The girls in Ann He‘s photoshoots are dreamy and distracted, as though they are falling in love for the first time. Not with boys, but with themselves.
They are young people in the process of defining and discovering themselves, and their outfits — right down to those vintage briefs and lace tunics — are an essential part of it all.
All this could be said too of Ann He, who is barely beginning to explore her newfound identity as an in-demand fashion photographer. So far this year she’s done shoots for Elle Girl Korea, Blanket, Wallpaper and several other magazines, and landed a job at Nike. This week she’s in New York for Seventeen‘s “Pretty Amazing” contest — not as the magazine’s fotog, but as a contestant.
Yes, the precocious and prodigously talented Dallas native is still only 16.
Ann picked up a camera for the first time just three years ago and shot her first test with a professional model a year ago. She’s been attracting attention ever since, not just for the exquisite styling of her antebellum dreamscapes, but for her stirring personal story.
As she explains bluntly in her blog Dolor Haze, Ann as a youngster was an obsessive perfectionist — a trait that plunged her into eating disorders and crippling body image issues when she hit puberty. She hit bottom (so young!) with a five-week stay in hospital, “watching my life waste away.”
Photography became Ann’s liberation and “an escape from the rigid standards and negativity. … Photography was creation, expression, freedom. There was no one to tell me that it was wrong.”
As you can see below, Ann poured her soul into her new passion, finding inspiration in numerous photography masters and in wispy vintage fashions. And she’s wise enough to know that she has a lesson to share with other girls.
“I don’t photograph solely for the sake of fashion but also with the hope to inspire my generation to look past their immediate lives,” she says in a video posted on her website.
Ann is currently one of five finalists in the contest that will choose one of Seventeen‘s accomplished young readers to appear on the magazine’s cover. Not a bad gig for someone who, like many girls her age, once looked in the mirror and felt only shame.
Today, she says, “I [keep] telling myself, I’m dreaming, I’m dreaming. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.”
You can learn more and vote for her on Seventeen‘s Facebook page.
The images below are from Ann’s portfolio which you can view on her site. My favorite is the final shot, a blurred image of a young model in a southern graveyard. A vision of youth, and style, that moves so quickly you’ll miss it if you blink.