With photo album titles like “don’t get dressed” and “reverse cowgirl,” it’s hard not to pay attention.
Orangepeeld.com, a website that showcases photos of the suburban college party scene, was created by Morgan Young, a senior television and broadcast journalism major, and Ali Weiss, a senior theatre major.
The site became public on Sept. 28 and launched with thousands of hits.
“We are surrounded by a lot of kids who are stuck in the suburbs,” Weiss said. “We wanted a way to artistically portray that in a format that was different than what we were used to usually seeing, especially when it comes to things like party photos.”
The website features documentary-style photos with an artistic flair. The duo has albums with photographs from concerts such as Mickey Avalon, but the buzz around campus is about what some consider scandalous photos of their Chapman peers.
Though the site does not use names, the photos feature familiar faces and blatant alcohol and drug use, as well as women in bras with lollipops and bananas in their mouths. There’s nothing left censored.
As New York natives, both Young and Weiss hope to take a fresh perspective on Orange County life and document their own realities.
“I think we were really interested in peeling the layers of Orange County and Chapman life to reveal what was underneath,” Weiss said. “But we want to do it in a way that was realistic, but aesthetically interesting at the same time.”
Popular but provocative
While some beg questions about posting provocative photos online in an age of social media, the women say the site has been embraced positively.
“We got 3,000 hits in less than 24 hours,” Weiss said. “The response has been fantastic both from friends and people I’ve never spoken to in my life. I’ve had people on campus approach me going— ‘I just want to let you know your project is amazing.’ I think what we are giving people is stuff you see on a daily basis just from a different angle.”
Students agree that while it may be questionable to have photos of them partying online, Weiss and Youngs’ goal is to create a platform for a new way of looking at things.
“I think the purpose is to show candid memories,” said Rory Stewart, a senior business major whose photo was recently featured on the site. “There’s a photo of me sitting outside hanging with a friend. That’s not something I would necessarily remember. It’s supposed to be like a memento.”
The Peeld duo said the provocative photos on the site do not feature faces.
“In most of the provoking photos you can’t tell who it is,” Stewart said. “That’s what’s amazing, they can capture that in an essence where there is a sense of anonymity.”
Brenner Spear, a senior business and computer information systems double major, is featured in one album holding champagne and in another, balancing 10 cigarettes in his mouth.
Spear commended Weiss and Young for their efforts to do something different.
“I think Peeld is about capturing the most outlandish moments of our culture,” Spear said.
The women say that the Peeld production process is part of what makes the photos unlike anything else. In a digital age, film has largely fallen amuck. But Young, who said she does “98 percent of the photography aspect of the site,” shoots with 35-millimeter film or a Polaroid camera.
“It’s completely Polaroid or 35,” Weiss said. “I think if you look at something from a different angle — look at Greek life, look at college life, look at Orange County life, whatever it is, from a different angle, you’re going to produce something that is different than you are used to seeing.”
Young, who recently returned from shooting New York Fashion Week, agreed there is a distinction and refinement that comes with their methodology.
“I completely agree, I think it’s something different,” Young said. “We get a lot of kids asking, ‘can I see the picture right now?’ But it’s interesting for me to see the people react to the film photo.”
The risk of www.
But the underlying risk of posting provocative photos still exists.
“Of course there’s a risk,” said Cory O’Connor, Internet communications professor at Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. “And the risk is that you are out looking for a job and it’s a job you want. And someone at this prospective employer stumbles upon this picture of you in what, in the corporate world, is a compromised position, and you lose the job.”
An important factor in the process of shooting the parties is getting consent from the subjects before taking the photos, the women said. Both Weiss and Young were firm in the fact that they ask permission before shooting and posting photos, and that if someone were to want a photo taken down, they would immediately.
“A lot of our subjects are our friends,” Weiss said. “I mean, I have two lawyer parents. When they found out about our project, they made sure to nail into my head that everyone needs to give consent before their photos are published.”
Though the question is raised that it may be difficult to give educated consent in a party state of mind, the girls insisted that they do not provide props or substances to any subject and that they are at events only to “capture what is in front of us.”
“We are forthcoming,” Young said. “We aren’t trying to trick anyone into anything. We have different personalities so it could be us like — ‘hey this is what we want, are you willing to do it?’ But if you don’t want to, don’t.”
Students said that most people at the parties knew in advance that Weiss and Young were coming to photograph.
“In this day and age, anything you post on the Internet or do in public is bound to be recorded and saved on a server somewhere around the world, owned by a government or some big corporation,” Spear said. “As time goes on, this will only increase. If you disagree, you are ignorant. If you’re doing things you don’t want the public to see, either you shouldn’t be doing them or you should be doing them behind closed doors.”
For Young and Weiss, Orangepeeld is one of many projects they are currently working on, but it may be their first step toward creating something profitable and creative.
“We are looking to produce a weekly zine,” Young said. “A zine is an independently published book or magazine. We were playing around with it, but it’s basically the original photos, handwritten stuff, folded together, and we wanted to start selling the best photos of the week, every week.”
While the site gets established and ideas for revenue are in the works, the girls are enjoying the positive reviews and acknowledging the potential controversy surrounding the site, though they haven’t run into any problems yet.
“If I had to say an end note I would probably tell people not to read too much into it,” Weiss said. “It’s fun, come on, we are photographing what we see and this is college life. This is college culture. On top of that, what you’re looking at is a picture. It’s art, and art doesn’t have answer.”