elderly woman

Lady, You Look Like Your Flowers

The hydrangea - like the shaved-poodle - did not arise in the wild. It took years of careful breeding and color selection to cultivate this full-headed purple flower. And, just as with its furry counterparts, these man-made flowers can greatly influence the look of their owners. I have to say, it’s sort of thrilling.

I mean, it’s one thing to walk the colorful streets of San Francisco and pass owners looking like their pets; but gardeners turning into their flowers... Who’s pruning who?

The idea for this personal project came to me over the summer when many of the hydrangeas in my neighborhood were in full bloom. The flowers range in color from pinks to purples, to brilliant magentas, to whites and blues. This particular palette I refer to (in my own custom vocabulary) as “Punchy Pastels”. The shape and hue of the flowers reminded me of an elderly woman’s hair. 

So it hit me: I must pair up a sweet old lady with this voluminous, full-bodied plant. I recruited such a person at a local senior social center where I had shot an editorial story a few years back. (I wish I could share her name, as it would be icing on the cake for this image!  Such a bad-ass name.) For this story we’ll just call her Madeline.

Madeline was a perfect subject.  She had the look (obviously) and gave so much to the session:  "Hey you kids, get off of my lawn".  Check.  "Pretend like you're swatting flies away".  Check.  "Wave maniacally to the neighbors".  Check. "Pull slugs off of your leaves."  Check.

The final image is a composite of: Madeline, the house, and numerous Hydrangea plants and additional flowers. I set up studio at the senior center, where passers by didn’t even recognize her – thanks to the “embellished hair”, AKA wig.  She completely bought in to the character and had a thorough understanding of what I was working to achieve, even understanding the basic concept of cutting and pasting in post-production. But most importantly, she trusted me.

Although you can’t see the full wardrobe in the final shot, the styling was spot on, thanks to stylist Peggi Jeung (assisted by Alena Shmuglyakova). It actually killed me to have to cut out so much of the outfit in support of the concept. But you can check it out in the out-takes (above). 

For those of you who live in the Bay Area, view the “Hydrangea Lady” in person!  This image has been selected to be displayed at APA’s Something Personal Exhibit at Left Space, on Thursday, December 14 (invitation only).  It has also been included in the Selected Works Exhibit at AAU's Sutter Gallery.  (Opening night:  February 7, 2013.  Exhibit runs from February 3 - 28.)

Do you have anything in your life that you look like?  Let me know.

Visit Mitch's official website at http://www.mitchtobias.com