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Same Dress Spokane brings together photographers to explore creativity while raising funds for Spokane Humane Society

Aug. 5, 2022 Updated Fri., Aug. 5, 2022 at 3:08 p.m.

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

Depending on the lighting, the dress is either a vibrant yellow or a deep, dusky gold. There’s a slit up one thigh and spaghetti straps that lend it a delicate look. But that’s where the similarities end in the photographs taken by a dozen local photographers as part of the Same Dress Spokane initiative.

The goal is to let each photographer and their model experiment with different ways to showcase the same dress. This year’s entries are now available on the Same Dress Spokane Facebook page.

The Same Dress Spokane annual tradition started four years ago after photographer Rachel Fellows bought a black, sparkly dress at a local thrift store.

“I stared at it and couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do with it,” she said.

Wondering what some of her fellow photographers would do with the ideas, Fellows reached out to them to ask.

“We had so much fun doing it,” she said. “At the end, it was just a really great time to see what everyone came up with.”

The tradition has continued every year since, though in the second year it was turned into a fundraiser for the Spokane Humane Society.

After the dress spends a week with each photographer getting its moment to shine, it is auctioned off with the proceeds going to the Humane Society. Information about the auction is also on the Same Dress Spokane Facebook page.

Fellows said many of her fellow photographers are animal lovers. A couple of this year’s Same Dress Spokane photos include dogs.

“I’m a big animal lover,” she said. “It just seemed like the right place for the money to go.”

Fellows said she spends the winter scouring local thrift stores and consignment shops looking for the perfect dress. She looks for a nice dress that isn’t a wedding or prom dress style in a relatively common size.

This year, Fellows sought something different from last year’s dress, which had long sleeves, she said. She found the gold satin dress at Goodwill and was captivated by its vibrant color.

“This one is much more joyful and happy and young,” she said.

The photos were collected in secret before they were unveiled online today. Even Fellows hadn’t seen them.

“It’s kind of like magic on that share date,” she said.

Some of the photos are more traditional portraits, but photographer Chris Wooley wanted to do something different.

Noting the garment’s flowy and reflective nature, Wooley said he wanted to do something to focus on the motion of the dress, not the model wearing it. He got the dress, his model arrived and then they started seeing how the dress photographed.

“We kind of experiment a little bit,” he said. “I used a giant fan. I was kind of blowing the model’s hair and the dress.”

Then came the eureka moment for the pose. The model draped herself on her stomach on a stool, making her hair and the dress hang down.

“Gravity was doing all the work,” Wooley said.

He took the picture, then photoshopped out the stool and the background. Wooley added a new background: a shot he’d taken at the top of Steptoe Butte as storm clouds approached.

“It was just such cool clouds,” he said.

Wooley modified the bottom of the background shot to make it seem like it was showing the curvature of the earth. Then, he flipped the model over so it looked like she was falling from the sky, reaching up toward a yellow balloon drifting among the clouds.

“The focus is on the story and the dress, not the model,” Wooley said. “The more storytelling you can put in, the more it attracts people.”

Wooley said he’s been involved in Same Dress Spokane for two years and has enjoyed the experience.

“It’s really cool to be able to participate,” he said. “It pushes you creatively.”

Fellows said she enjoys the camaraderie that Same Dress Spokane creates.

“I just appreciate the community that the project has created,” she said. “A lot of times photography is a pretty independent hobby.”

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