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I first met Dedeker Winston over four years ago, when I was just starting out as a photographer.

Yggdrasil - © Sarah Allegra

Yggdrasil – © Sarah Allegra

She was one of the first models I worked with and we clicked so well that we’ve been working together ever since.  She is one of my go-to models, one of the best and most reliable I have.

All Of Winter In A Day - © Sarah Allegra

All Of Winter In A Day – © Sarah Allegra

She instinctively understands what I’m wanting from a shoot and she delivers every time.  Of course, I adore my other models too, I have the best group of ladies and gents willing to pose for me, but this post is specifically about Dedeker.

Mark of Cain - © Sarah Allegra

Mark of Cain – © Sarah Allegra

Because, you see, Dedeker was chosen to be on Fox’s new reality show Utopia, which airs tonight.  Their sites describes the show’s premise well, so I’ll let them explain it:

La Belle Dame Sans Merci - © Sarah Allegra

La Belle Dame Sans Merci – © Sarah Allegra

“Behold UTOPIA, a bold new series based on the hit Dutch program. Watch what happens as 14 pioneering Americans wave goodbye to the lives they’ve known, move to a remote location, and set out to create a society from scratch. They’ve got limited supplies, wildly diverse backgrounds, and zero bathrooms.

What could go wrong — besides everything?

The Utopians will make every decision about how they live and work. Will they choose democracy or dictatorship? Capitalism or socialism? Fidelity or free love? Which religion, if any, will prevail? Will they punish or forgive? Keep or share?

Are those chickens friends….or food? If not now, when?

It is all up to them.

This is not a game. There is no prize. This is UTOPIA: reality TV in its truest form.”

Shades We Weave - © Sarah Allegra

Shades We Weave – © Sarah Allegra

It will certainly be interesting to watch how the show evolves.  And of course I’ll be watching to support my girl Dedeker 🙂

Wings For Marie - © Sarah Allegra

Wings For Marie – © Sarah Allegra

One of the unique qualities about the show is how long-running it’s intended to be; the contestants have to be willing to stay there for up to a year; perhaps even longer.  While no one is guaranteed to stay that long, it’s a possibility.  And I’ll admit, I was very sad to think about not having one of my favorite girls around to shoot spontaneously as the desire came up.

Alone In The Wilderness - © Sarah Allegra

Alone In The Wilderness – © Sarah Allegra

But I’m more interested in supporting Dedeker.  This sounds like a really unique opportunity for her and she’ll definitely come out with the story of a lifetime to tell!

Are You The Beast Again? - © Sarah Allegra

Are You The Beast Again? – © Sarah Allegra

So in the spirit of supporting her and promoting her being on the show, I decided to put together a post with some of my favorite Dedeker images from the last four years of partnership!

Potion - © Sarah Allegra

Potion – © Sarah Allegra

All of the Utopia contestants have their own catch phrase/tagline for lack of a better term.  Dedeker has been billed as the professionally-belly-dancing, polyamorous, nude model who has no fears of being naked – a trait I can personally attest to.  I have many images of her, both clothed and unclothed, but for the purpose of this post, I’m going to celebrate more of her nude work.

Water Birth

Water Birth – © Sarah Allegra

She is equally skilled at both kinds of modeling, even when it involves wearing hand-made, noxious-smelling, tea-dyed dresses, heavy crowns of branches which have to be strapped to her body to support them, with decorative ribbons biting into her flesh because her photographer was too busy focusing on other details and she was too much of a pro to complain.

The Court Of The Dryad Queen

The Court Of The Dryad Queen

Dedeker has been instrumental in the building of my most-beloved photography series, DreamWorld (my own Utopia, if you will).  She has portrayed countless characters, including dryads, oracles and deer-people to name a few.

Water For The Free - © Sarah Allegra

Water For The Free – © Sarah Allegra

The Oracle  - © Sarah Allegra

The Oracle – © Sarah Allegra

So good luck to all the Utopians!  But most of all to Dedeker 🙂

Coming Over Like A Storm - © Sarah Allegra

Coming Over Like A Storm – © Sarah Allegra

And De, let me know when you’re back so we can shoot again!!

Fledgling - © Sarah Allegra

Fledgling – © Sarah Allegra

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Here’s something I’ve never done before: create an image intending for it to be black and white!  I have one other image that was converted for a magazine which required it to be black and white to print it.  I LOVE me some color.  I like using color strategically and thoughtfully.  But something made me think about doing this most recent image in black and white and I loved the idea.  It would be a bit of a challenge and a stretch for me and that’s a good thing.

This image came to be through two sources.  One was a way to help me deal with the grief I was still feeling.  The other was this astonishingly beautiful solo by Ricky Ubeda for the show So You Think You Can Dance, and the gorgeous music and poetic lyrics by David J. Roch.

Don’t lose your soul as your eyes roll shut
Don’t worry, it will be over

You know what’s to come to not accept this
Don’t lose your soul, you must fight for each breath
Don’t go quietly

My soul has flown and I am what is left
I am skin and bones

Who else can look exactly like a leaf being blown across the stage??

When I first watched this dance, it was on a day when I was heavily grieving and I started weeping uncontrollably as I watched it… and was still compelled to rewind the DVR and watch it over and over.  I’ve probably seen it 20 times now in about a week.  I immediately tracked the song down, downloaded it on Itunes and have been listening to it on repeat in the car since then.

I can’t quite verbalize what it is about this performance that moves me so much, which is part of why art exists; to give voice to that which we can’t say.  Though it brought so many tears out of me, there was a hopeful, soothing quality to it within the darkness.  And since I can’t tell you exactly how it makes me feel, the next best thing I could do was create a self portrait.

With Ricky’s evocative dance, David J. Roch’s sober lyrics and Andrew’s death rolling around inside my head, I shot a self portrait which was, as it usually is, very healing to do.  I felt lighter after it.

The “I am skin and bones” refrain immediately made me think of black and white; the visual equivalent of being reduced to simple skin and bones.  The door and handle are holding my body up, and my face is mostly in shadows to reflect both the dark lyrics and my dark emotional state.

I purposely left on my metal bracelet, which I wear every day.  It was made by a lovely person on Etsy who will hammer whatever phrase you’d like onto your bracelet.  Mine reads “That’s what heroes are for.”  A daily reminder to be brave, to continue striving, to be ready to sacrifice for that which is important.  And to me, it was vitally important to include it within this self portrait.  Though its meaning will only be known to me and those reading this, it is a flash of hope and strength at a time when it was most needed.

And that is all I can verbalize about the meaning of this image.  Editing in black and white definitely used different artistic muscles.  I enjoyed the change of pace, but I don’t see myself becoming solely a black and white photographer; I love color too much.

I hope you enjoy this experiment down the black and white lane!  And I also hope that you will vote for Ricky Ubeda in the upcoming weeks of So You Think You Can Dance; I already believe (and hope) he could win the whole contest!  Thank you to Ricky and David J. Roch for providing the art that I needed just when I needed it.  Full song lyrics are below the photo!

Skin and Bones

Skin and Bones

 

Skin and Bones - detail

Skin and Bones – detail

Skin and bones, by David J Roch:

Don’t lose your soul as your eyes roll shut
Don’t worry, it will be over
Hold on though, you’re alone, I am there with you
That much at least I can promise

You know what’s to come to not accept this
Don’t lose your soul, you must fight for each breath
Don’t go quietly

Don’t cry out for God
Just breathe in and out
Don’t cry out for God
Just breathe in and out

We are but lambs to the slaughter now
I have no fear of death itself
So don’t try and save me and please, God, forsake me
I’ll suffer alone, I just want to be left

My soul has flown and I am what is left
I am skin and bones
I am skin and bones
I am skin and bones
I am skin and bones
I am skin and bones
I am skin and bones
I am skin and bones
I am skin and bones
I am skin and bones
I am skin and bones
I am skin and bones

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