As a child, if her mother wasn’t home, photographer Hailun Ma tiptoed into her mother’s closet to try on dresses. She remembers modeling the gowns in secret, applying lipstick and slipping into her shoes. Now 24 years old, Ma returned to that childlike fantasy for this shoot with six women, looking to each model’s hair and skin while capturing ethereal dresses from the fall runways. “I made a story for each girl,” she says. “They have their own unique beauty, so I gave the same to them.”
Painting inspires every frame she takes. “I use my camera as a brush,” she explains. She treats photo shoots like first brushstrokes on a canvas, photographing what she calls initial outlines. Then she paints over each image at her computer, softening the model’s hair, makeup, and skin especially to look like porcelain.
The oval frames are her signature nod to Renaissance paintings and vintage lockets. “We always feel like a photo is something you put in a frame on your wall,” she says, “but I love the idea that in old times people would carry the photo with them, as a necklace.”
Styling by Rebecca Ramsey. Makeup by Nana Hiramatsu; hair by Kiyonori Sudo. Styling assistance by Indya Brown.