Estimated completion: December 2021
The American Woman Project
The All-American Girl 65 Years later
How This Project Was Born
It all started in a tiny book store in Rome, Georgia, in 2015, at one of my first signings for my first (and only one at this point) book, North Georgia Moonshine. It was three hours of few visitors, intense silence and filled bookshelves. The reality of a new writer. There came a point when Len and I realized that it would be us for the remainder of the time.
Fighting boredom, I started roaming through books. Through artifacts.
Do-dads. Old magazines.
And then I found LIFE, December 1956.
A special issue on the American Woman, Her Achievements and Troubles.
A bargain once-upon-a-time at $.35, the cost had sky-rocketed to $2.00 for this faded issue. I had to have it. The portraiture was amazing and the information, classic. The ads reminded me of my childhood and it was as if I could place my mother in ever single image. THIS was who she was. She was an American Woman with achievements and troubles.
For years, I had dreams of recreating the section that graced the front of the issue—10 American women, all photographed by Howell Conant. Each from different locale of the United States, LIFE surmised that is what made their character unique and was a reflection of women in that geographical region.
The writer in me wanted to know the backstory of these women, but only a few sentences were provided. The photographer in me adored the image capture which actually, told more than those few sentences.
As time passed, the project continued to float around in my head, and finally, I decided to jump. I began meeting women who i knew would be perfect subjects. Their stories were unique. Everything they did portrayed strength, individuality and charisma. They left marks on my memory. It was a sign. Now is the time.
Who I'm Looking For and
Where We'll End Up
Here's the descriptors used by LIFE of these 10 women "with regional variations" in 1956:
Devoted to the Outdoors
Fresh, Good Looks
Women at their Pinnacle
Traditional Southern Belle
Quick and Easy Smile
Sophisticated City, Warm Attractiveness
Plain Spoken with a Casual Grin
Cosmopolitan Elegance with Luxuriant Good Looks
Satined Stylishness, Tailored and Fashionable
"Naturalness is a universal quality of U.S. beauty."
Whether you or I agree with these descriptions, the world certainly did in 1956. By the time the project is complete, it will be 65 years and 2021. My goal is not to prove or disprove any of the thoughts but rather to illustrate through words and images the authentic woman of the 21st century. All types of women. Young and old and all those in-between. Ordinary and extraordinary. Different cultures, races, religions, beliefs. Diverse professions from dress designers to chefs to brewers to corporate executives to community activists to ministers to waitresses to college students to teachers to ANYONE!
Get the point?
There's no mold for this project.
Through this experience, I hope to meet extraordinary women, develop my storytelling skills, hone my photography skills, and through it all, tell stories that must be told. As the project goes forward, I'll share behind the scenes. The final images for the project will not be seen until the three elements are complete and finalized: 1. Reproduction of the 1956 image; 2. Studio portrait; and 3. On site in her element.
The end result? Who knows for sure, but I'm hoping for a book or a gallery showing. When I dream, I dream big.
Won't you be part of this project? If you're interested, contact me here!
Let's share who you are right now during this time in history. I promise, we'll have fun.
I first met Stephanie in 2019 when she greeted me at her home in Camden, South Carolina, bare-footed with curly hair and red lipstick showcasing her full lips. Her dress was cotton with eyelet trim dancing across mages of corn cobs in motion from top to bottom. Yes, she was real. I guess you could say she is the one to put all this in motion. And, she would be my first choice for this project.
If ever God created a template for a cheerleader it would be Frances. As the owner of Dover Grace Boutique in Watkinsville, she created a safe and comfortable zone for girls of all ages, sizes and dreams. And, that included me when she fitted me for my daughter's Ireland wedding and when I began my photography career. "Anything you need," she would say. And she meant it. Grace defines this woman. She was a automatic choice for this work.
I have known Suzanne since she was a 13-year-old girl. It didn't take me - or anyone else for that matter - to realize she was destined for greatness. Not the hand-out kind; the work hard, push until you can't, rise to the top of the ladder and never forget who you are kind of greatness. As a global business manager, her greatest loves are her children and husband.