BY TABITHA SHIFLETT
If you’re a woman, then you’ve probably experienced the whole You Should Smile More charade. We’ve heard it all before – those gross, sexist comments ranging from, “Life isn’t that bad, honey!” to the plea, “Smile!
Usually, a man, grinning ear-to-ear like a Cheshire cat, is behind this annoying string of cliché phrases just waiting for us to have an epiphany – thanks to his underhanded compliment – and smile like we’re told.
Fed up and completely unamused with what society has dubbed as “resting bitch face,” Parsons photography students Sam Lichtenstein and Jess Williams took matters into their own hands.
The cheeky photo collaboration, “SAD GURLZ,” is a collation of portraits of bold, badass women redefining what it means to have a poker face – or just a face that walks down the street, minding its own business. Radiating rebellion, the images project power and major self-respect.
Both Lichtenstein and Williams spoke with an air of certainty and seriousness.
“We tell our models to look as bored, unamused, and annoyed as possible,” says Lichtenstein. “Which is contrary to how women are normally portrayed in photos....Women are always being told to smile, whether it’s in a photo or when they are just walking down the street, so we want to push that idea aside.”
To become a SG, models must apply via an online form with a theme and color backdrop in mind. Each model is accompanied by a short narrative further explaining the meaning of their photo.
Model Ana, who posed with a handful of Wendy’s French fries, writes "I'm a SAD GURL because eating healthy is the new black. Personally, I'd pick chicken nuggets over an apple any day.”
The photoshoot is a two-step process – once the accepted candidates are photographed against the background of their choice, a compilation of items that correlate with the theme are also shot. The two photos are then displayed side-by-side on the SG website, Instagram account, and Facebook page.
“It’s hard being a woman and even more so for those in the LGBT community,” says Williams. “We want SAD GURLZ to be an outlet for all women to speak out without actually having to say anything.”
The project began in February as an online photo album. But once word got out, the dynamic duo found their inbox overflowing with inquiries. They participated in Parsons' PHOTOFEAST, a bi-annual pin-up exhibit open to New York photography students. That was in April.
“We’re in contact with an all-female gallery in Tempe, Arizona and there’s talk of doing a collaboration and having our very first SG gallery show,” says Williams. “There’s also a magazine based in Spain and Belgium that plans on featuring us and our work.”
And, as if that wasn’t exciting enough, the two say they’re in the process of publishing a 75-page book that features the models they’ve photographed thus far.
“It feels so good to have our work recognized by the people around us,” says Williams. “But, it’s exhilarating to find that our work is being acknowledged by others across the country and the world.”
Fans can currently pre-order the book on the SG website.
Tabitha Shiflett is a graduate of the Dub (The University of North Carolina Wilmington, UNCW). She's written for Her Campus, Seahawk Chic, CBSLocal and Elite Daily. She is currently enrolled in the Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism MA program at The New School in New York City.