“Dark Beauty” is one of those quasi-undefinable/catch-all descriptions for a specific genre of photography that’s easier to identify than define. It usually manifests as fashion with a darker, bleaker, more sinister aesthetic, but it also veers into extremely polished fantasy imagery. I don’t have the innate talent for the fantasy stuff, so when Claire and I decided to explore the genre we went with bleak:
Take one vintage wedding dress, add some direct-yet-focused beauty dish lighting, a touch of smeared makeup, some black lipstick, and some uncharacteristically heavy-handed post-processing and voila! Dark beauty. Or at least dark beauty adjacent.
The concept was easy enough to explore. It was near Halloween so black lipstick was in abundance. The annoying part was finding eye makeup that would smear. Every decent brand prides itself on being smear-proof/waterproof and that was not a feature that was going to work in our favor.
The solution was about as low-tech as you could go: $1.80 water-soluble black makeup from the Halloween aisle at Walmart. Easily the best $1.80 I’ve spent in my photographic career. Add a bit of water and it would smear as if you were a bridesmaid who just realized that the groomsman she was paired with was a married douche. Add a little bit more and it would run in teary streaks as if you were a bridesmaid who had slept with the groomsman who was a married douche.
Later we ditched the vintage wedding dress for something a little more playful. You gotta love a strapless party dress, especially when worn by someone with delightful chest pieces.
If I have a photographic weakness it is that I get so caught up in the moment that I fail to notice small details, like the dang hanger strap in the lower left. I sincerely blame my asexuality for this: unlike most male photographers my eyes don’t immediately go to the bodice and then stop there, as if the effort to focus on the eyes would shatter my delicate psyche.
Later we ditched the dress and ended the session in an ichor-filled horror haze, but that’s for another post!