I don’t usually post behind the scenes photos anywhere, let alone this blog, but I have to make an exception for these. I mean, how often do you see people carrying a dozen balloons into an abandoned building?


I also would like to note the wide open front door. It was all just waiting for us. We walked right into the abandoned auditorium of the Belchertown State School, what I thought was a good sign for what I hoped to be a year-long, multi-shoot project. unfortunately, it was never this easy again.


The project, named Harlequin Glory after the harlequin glorybower tree I’d discovered the summer before, was designed to juxtapose new against old, joy against hopelessness, fortitude against decrepitude. I envisioned a vintage circus type of thing, characters stuck in time as their stage crumbled around them. I’d heard that the Belchertown State School’s days were numbered, and something about a race against real-time appealed as the perfect setting for my circus, as well as the most masochistic of my artistic tendencies. Would the school even be there when we arrived? Could we get in? It was too far away to check beforehand, and there was never a backup plan. It was going to happen or it wasn’t.  Our first time there, we got lucky… or as lucky as you can feel when your studio is a 10 degree ice skating rink because of a hole in the ceiling that’s big enough to allow rain, but not enough to let in warm sunlight. Our model Taryn was a real trooper though, letting me do her makeup while she slowly froze to death.


TJ and I had agreed that balloons were the most obvious choice of a prop. They’re always new. They’re fragile. And you can’t look at a balloon and feel sad. You just CAN’T. So for our Columbine shoot, we not only bought one dozen helium-filled ones, we blew up 72 black balloons after we got there (admittedly TJ and Taryn’s friend Sarah did all the balloon blowing up, I did eyeshadow). A lot of them exploded when they touched the ice, or shortly thereafter, but you can’t really tell.


Other than frostbite, we all had a pretty nice time- it was our first time visiting and certainly did not disappoint visually. There was just so much to see, and we’d only been inside one of the many buildings that looked ripe for exploration. I was psyched to go back. It was going to be an epic series.

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And then it started snowing…

Check out Part II here.



  • Date: Saturday, December 13th, 2014
  • Location: Belchertown State School, Belchertown, MA
  • Photography: Kayt Silvers and TJ Bynes
  • Styling, makeup: Kayt Silvers
  • Model: Taryn Elise
  • Assistant: Sarah Steinberg