictured here range in age from their 20s to their 90s, including every decade in between. There is no editing to make the older women look younger. That is accomplished by the magic of the lace alone.