Photographer Hazel Gaskin teamed up with Grace Ellington and Candice Bailey to explore the ways we express our personal identity through our beauty choices
“I wanted to explore how we create an identity through make-up,” says photographer Hazel Gaskin about her new shoot. “We make considered choices in presenting ourselves in public through our beauty aesthetic. That can be choosing a strong beauty aesthetic or a completely natural one. How we want to be seen is so individual, it’s a basic form of self-expression.”
Inspired to produce a beauty story that felt real and which suited her documentary style, Gaskin reached out to make-up artist Grace Ellington and together they collaborated on a shoot which merges street photography with editorial to create a striking set of images that explore the ways we use beauty to accentuate, transform, hide away or be seen every day. “Beauty is transformational as well as ritualistic and culturally important universally,” as Gaskin says.
Wanting to keep the spirit of the shoot as close to its street style aesthetic as possible, Gaskin, Ellington and stylist Candice Bailey worked closely with the models to ensure that both make-up and styling was a natural extension of their personal style. Bailey discussed with each model what they liked and felt comfortable wearing so nothing felt forced, and the decision was made to not include a hair stylist on the project to keep the looks as true to the models as possible. “They were very much involved in the process and their being comfortable was a key element in giving the documentary feel I wanted to capture,” says Gaskin.
When it came to the make-up itself, Ellington says it was a heightened riff on the models’ existing identity and style, imagining what they would do if they were free of all practical limitations like technique and product range. Having selected people with strong visual identities already in the casting process with Sarah Small, the team then researched how each model did their own make-up for themselves first. “Once they were in my chair I already knew how they normally did their make-up because I'd been creeping their Instagram but I asked them to talk me through it anyway,” says Ellington. “The make-up looks we ended up with all felt like something that was new but very much in their existing world.”
Compared to other ways of outwardly expressing your identity – namely fashion – beauty is a very accessible medium with low barriers to entry; a Rimmel eyeliner can be picked up from Boots for just a few pounds and there’s a tutorial out there for every look. It’s this accessibility that for Ellington makes beauty such a compelling mode of self-expression.
“Realistically you need very little in order to experiment,” she explains, “and there is no barrier to achieving exactly the same looks as your references. The Julia Fox eye, for example, if you have eyeliner and know how to do it, you could wear a look that is indistinguishable from one Pat McGrath did, even if you could never access the head to toe Balenciaga. That is so democratic.”
Photography Hazel Gaskin, styling Candice Bailey, make-up Grace Ellington using Fenty Beauty, casting Sarah Small