If you want to talk about the most loaded aesthetics in one era; it’s 1989.
Blondie gave us many vogue shoots, crop tops, polaroids, low-medium styled images, high fashion images, model based images, retro-vibe images; more.. not.. hetero [lol] aesthetic images [Wonderland… I have an entire section in my bigger blog post coming about this] and playful images all in one.
Trying to stick to a few aesthetics was hard on this one – and I still think I need to do an entire ‘bleachella’ shoot targeted for a specific era that most of the stans [myself included] are convinced was skipped for ‘Reputation‘ because of her quick hide away from the media, instead. I.e. we think there is an album that was going to be produced [most of us believe it to be named ‘Karma‘] that got scrapped because Taylor went into hiding and then put out ‘Reputation.‘
In fact, typically at the end of an era she will give us clues of what is to come based off of her outfits. So, for example, the end of ‘Speak Now’ we started to see her in more red styled clothing – then ‘Red‘ was produced. At the end of ‘Red‘ we started to get more retro based images, and it was followed by ‘1989.’ So at the end of ‘1989‘ – came bleachella. She had this rocker, Avril Lavigne, punk pop vibe – but then ‘taylor swift is over party’ happened on twitter, and Taylor did not, in fact, shake it off, and went into hiding. But that punk-pop vibe.. didn’t ever happen. Blondie came back with long normal blonde hair, many empowering black one pieces, and pissed off more than ever, and we [stans] loved it.
But any ways, ‘1989’ was full of many aesthetics. This was the time that Taylor really was hanging out with a ton of models, doing Victoria Secret runway performances, and honestly, now watching ‘Miss Americana,’ although this era had to happen for her to get to where she is today… is a painful one to watch, looking back on it all. Taylor was in the height of her career – surrounding herself around other women powerful in their industries, and all probably perpetuating her eating disorder. There are so many images during this era that just, make me super pained to look at, as we know now she wasn’t eating, was exhausted after shows, and in the end got burned by a lot of these friends. Taylor’s reputation poems she puts out later, and her break ups with many of her model friends that would go on working for Scooter and put out very similar images of her exes [one specifically] that look a lot like her ‘Red’ album… really close the door on that chapter for me.
I will try to stay focused on the task at hand: the shoot and it’s inspiration. Switching over from ‘Red,’ Taylor was finally making her way into the Pop scene as she wished. She was distancing herself from country and making her way through ‘Red‘ into this complete breakthrough into the pop/Taylor Swift styled music.
When she released ‘1989,’ she sent out a ton of copies of polaroids – that resembled this idea of her growing up, getting her first big apartment in NYC all by herself to go along with “Welcome to New York.”
To be honest, I’ve never looked at reference photos so much while creating these. What was kind of fun to do, was look at the ones she sent out initially, because all had fragments of lyrics, and some images were so blown out they were so unrecognizable of the actual content [lol]… but she still included them. So it was kind of fun to play around with this idea of complete hobby styled photography that was super real, playful and full of mistakes. Sarah and I recreated the ‘Taylors Version’ of “Wildest Dreams” and the image she put out for that single – since it’s the only thing of ‘Taylors Version’ that we have.
Her rerelease of this single had its own aesthetic too, which we kind of wanted to create as well, since again, it’s the only thing we have from this new album right now. From watching several interviews, most of her re-released imagery, even Folklore and Evermore have a pretty DIY aesthetic because of the pandemic. So her imagery and releases have a lot of film unedited vibe, as well as her hair and make-up styles, because she is in fact, doing most of it herself.
Since a lot of her newer stuff is going to be toned down – less make up – less stylized portraiture, we kind of leaned in on this more natural aesthetic – one that I think she intended ‘1989’ to be, but I think based on success and friends, it all kind of got lost when she began to do a million shoots per minute for magazines. So, for this shoot I almost exclusively shot on a 35mm film camera, playing with both 100 ASA and 800 ASA film. I photographed [for safety] some digital images too but they honestly just do NOT compare, both in aesthetic and concept. Sarah and I took the more retro-wholesome vibe of her initial announcement rather than the super stylized model route that also happened during ‘1989.‘ I honestly feel like I could do this specific era in 4 other shoots because there is just THAT MUCH content.
So let me share my film shots from this specific shoot: Forgive me, there is a lot.
We also tried to do more of a vogue – ish styled ‘1989‘ – but doing it in an apartment is a tad limited-
My main images for inspiration were these:
Finally – to make this a bit of ‘our own’ styled shoot – we also got out a crop top and some lights and did a whole in-home concert styled shoot [lol]. Call it quarantined ‘1989.’
Lastly, doing this shoot now tells me that I need an entirely different shoot highlighting not only ‘bleachella’ but also this styled of … whatever ‘1989‘ was here… too.
This was such a fun shoot to go back to Polaroids and film and get to the root of ‘1989′ when it was first released. It’s like Taylor constantly was playing dress up and playing a million different characters – while trying to say that she is ‘celebrating who she is,’ it’s kind of like she was hiding her real self the entire time. She had mentioned that during the making of ‘Red‘ she wanted to make her next album her birth year- while she was making the music she said her friends started to say they heard kind of an 80s pop vibe to it all, which supposedly, Taylor didn’t realize she was doing it – but alas, ‘1989’ was born.
I think it would be fun to explore these other styles of photography as well. She was just.. so much in the media at this point that it really didn’t surprise me when it all kind of blew up and she tucked herself away. There are so many … theories [lol] on this album alone – which I am excited to discuss later on. But this shoot was a blast and I really found myself loving film again. Because of this shoot I have invested in 20 more rolls of film for the next few months. So.. thanks, Tay. ❤
Up Next: Reputation