After late nights and plenty of stress, here they are: Betty and Bob swing dancing their way through 1950s gender roles.
I started work on this duo with little idea of how they would visually pull together — I simply had the original photos, which I took at a swing dancing display last year, and a pile of vintage ephemera.
So, after much experimentation, here's what I did....
Betty Swings It
Sandpaper and photos ... sigh, what a blissful combination. I love the mix of sepia, age and focus this technique gives. I used a book-making awl to scratch outlines of the windows and shoes (that's the yellow you can just see ... obviously, the detail is much clearer in the 50.8cm x 29.51cm prints) and added a few coloured highlights with Sakura's soufflé pens. I actually only just discovered these pens while working on this project — they adhere perfectly to photos.
I did quite a bit of research into 1950s motifs, colours and "things". For instance, Betty follows trends with a flower in her hair, coloured and diamonte-studded glasses, and cherries on her shoes.
I scanned this handiwork and added the cover from a 1955 cooking calendar, a cat from a vintage button packet, a princess from a vintage book of fairy tales and few words about Betty, including that she bakes chiffon cake. Did you know this cake was big in the 1950s? It uses whipped egg whites and oil for a light, moist result. Even better, it doesn't dry out as fast as other cakes and retains it's fluffy texture when refridgerated.
Bob Swings It
I altered Bob's image using similar techniques to Betty's. However, instead of sanding, I experimented for the first time with a 50/50 solution of bleach and water. It looks like he's on fire!
Finding vintage ephemera related to men was much harder. Fortunately, I found a copy of The Motor magazine from 1956 at the last moment and picked up a pulp cowboy book (which I'm now reading!). I also called my dad and discovered beagles were a common motif. Note that Bob smokes Chesterfields like Cary Grant — so many movies stars advertised cigarettes in the 1950s that I had my pick of famous names. Naturally, I picked my personal favourite.
So here they are. After way too much hard work, I look forward to having a glass of champage with Betty and Bob at the exhibition opening on Thursday.