The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Dress
There has been a number of ‘Travelling Dress’ projects around the world, with some attracting the attention of websites such as Bored Panda sharing images from each of the 11 photographer’s time with the dress. Taking inspiration from that idea, I realised I wanted to take part in something similar in some ways and different in others. My love for culture and colours meant that I knew there was one way this had to be done. I am in a group of Black Female Photographers based in the UK, a small but mighty collective of talented women across a number of photographic genres. After getting together a group of 10 of us, we spent time ruminating over a design and colour for our ‘dress’. We settled on Ankara, originally created for the Indonesian market but was quickly adopted into African Culture because of the tribal-like patterns. We chose a bold, strong colour which for me, marked the strength of the project as well as culture. Once we had seen an idea we liked for the dress, we didn’t want to just buy one. So, reached out to an incredible designer named Thea Ajayi from the incredible House of Tendai (Facebook Page) and she can also be found on Instagram. Known for her beautiful creations and a flair for African Fashion, we excitedly put funds towards the fabric purchase and to hire Thea to create the dress. The name Sisterhood of The Travelling Dress was chosen because of the uniqueness of the relationship between supportive women with a common interest as long been associated with black women and therefore the title fit well with our community.
The plan was for each photographer to have the dress for approximately two weeks, choose their model and shoot whichever they liked, before passing it on. My turn arrived in August, I honestly had not felt so much pressure to get something right in a while! Unfortunately for me, my daughters both aged 3 and 11 months at the time caught the dreaded chicken pox! So, I had to cancel and send the dress on it’s way with a view to receiving it again in September. That time came around quicky, with the dress landing on my doorstep once more. I hadn’t thought of my idea yet, nor had a model!! Panic was setting in but with a quick message on social media, I was put in touch with the very beautiful Chereece L. who happily agreed to be shot by me at my home studio (relief). She is on Instagram, should you wish to work with her! Incredible and lovely too.
When I look at my images, I see strength, pride and beauty. But also a woman not afraid to do what she has to, to get things done. I see a regal, royal woman. I used a head wrap as it is synonymous with black women, worn to either protect hair or as a styling option as you can see here. The headwrap has been worn for decades, sometimes adorned with jewellery and bows. With a little bit of research on Google, you will be able to see how different headresses are interpreted and worn. The bowl and basket I used to signify a working woman, many use their heads as support to carry fairly heavy loads across their communities.
I thoroughly enjoyed this project, I felt a sense of community and togetherness, as well as being creative and using my personal interests in colour and culture too. What is exciting is seeing the different takes on the dress. I felt good when I had finished, though a little sad to see it go, I was mostly relieved that I had gotten to do it. It is definitely something I want to do again. Exploring ideas and challenging myself to do something different and pushing the boundaries of creativity!
I wanted to link to one of the photographers who took part, her name is Julietta from Julietta Arden-Taylor who is based near Kettering. Have a read of her blog where she talks about her experiences with the dress. Julietta is a wonderful photographer and friend, with a specialist interest in Maternity and Newborn Photography. She also offers Children’s Portraiture and Commercial photography. Her style is clean, timeless and contemporary. So if you are local, do go check our her work.
Special Thanks to Chereece for her time with me on this project.
Special Mentions of Participants: