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"A Moment in Time" (C) 2014 Wendy Arbeit

Can you ever go back in time?


This series of 17 self-portraits was taken over one year.   My goal was to explore the idea of identity and what it means to live in a specific moment in history.  If I had lived in a different time, who would I have been? Would I have looked the same?  Would I have had the same personality?  And, "going back in time," could I recreate the past accurately without being constrained by my own modern lens or by reducing the past to stereotypes?  Could I truly recreate a look, an era, a MOOD that I have never experienced?


In my effort to be historically accurate, I conducted hundreds of hours of research.  For a year, my days were filled combing the web, Etsy, and eBay, and I was a woman on a mission at the Alameda Antiques Fair and Vintage Expo.  I paid careful attention to hair and makeup styling and poses, as well as the physical photographic texture and color.  All clothing is authentic (except 1850s and 1860s due to size and fragility) and all picture frames are authentic to the era.  To capture the look of actual photos of the time, I employed various methods such as bending, folding, scratching, and staining with coffee, tea, and dirt. I even conducted spaghetti sauce, rotten egg, and pickle juice experiments!  A highlight was when I copyrighted the project and the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) indicated that I could not copyright an old daguerreotype, and I had to explain that it was of me! 


Thank you to all of the wonderful photographers with whom I collaborated: Eric Mertens of The DagLab, Dore Studio, Sapphire Photo, Grant Loving, Jorge Martinez, Suzanne Moulton, Kari Orvik, Amido Rapkin, and Michelle Arbeit, who delightfully captured my 1990s Goth girl.


"A Moment in Time" was selected as a finalist in the Smithsonian Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, which means it was in the top 43 of more than 2500 entries nationwide. 


 I hope that you enjoy the project.  If you'd like to use my photos for an article, you have my permission,

as long as I receive credit (my work is copyrighted).  Thank you!


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