Contender: Susan Eckert

Photographer: Susan Eckert

Susan sketched and painted all her life. But it wasn’t until she picked up a camera in earnest that Susan found her ideal vehicle for expression. Her multiracial, multiethnic background taught her to feel comfortable crossing lines, living outside of standard checkboxes. Susan has discovered that marrying old world techniques along with modern digital approaches in a single work of art is precisely where she feels most at home. Susan’s work most often aims to illuminate the beauty of the female form while tackling woman-centered issues.

Story behind the shot: This image, which is part of a series, was created in March 2013 during a collaborative exploration with a very talented makeup artist and centered around a woman’s never-ending search for perfection. In the Chrysallis series we find a woman who has achieved such flawless beauty that she appears like a machine, a robot, alien, inhuman. Reflecting on today’s woman and her everlasting search for perfection, her dogged pursuit of never-ending youth, Chrysallis2 captures that moment when she ultimately transcends the limitations of her human-ness only to find she is at last perfect, but at a cost. She is no longer human at all. And her unique identity has gotten lost in a sea of other faces also seeking the same narrow definition of beauty and perfection.

Favorite moment during the shoot: My absolute favorite moment during the shoot came after the very first shot–seeing how my concept was immediately realized by expertly applied makeup (Juliana Fink of Metamorphosis), a super-talented model (Dani from NYCs Fenton Moon Model Agency) who understood the concept, and gel lights that lent a cold, almost clinical feel to the image. It surpassed the visions that lived up to that point only in my head.

Biggest challenge: The biggest challenge during this shoot was balancing the blue and purple gel lights so that the model appeared human enough, while alien enough to lend credibility to the concept.

How do you define your style? A photography agent once said to me that my style was "from Mars." I immediately took it as a compliment. To me, it meant that my eye was somewhat different, and therefore that my work offered something new. In today’s market, where there’s no shortage of photographers for sure, that’s a huge compliment. I think this series reflects that perspective.

Equipment: Nikon D800, Nikkor 85mm lens, beauty dish, two strip boxes.

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