When I first saw Haley Varacallo’s photography, I was automatically drawn to her striking style. The colors, the subjects, and the social meaning behind each of her portraits captivated my attention. Currently on display at Ampersand, one of Savannah’s popular downtown venues, is her series The Modernized Housewife, which exposes gender roles in a very glamorous yet stark way.
Varacallo’s opening reception at Ampersand created the perfect atmosphere to compliment her works, setting the mood with dim lighting mixed with neon decor, funky 80’s music, and models dressed in stunning attire. Haley radiates a similar feeling. She is by far one of the most talented photographers I’ve come across. Not only does her passion go beyond photography, but her purpose as an artist is to further elaborate on the social meaning of gender, making the viewer contemplate the modernity of women, men, and the grey area in between. This series juxtaposes the idea of the old fashioned housewife with modern gender roles using vibrant, neon colors to uncover a darker meaning.
Varacallo has been photographing for six years now. With a background in painting, drawing, and sculpture, her photography is a blend of her many talents. I had the pleasure of having lunch with Varacallo to discuss her inspiration, process, and the interpretations behind her vivid images.
SAI: Your current series, The Modernized Housewife, goes beyond the portrait of a wife. What was the inspiration behind this particular body of work?
Haley Varacallo: The inspiration for my Modernized Housewife series comes from my comical commentary on the old-fashioned ideals of women, paired with my knowledge of some women’s lifestyles in the present. Also, [it’s] a commentary on gender roles – roles that I feel are extremely naive and shallow. I wanted to romanticize and glamorize the scenario with hyper real/surreal colors and lighting, props, and styling. I chose my favorite color schemes and vibes to run with. Also, this series was for a fashion photography class, so I began with forming a concept, then choosing the wardrobe and location to drive home that idea. Everything used for this shoot was with vintage clothes to stick with the concept of the 50’s housewife.
SAI: I was drawn to the depth behind your photos. Is there anything you want to make sure people take away from your work?
Varacallo: My work as a whole is very much about identity, gender neutrality, performance, and unique and diverse personas. I am very much about photographing people, real people, not models, and capturing those specific nuances about the person that just scream character and genuine beauty. This specific series, The Modernized Housewife, is not my standard work, but the color schemes, compositions, lighting and styling are very much consistent with my more typical work. I aim for photographing those personal, intimate moments.
SAI: The way you’ve painted these pictures with your unique subjects is striking. Can you elaborate on the mannequin quality of your figures and color choice?
Varacallo: For this specific series, I chose models and styling that blended to the idea of diverse yet idealized beauty and perfection. [A] glamorized and idealized, or mannequin-like, aesthetic lends to the concept of the perfect old fashioned or modern housewife. Perfect hair, skin, dresses, nails. Perfect meals. Perfect house. It’s all about the misconception of what is beautiful and what should be expected of a wife, and life. Mannequin equals false – not real. The color choices are all just my personal choice. I love bright, vivid yet moody colors, possibly because of my painting background. I notice small but incredibly important moments within my color and lighting that I feel are crucial to the success of my work. I enjoy when things are bright and light yet still uncovering a certain darkness.
SAI: With the success and attention you have received from this current series, what are you working on next?
Varacallo: I have a lot of things coming up. I will be working all over Europe for the next couple months with my promotional agent, friend, and photographer, Barry Brandon. I will be assisting him for a series he is working on as well as assisting his project to promote and plug into as many galleries, magazines, and photo buffs as possible. I also am finalizing my series Babies Having Babies that I did with the nonprofit organization The Batey Rehab Project, which will be published and distributed throughout New York. I don’t wanna say too much about that because it hasn’t debuted yet. But it’s going to be big.
Varacallo’s work will remain up at Ampersand until November.