When Simone Lueck was living and working in LA, she was curious to know how many people aspired to the outrageous lifestyles often mythologized in Hollywood. So she put an ad on Craigslist that began: “Seeking fabulous, striking, interesting older women to pose as a glamorous movie star for a photo series.” Potential participants were asked to submit a photo and describe how they would pose as glamorous movie stars. No pay was offered, but Lueck promised an image from the shoot.
It didn’t surprise Lueck that hundreds of women applied. What did surprise her was their interpretations of the language in the ad.
“Something that was really odd but also telling about the process is that some women who replied were in their 30s and 40s,” Lueck said. “That was too young for the project, but in Hollywood, a 30-year-old woman is over the hill.”
Once Lueck picked the models she felt would be right for the series that became “The Once and Future Queens,” she began shooting, a process that was highly collaborative.
The women were asked to provide everything: hair, makeup, wardrobe, as well as their own fantasy.
“I was there to document the fantasy performance and my role was as a facilitator of that fantasy,” Lueck said. “I wanted the pictures to take a very direct look at the situation because there is a lot happening there. The women are decadent and self-indulgent and the situation is poignant; I wanted all of this to come off in the pictures.”
For Lueck, part of what made the series poignant was the drive the women felt to create and perform their own fantasies without having any expectations other than making the photograph. All of the images were shot in the models’ homes.
“It’s kind of like a game of telephone, where something comes in one ear and then goes around the room and comes out as something else,” she said. “So there’s the fantasy performance and then these layers of realty that come across in the picture. So the world maybe doesn’t look so much like the original fantasy thing, but it becomes something else.”
Although a lot of the models got into the project and felt empowered playing out their fantasies, some of them weren’t happy with the direct lighting Lueck used, feeling it was too harsh. Regardless, Lueck said being glamorous isn’t an easy thing to do.
“There is a lot of effort that goes into producing glamour, and for me the best glamour comes out in those that have been doing it for longer and who really identify with it. There is a lot of it in LA—I like to call if the faded glamour. It’s in the history of the place, in the houses and in the people and you can really feel its presence there.”
Lueck’s current work “American Movie” is on view at Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles through Feb. 28.