Going Back To Prom

Image from this year's prom

Image from this year’s prom

I have been waiting for 12 months for this, but last week, I was back at a high school prom. This time, instead of a tux, I was donning my camera.

Printed Prom Image

Printed Prom Image

For my current project, which has occupied my time over the past year, I am working with teens–mostly high school students–and the pop culture media that influences them. Together, we create an image that references one of those images. Last year around this time, I headed to a high school prom in Minnesota. I was interested in using a still from a Lil’ Wayne video as a starting point, but instead of rappers and video girls occupying my image, I wanted to use prom-goers and the party bus they had rented.

Last Year's Image

Last Year’s Image

There were a number of problems during that first shoot that made it quite difficult. First, the bus that the group I was working with had hired was 45 minutes late. Which meant we didn’t have much time at all to shoot. Second, there was no power to plug my lights into, which meant I had to bring a generator. The problem there was that the generator wasn’t strong enough to fully run the lights. Also, I usually use a 5D to light meter, but the iso on the 5D was set incorrectly and I didn’t have time to check it, which meant all of my film (slide film no less) was underexposed–a big problem. Finally, after less than 10 shots, the generator overloaded my lights and started one of them on fire. That ended the shoot. And to vouch for the tenacity of Speedotron equipment, the light still works to this day, despite having been on fire for a short period of time.



While I did get a shot from that experience, there were some compositional and exposure issues that I didn’t think lived up to my standard of shooting. So, for the last year, that image has lived in my series as a place-holder while I waited for prom to come up again. When you work like I do, sometimes you just have to wait, and I knew I would only get one or two chances a year to make this image.

As prom season rolled around again this year, I was lucky enough to be put in touch with a group that had rented a party bus (important to my image) and they were willing to give me some time after their “grand march” and before they headed out to dinner. This time, things went so much better. This was the shoot that I rented the digital back for (from the last blog post). The bus was there nice and early, so I got all set up before anyone showed up. I had a Speedotron battery pack this time instead of a generator, which works much better. And while I was still short on time, I got my image and am happy with it. A long wait, but worth it.