Demimondaine: A Look Into the Photographic Works of Stephanie Craig
Growing up in the hills of Western Massachusetts, photographer Stephanie Craig tells us that there wasn’t much to do as a kid but wander the woods and pick blueberries. “In a way, photography became my companion,” she says. Stephanie is currently still living in Western Massachusetts, where there is an outstanding creative community. “I’m happy to be here, and to be part of such a wonderful group of people. There is something beautiful about New England in every season,” she shares. “Especially the fall.” Her favorite place in the world is a place in her home town: a special spot where “the sky opens up and the stargazing is out of this world.”
When it comes to her work, Stephanie explains that she is “inspired by human connection,” stating that the bond between a photographer and its subject fuels her. Portraiture is Stephanie’s specialty. “When a portrait makes you want to know everything about the subject…that’s what I love. The concept doesn’t have to be crazy as long as the subject alone looks unforgettable.” Stephanie finds inspiration in the uniqueness of everyone she comes into contact with, as well as in books. “I find so much inspiration in used book stores,” she reveals. “They are a gift to creativity.”
As for people who inspire Stephanie, Francesca Woodman, Katerina Plotnikara, Sayaka Maruyama, and PT Anderson are at the top of her list, although her father is the one who truly keeps her going. “He’s the most amazing person I know.” Before pursuing photography professionally, the best job that Stephanie ever had was working on a blueberry farm in Heath. “If I were able to, I’d spend every year working there,” she confesses. “There’s a kind of zen in sorting and working outside all day.” If she wasn’t a photographer, she admits she’d most likely be farming or working with animals in some way. Nature is also at the root of many of the little things in life that makes Stephanie happy. “Sitting on river rocks as the sun sets behind a mountain; tea, wandering, story telling, gardens, learning new things, discovering hidden places,” she continues. “The list goes on.”
The photo shoot featured in this issue, titled Demimondaine, came about when Stephanie’s friend, a stylist, asked her to photograph some vintage Chanel suits from her store. Two of Stephanie’s friends, Molly Taylor and Cecily Santiago, agreed to model the suits for the shoot, which were styled by Tiffany Pentz. Prior to the shoot, Stephanie did a lot of research on the history of Chanel. “It is said that the earliest women to wear Chanel were demimondaine mistresses, women of fashion upon whom the rich men displayed their wealth. They lived extravagant lifestyles of fine food and clothing provided by their lovers,” she states. “To put it simply, they were the ‘classy’ prostitutes of the late 18th century. Their lifestyles were an eclectic mix of sharp business acumen, social skills, and hedonism.” One of the most famous demimondaine mistresses was Cora Pearl. “Cora was a cultural celebrity,” Stephanie elaborates. “She dressed creatively with the intent to provoke either shock or awe. She would dye her hair bold colors to bring out her clothing or make up. I thought this was a perfect match for Molly’s hair, the blonde model.” Stephanie acknowledges that she has made the subject matter a bit risky, being that in most senses, demimondaine means prostitute, but she loves that its dictionary definition is “a class of women on the fringes of society supported by wealthy lovers.”
As a young creative following her dreams, Stephanie has big plans for the rest of 2013. Establishing her business is one of her top goals for this year. “I’m in the beginning stages of my career and everything is still very fresh,” she says. “I learn something new every day and I’m very grateful for this. I’d love to put a book together by the end of this year and also spend some time traveling.” Additionally, Stephanie is looking forward to shooting her scheduled 2013 weddings and working on some more personal projects.
Story by Emily McNally, photography by Stephanie Craig.
This post originally appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of V23 Creative Magazine.