The once thriving Fort Ord Military Base in Marina, CA was closed in 1994 and has been mostly neglected since that time with many of the old structures having fallen into various states of decay. Inevitably, nature has started the process of reclaiming the land, providing the space with an added element of intrigue.
My early interactions with Fort Ord were solitary in nature; I was captivated by the glimpse it offered into a bygone era and found myself wandering through the streets and buildings that once housed hundreds of thousands of people but which now form a military ghost town. As I began exploring and photographing the base, I realized that work was underway to demolish many of the old structures. I felt a strong pull to document what was left of this once magnificent example of American military prowess. As I began to consider what format I wanted this documentation process to take, I recognized that isolated pictures of the buildings and their surroundings was not of interest to me; I needed to incorporate a sense of humanity into the images.
I began to formulate a concept for portraits of young, thin, tall, ‘pretty’ women in soft, earthy, flowing wardrobe, with long hair, and soft makeup set against the rugged backdrop of Fort Ord. As I started photographing women in this manner, I realized my own stereotypical concept of femininity was a direct result of the popular culture imagery I had been inundated with for most of my life. This preconception was negatively influencing my approach to this project and my portrayal of this perspective was feeding into this stereotype I was uncomfortable with. This realization transformed the Fort Ord : Beauty project into a visual exploration into the diversity of modern femininity. I recognized that the project needed to incorporate women from varied backgrounds who presented a more representative look at our culture as a whole. I began reaching out to a wide range of women who I photographed in a style that represented their own personal take on the concept of femininity. In order to create a diverse perspective on this concept I established a goal of photographing 100 women for the project. In the end, 110 women participated, ranging in age from 14 – 89 and including straight women, gay women, transgender women, women of wide ranging ethnic backgrounds and women from vastly different social and economic groups.
For this project I have partnered with theNo More Tears non-profit organization whose mission is to empower people to live safe, hopeful and happy lives. No More Tears was founded by Somy Ali in 2006 and is a 100% volunteer operated, 501(c)3 non-profit organization that provides assistance to the victims of domestic violence. Through a network of donors, volunteers, and supporters, No More Tears is able to provide abused women with a wide range of assistance programs including: free access to legal help, rent assistance, transportation, driving instruction, scholarships, childcare, food, clothing, mental health care, and medical care.
100% of the net proceeds from Fort Ord : Beauty book will go directly to No More Tears.