F-Stop: How did you first become involved in photography and what led to you choosing this as your profession? How did a degree in psychology lead to photography?
Dina Litovsky: At 23 I graduated from NYU with a psychology bachelor and 3 years of pre-med program, my initial goal was to go into psychiatry. Only after taking the MCATs (med school entrance exam) I realized that it is absolutely not what I wanted to do so I chilled for the next couple of years not doing much of anything. At some point I got a digital Nikon and devoted a lot of time to my new-found hobby but I didn’t take it seriously until I started actually getting paid for the work – weddings and personal photo shoots. I still didn’t understand though what a career in photography meant nor did I know much about the medium so I applied to the MFA program at the School of Visual Arts in NYC to find out. It is only after I graduated from there in 2010 that I first considered myself a photographer.
F-Stop: In your statement you say, “hope to get a deeper understanding of the women taking part in it – both their interpersonal relationships and their psychological state at this very sensitive and complex moment of their lives.” What kinds of things are you learning about the women you are documenting, their relationships and/or their motivation for taking part in this ritual?
DL: When I first started shooting the project I had very stereotypical ideas of the bachelorette party, I considered it a crude and commercial ritual and was curious why educated, modern women buying into it at all. But as I started attending the parties these notions were severely challenged. I think more than anything else it can be a very liberating event. For quite a few of the girls that I met this day became a ‘get out of jail card’, a time-out from family, work and even their own notions of ‘proper’ behavior. Besides being fun, I found the ritual to be both challenging and comforting – individual boundaries are pushed but while in a safe zone of best friends.
F-Stop: Can you discuss your process for making these images? How do you find your subjects? Do you intervene in events at all, ask people to hold still or do something in particular? Do you participate in the festivities?
DL: I find most of my subjects through the Internet – Facebook and wedding blogs. Since I offer a free shoot a lot of people repost the inquiry. When photographing I never intervene in any way, my presence is definitely not hidden though – I am right in the middle of the action with a flash. After an hour or so the girls get used to me so I can get very close without them paying much attention to the camera. Participating in the festivities is rather tricky though, I can allow myself a drink or two but anything more than that, and, as I woefully learned from one party, the photos start to show it.
F-Stop: What do you want people to see or feel or perhaps learn when they look at these photographs?
DL: I never want my photos to teach anything, I am pointing a curious lens at what I find interesting in contemporary society and all I can hope is that the viewer will find them interesting as well.
F-Stop: Do you have a favorite image in this series? If so, which one and why is it the image that stands out to you most?
DL: I love Midnight Snack. It was taken in Atlantic City when I went with the girls for a two day weekend. The bachelorette activities involved a limo ride from Brooklyn, presents, formal dinner, gambling and of course, drinking. By midnight the group was divided, a few girls wanted to continue partying while the rest were ready to hit the bed. The room was becoming a battlefield of opinions. Taking matters into her own hands, one of the participants, having left her husband and three kids at home, was unwilling to call it a night and jumped on top of the bachelorette (pink shirt) and her friend for an impromptu striptease. The bachelorette, unknowingly to most, two months pregnant at the time, was amused but unmoved. This shot of the interaction between the three women is one of my favorite images from this project.
F-Stop: What photographers or other artists inspire you?
Dina Litovsky: There are so many. I draw my strength and inspiration from people around me, there are quite a few young, contemporary photographers whose work I find very interesting and fresh – Evgenia Arbugaeva, Natan Dvir, Diana Markosian, Damion Berger just to name a few. I also love the work of Bruce Gilden, Sally Mann, Diane Arbus, Larry Clark, Jeff Wall, Phillip Lorca di Corcia, Saul Leiter, Elinor Carucci. Most recently I saw a show of Llyn Foulkes at the New Museum and that made a huge impression on me.