The idea was inspired by a lucky find in rural Spokane County, and by the internet.
Spokane photographer Rachel Fellows was scouring a Greenacres flea market when she came across a black sequined dress for $10.
"A big purchase," the 33-year-old Fellows jokes. "It is like a photographer's dream, because it's super sparkly. Any lights you put on it, it's like a black disco ball."
For four months the dress hung in Fellows' living room while she considered what to do with it. Then she recalled a project she saw on art website Bored Panda in which various photographers took a wedding dress and did individual sessions with it, sharing the results with each other only after all the photo shoots were done. What if, she thought, a bunch of Spokane photographers did something similar? Fellows went to the Spokane Photographers' Facebook page to see if there was interest.
"I posted it online as, like, a line in the water," Fellows says. "I said, 'Is this a silly project? What do you guys think?' And it just hit [some] people right off the bat, like, 'Yes, we want to do it!'"
From there Fellows set the parameters of what would become the #samedressspokane project. Ultimately eight photographers, including Fellows, each got one week with the dress. Joining her were Lynne Morris, Tabor Cote, Make Laverdure, Mallorie LeeAnn, Paul Brousseau, Tom Tyson and Mike Wolfgram.
The photographers could pick any setting and use any models they wanted. The only rule, Fellows says, was that they couldn't damage or permanently alter the dress.
"I've had many people say, 'Can I roll around in the sand? Can I jump in the lake?'" Fellows says. "I keep saying yes. As long as it doesn't damage or alter it, you can go skydiving."
The photographers have been doing shoots throughout July and August, and have been keeping a strict "vow of silence," visually speaking — they haven't shared any images with each other or posted any to their various social media outlets.
At noon on Thursday, Sept. 5, they'll reveal their photos to the world, and each other, via their respective Instagram accounts (see accompanying list), and tagging all their photos for the project with the #samedressspokane hashtag. The photos accompanying this article are the first time anyone (besides the photographers viewing their own pictures) has seen any results from the #samedressspokane project.
The diversity of the photographers' styles come through in their photos. Fellows, who says she typically is a "fantasy kind of photographer," knew exactly what she wanted to do with the black dress. She made a headpiece with "kind of an art deco black lace," and took her yellow-haired model Ali James to the corner of First and Post in downtown Spokane, where there's a wall Fellows knew she wanted in her shots.
"I love creativity in all forms, so it's really cool to see other people's creative spirit," Fellows says. "I knew the exact spot [I wanted to shoot]. But, like, Tabor [Cote] saw the dress and he thought it needed a giant snake."
Mallorie LeeAnn, one of the photographers involved, embraced the chance to collaborate with a group of photographers she considers more experimental than herself. She mostly shoots weddings, couples and lifestyle photos for commercial work.
"I don't do many fashion-type shoots," LeeAnn says. "I try to do more of the average, everyday stuff that everybody can love."
Even so, when she got the chance to participate in #samedressspokane, LeeAnn's first inclination was to do something "unusual" with the dress and her 5-year-old daughter. Ultimately, though, she decided to do something more "on-brand" and photograph a couple in a woodsy area.
Whether #samedressspokane is just a one-off summer project or becomes an annual event, Fellows likes the fact this sparkly black dress inspired her to reach out and team up with some people whose work she admires, even if they didn't know each other well beforehand.
"I'm really liking connecting to other photographers," Fellows says. "We've met each other at different photo shoots or meetups, but never worked together like this." ♦