“Why did a past I have never known possess me so completely?”
Photographer Melissa Rowat suspects she was born in the wrong era. A child of the ‘80s, she looks back at previous decades with fondness and just a twinge of envy. The hair. The fashion. The sense of decorum.
“I feel such a tug to, especially, the 1920s to the 1950s, and even the 1800s. It was a time when women were curvy and classy and wore dresses and men were men. People were respectful and used courtesy,” Melissa reflected.
From hand-written snail mail to community dances that included the two-step and fox trot, Melissa finds so many of the trappings of the last century alluring.
Without an actual time machine to take her back, Melissa has started focusing her lens on the past, recreating the look – or at least elements of it – of a time gone by.
Melissa has been doing photography for years (she was the official Pear Tree wedding photographer nearly five years ago), and also has a passion for nature photography and more mainstream fashion photography.
But a couple of years ago, when the vintage clothes store Tweaked and Yummy opened up downtown in Kelowna, she stumbled into the world of vintage-influenced photography.
“It was when I first went in there that I was first introduced to vintage. Up to then, I was never into that world. I fell in love with the style, the hats – that sophisticated-yet-mysterious look. It was a fascinating time for fashion – curvy, feminine, blingy, yet veiled and covered,” Melissa said.
She now has a big tickle trunk of accessories – from jackets and dresses to hats, shoes and costume jewellery – that she has for her models to help them look like they stepped out of the past.
Melissa works with an aesthetician friend, Tania Vassilakaki from the Rogue Beauty Salon in Penticton, who does the hair and make-up for her clients, emulating the style of their chosen period as much as possible.
She has done vintage-themed wedding pictures, engagement sessions, maternity shoots, boudoir sessions and portraits.
While the shoots give a nod to the past, Melissa tries to keep things current by pairing the vintage elements with urban settings or edgy backgrounds. She also prefers to use modern equipment, and packs a digital Nikon D300.
“It’s old meets new,” she summarizes.
Regardless of the era, though, Melissa has made it her mission to preserve the past – near or distant.
“I want people to look at the image and remember an emotion, and be able to relive a time in their life, or maybe remember an amazing moment.”
Words by Lori-Anne Poirier
Photos by Melissa Rowat