Dressing Up in the Outback to Make a Point
AI-AP | Pro Photo Daily » PPD Spotlight, Written by David Schonauer
Deleigh Hermes is playing dress-up for a reason.
A Texas-based photographer (and Pro Photo Daily reader), Hermes wrote recently to tell us about her series “Woman” — self-portraits in which she poses in the American outback while incongruously wearing gowns and evening dresses.
She isn’t making a point about fashion. Rather, the photographs are meant to call attention to double standards and conflicting attitudes about the role of women in contemporary society.
“I feel that women are expected to be independent in life (and so many of us are), but society still doesn’t fully let us,” Hermes says. “As a outdoor and adventure photographer, I am constantly pushing myself to shoot in hard-to-get-to places. It is what really drives me — even so far as to get my Wilderness First Aid certificate through the National Outdoor Leadership School. And soon I’ll get my Wilderness First Responder certificate.”
Her achievements haven’t always been recognized in that light, however.
“My friends and family know that I will go anywhere, but when I went snow camping for the first time, alone, I surprisingly got a lot of comments implying that I needed or should have a man with me,” Hermes notes. “I believe that any man or woman alone in the backwoods should be safe and cautious. I did extensive research on snow camping and the gear that would be needed — how to cook, drive, stay warm, etc. I felt very confident about my trip, even though I was very intimidated, and yet people still didn’t believe in my capabilities.” In response, Hermes made the self-portrait below during her adventure.
Hermes, who had undertaken her snow-camping trip while traveling from California to Texas, happened to have with her a dress she’d recently worn to a friend’s wedding. So, she says, she decided to “throw it on.”
“It was bitterly cold changing into the dress, as the temperatures were at about 15 degrees. I tried to take the photo without my hat and gloves, but I couldn’t operate my camera because my fingers were too cold. My point in this was to show femininity and independence in a place where it did not seem to fit.”
That was just the start. As she traveled through the Texas wilderness, Hermes continued to pose in gowns. The self-portraits, posted on her website, have had made an impact, she says.
“I was asked by my alma mater, Texas State University, to come show the images,” says Hermes. “And I was invited to the Texas State Women’s Business Fair in March, where I talked about entrepreneurship and pursuing your dreams. Afterward, I received an email from a young women telling me how much my project meant to her. She told me about some hard times she had gone through and how my images helped her. I was very humbled by this and went out to get more dresses.”
“I am continuing this project for as long as it needs to be,” Hermes says. “I am traveling to New Mexico and Utah for the next few weeks to work on this. I have also asked the young lady who emailed me if she would like to pose for me.”
Hermes is now also approaching dress designers with the aim of collaborating on the project.
“I want to encourage women to stand tall mentally and physically — in their careers and in their own adventures,” she says. “The project is called ‘Woman,’ because it is for every woman.”