A Pioneer’s Life: An Interpretation

Their plot was his enemy.  The land was relentless and he felt more depleted with each passing day. The winds of the vast and empty space would burn and every night he would dream of warm rain fall.

For her, the soil around them was but a tiny obstacle in their new life. She was nineteen when they married and ventured out to sea. Months had felt like years and she wore it. Her eyes had become dim; her face was rough to the touch. But despite her faded complexion and their land which was no more than ash and pebble; she felt victory.

Pioneer 2

Their mornings started at dawn. Stepping outside, he would kneel to the ground grasping the soil and curse for rainfall. Ignoring his doubts, she stepped ahead of him and directed their lantern towards the skyline. She reached for him to join her as she gazed up to the morning sky. With so much space between them and the stars, he could not feel defeat. Not yet. Other land could be found, but the horizon was worth every battle.

Pioneer 1

* * *

When we look back and learn about the pioneers of American history who came to develop a new land, we are taught the American dream of making something for oneself. With perseverance and hope there will be triumph. When I was asked to do this look, I tried to encourage myself to think about the hardship and reality of this period in history. The journey from Europe alone would have taken months. It would have started with a journey by boat that would have been crawling with germs, illness and doomed to the sea’s emotions. The model in these photos had asked me for direction during our photo shoot and I tried to describe my interpretation of this era. “Try to picture being in a constant state of finding your bearings”, I said. “It would have been a brand new climate; cold, very cold and you would have had minimal resources”. During our photo shoot we came to discuss how difficult that life would have been. How could there have been hope when you were pulled away from everything you would have known?

Despite my attempt to depict the reality of a young pioneer’s life, the portraits that were captured are contrary to the look both my model and I were going for. Instead of looking hopeless, she looks determined in almost every photo. The reality of the period was captured in the makeup we did for this look. Using nude and peach tones, I created a natural look. The look is designed to make you see the fade of her eyes but also the rosiness of her cheeks; signs of fatigue. Exhaustion, among other serious conditions would have been common for many in this period. And yet, despite the tired look created through makeup and lighting, there is strength in her eyes.

Pioneer 5

While this important time in history would have been a struggle for all; the truth is, it was these settlers who saw this new life as a fight for something beyond survival. Her husband is her partner in this venture and she knows that for them to survive they must work as a team. She refuses to accept defeat; because for her, her new home is her own and that is more freedom than she has ever had in her lifetime. For the pioneers, the key to moving forward was seeing the big picture.