Photographer Alyson Fox’s most recent project, "A Shade Of Red", is a book with more than 100 photographs of women - old women, young women, friends, family members, co-workers, sisters and grandmothers - with one common thread: all were photographed wearing the same shade of red lipstick.
Some of the women had never worn bright red lipstick before, and many had never been professionally photographed before. Fox, who is based in Austin, Texas, found most of her subjects through word of mouth, as news of the project spread.
“I didn’t know what my subject was going to look like or what my backdrop would be,” Fox told TODAY.com. “I would just show up at my subject's personal space. I would spend no more than an hour. I didn’t want it to be a staged shot, I was really going for something raw. I would just show up with a tube of lipstick.”
The end result is an arresting and frank portrait of a group of women, from Texas to New York to Florida, which celebrates the individuality which shines through a communal shade of lipstick.
Some of the younger portrait subjects were captured wearing lipstick for the very first time. “Ruby at the time was 9 years old,” said Fox. “She's not the youngest, she's the second youngest, but I really captured this look that was well beyond her years. She was incredibly comfortable in front of the camera.”
The photographer strove to capture the women in as natural a way as possible. This picture of Joy, a friend’s grandmother, was the last photograph Fox snapped that day. “We went outside and she just bent down and scooped up this cat and I just shot it at the right moment.” Fox remembers. “I just loved it. This particular cat actually passed away two weeks after I photographed the picture.”
When it came time to choosing a lipstick for the project, Fox had no specific type in mind but she knew she wanted it to be a drugstore brand. “I wanted it to be something that everyone could afford and to me this is kind of about an everyday woman, a community of women so it just felt right being a simpler lipstick.” So Fox went to a Walgreens and headed to the beauty aisle. “I had 6 tubes in my hand. I strictly picked it on the name of the shade: [Revlon’s] ‘Certainly Red’ really struck a chord with me. I bought one tube.”
All the women in "A Shade Of Red" were photographed in their own space. “Mimi was photographed in her bedroom,” photographer Alyson Fox tells TODAY.com. “We talked about childhood stuffed animals.”
“Kaylan was shot in her apartment with her sister Laura”, Fox said. “I was immediately drawn to the patterns in her space and on the couch. I first met her at Lamberts, a restaurant in town [Austin, Texas]. She was our waitress.”
The women featured in "A Shade Of Red" all had different reactions upon seeing their portraits. “I had some women who were like ‘You know, you really captured like, the defensive side of me’, and then they examined themselves a little bit differently which was interesting to hear,” Fox said. The two sisters featured in this photograph, “loved theirs, and actually asked for their image to give to their mom for Mother’s Day.”
Most of the subjects in "A Shade Of Red" were arranged through word of mouth, but Mary was an exception. Photographer Alyson Fox explains: “I was in Martha, Texas on vacation. She walked into the restaurant where we were having breakfast. She had this great pink vest and these blue glasses and I thought 'This is what I want to be like when I’m older.' I introduced myself and the project, and she invited me back to her daughter's house and I walked over and we chatted for a good hour and a half. I got to see her paintings and I got to hear about her studying art in the '40s. It was really fascinating.”
For Fox, talking to the women was just as important to the project as shooting the pictures. It was important to her capture something of the essence of the woman, her history, her narrative. “I just talked the whole entire hour and just photographed the women as we started to get to know each other,” she explains. Beatrice, the woman photographed in this picture, owns a silkscreen company and has recently moved to California. “When I look at each portrait I have a little bit of history or something personal in each woman.”
For more information on "A Shade Of Red" click here.