Around the World in 11 Dresses

A young photographer's college thesis takes us to dreamy landscapes in a series of self-portraits that meditates on the meaning of independence.

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When photographer Sofia Colvin got to work on her college thesis, she didn't head to the library or spend hours typing away in her dorm. Instead, the 22 year-old, who just graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York in May, decided to completely reimagine the studio fashion editorials she was used to shooting, taking the concept to otherworldly landscapes, like Iceland's fields of moss-covered lava and California's barren salt flats.

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Produced and photographed over 10 months, Colvin created the couture garments that appear in her project, To Make a Mirror, a series of self-portraits. Designing each piece in collaboration with different designers, the dresses act as a response to the environment where it would be photographed. The resulting images—poetic and meditative—blur the lines between fashion editorials and landscape photography. "There was a surrender that had to occur so the picture could be made," Colvin says. "Being a single figure in these environments gave me a sense of empowerment, but it also exaggerated the truth that we are alone as individuals."

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This was a college thesis, after all, and Colvin ultimately sees the series as musing on the trepidation of becoming independent, an adult. "I grew as the work grew," Colvin says. "This work has taught me how capable one can be."

Follow Colvin as she shoots in some of the world's most surreal locations!

Garment co-designed by Michal Hlebo

"When I scouted this location the day before the shoot, it was so windy I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to work. But when I arrived the next morning the weather had calmed down. I shot here for about three hours—a lot of tourists would stop to watch me shoot and approach me to ask questions. This was one of my favorite locations from my shoots in Iceland—the garment really made me feel like I was one with the rocks around me."

Garment co-designed by Olivia Le Blanc
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"This garment was constructed to mimic the California desert's curves and shapes. When I arrived, I hiked and climbed the dunes for a good 45 minutes. I had to make sure I found a spot with a view of the horizon and that showed the scope of the environment. This shoot was difficult because the sun was harsh, and I typically want to shoot in shade, or cloud-covered lighting."

Garment co-designed by Olivia Le Blanc
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"While researching this New Mexico landscape online, most of the images were in a strange lighting that had a bluish tint, so when designing and sourcing the material for the garment, I went with a blue fabric. When I showed up, it turned out to be more of a tan color, but shooting while the sun was setting was perfect because a nice orange light hit the rocks around me."

Garment co-designed by Linda Hamouie
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"This vast spot was actually on the side of the road in Iceland. I pulled over and set my gear up to shoot. It was by chance I decided to work at this unique river and rock landscape. The mountains behind were stretching for as far as I could see. This is also the only photograph in the series where I am not facing the camera." 

Garment co-designed by Leah Targon

"At this location in California, which I hiked a good 40 minutes to get to, the land crumbled every time I took a step. It was tough to frame the shot since I couldn't tell how far I was from the camera. Between shots I had to run up and down the ridges to check the photographs and reposition myself. Nevertheless, this particular shoot was really fun."

Garment co-designed by Leah Targon
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"The moss-covered lava in Iceland was by far the most magical location. The rain was on-and-off that afternoon, so I had to keep running to the car to wait for it to pass. Walking on the moss felt like stepping on a sponge. The fashion really helped me adapt to the landscapes, though—this specific garment made me feel like a storybook character."

Garment co-designed by Olivia Le Blanc

"These pieces of driftwood were scattered along the shoreline in Georgia. The fashion for this location was inspired by a previous shoot I'd done where a collaborator and I wore long-sleeved black dresses. When I worked with designer Olivia Le Blanc on this garment, we chose this gray fabric so the dress could mimic the branches." 

Garment co-designed by Jiwon Choi
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"I came across this location while driving in Iceland. It was difficult to walk on these sharp rocks, but they perfectly matched this dark dress. The strange gravel pyramids were amazing."

Garment co-designed by Jiwon Choi
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"The scattered colors at this spot in California helped inspire the strips of color on the dress. I woke up at 4 a.m. in order to shoot at sunrise and capture the changing colors of the minerals in the rocks."

Garment co-designed by Linda Hamouie

"This was one of the last shoots during my trip to Iceland, so I was pretty tired. It was cloudy and rainy that day, but luckily the dress was made of neoprene."

Garment co-designed by Jiwon Choi

"One moment that stands out is my shoot on the salt flats in California. It was the last location I worked with before wrapping the series. The lighting that day was oddly perfect: overcast, my ideal lighting. The only tough part of that day was that the salt burned my bare feet."

To find out how you can order a limited-edition book of To Make a Mirror, see sofiacolvin.com. Follow Colvin on Instagram @SofiaColvin!

Editor's Note: These images have been cropped for mobile. For full-size pictures, see Colvin's website.

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