How I became a time-traveller…

Grete_40s_194

Going through the old photo albums of my grandparents a few years ago planted the first seed of curiosity into my imagination, I wondered what it would be like to travel back in time and feel what it was like to be them. They looked so elegant, so sophisticated, so different. Unfortunately both of them were long gone and all the questions I had never asked remained unanswered except for by my own imagination.

A couple of years ago I began research on my family history. I got to know parts of my family history I had heard nothing of, learnt about persons I had never known anything about, discovered more dusty old photo albums. In the midst of all this family history and personal stories I couldn’t help but dream that I could time-travel through different decades of the 20th , at least through photos. And just as I had made that wish, I met Bernd, my photographer friend.

We met in a Facebook group called Hamburg Fotofreaks and he was immediately enthusiastic about my project. I had no previous modelling experience and Bernd was an experienced hobby photographer. We promised to each other that our main goal was going to be to have fun with this, not put ourselves under time or performance pressure and just be open about each other’s ideas and suggestions.  We (still) don’t have a budget for costume rentals or assistants, we do everything ourselves – from make-up and styling to location scouting and photo editing. Youtube has been my personal assistant with its tutorials for hair and make-up. I look for inspiration in the old photographs on Pinterest, shop for outfits and accessories in second hand (online) shops. Fortunately much of the fashion repeats itself and I was amazed myself how many outfits were already hanging in my closet.

The project took on a new dimension when we started putting the idea into practice and I took my time for each shooting to read what was special about each decade, especially about those that I had never experienced firsthand. I began to do research on the history and fashion of each decade. I realized that instead of just asking what was going on in the lives of those women in the old photographs at the time those had been taken, I began to ask what was going on in the world in that moment of time and how that reflected in the photos. What shaped the women to be what they portrayed in those photographs, what moved them, what the society demanded of them to be and what their own wishes of the heart had been? Fashion as well as certain technics and trends in photography also played a big role in each decade. And that is how we tried to approach each photo shooting – to convey the emotion and depict each detail as accurately as our non-expert and non-historian understanding would allow.

I travelled through a whole century in one year. I had been kept a prisoner in the gilded cage of society, a rightless property owned by a man, so I stood up for my equal rights in the eyes of law in 1914. I dared to show some leg and was considered promiscuous for revolutionizing beach wear in 1923. I plunged into the glamour world of the Hollywood silver screen in 1935. I celebrated the end of war and the safe return of my lover in 1945. I cooked and cleaned and waited on my cheating husband in 1957. I was a playful cheeky Beatlemania-infected mod girl in 1967, excited about my idols’ new record. I hugged a tree and felt so free in 1973 (after I had burnt my bra). I ruled the world as an independent self-confident (shoulder-pad-loving) career woman of 1985. I relived 1993 but this time as a woman from the West. I became a narcissistic reality TV star in 2007, obsessed with my own beauty and fame. And finally I returned to the Selfie Generation of lookers at life through a lens in 2014.

But this was not the end of my time travels. We have taken so many new trips since 2014. My project that started out as a simple wish to dress up and copy a photograph has blossomed into a much bigger ambition for me. So finally here is my blog, collecting my favourite moments of my time-travels and celebrating 100 years of woman and womanhood as seen through my eyes. My own ancestors still play a huge role in this, inspiring me with their stories and their styles.

 

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