DeaVeon Rhodes showed up to Lockwood Memorial Library looking a little bit different than the other students. She wore her grandmother’s vintage Gloria Lance vest, her mother’s pants, perfect-condition Lisa Carbone shoes that she thrifted for $8 and a necklace from the farmer’s market. She embodied the aesthetic of dark academia.
“I think my nana would like to see [her vest] in some pictures,” Rhodes, a sophomore psychology major, said. “It has its own individuality. With the dark academia theme, it’s still really there and the colors are still very dark.”
But Rhodes wasn’t there to study. She was attending a meeting of the Fashionista Club, an on-campus group that promotes self-expression, finding meaning through one’s style and committing to an aesthetic vision. The group meets two to three times a month and plans photoshoots every two weeks. After proposing trending aesthetics for their next photoshoot, the club votes to narrow their choices down to just one.
Futuristic and Met Gala themes did not make the cut for the club’s most recent meeting, but dark academia survived the chopping block.
The club’s creative exploration brings students like Rhodes and freshman studio art major Molly Sifling back to the next meeting.
“I enjoy photography, fashion, modeling and all that type of stuff,” Sifling said. “I just was curious if there was a club that combined those things, and this one does. There’s not a ton of artistic clubs here at UB, at least from what I’ve seen on the website. I was happy to find this one because it’s very good to be able to express yourself in this type of way.”
Addison Schoonmaker, a junior graphic design major and photographer for both Buffalo Rising and Fashionista Club, guides the club through dimly lit stairwells and overstocked bookshelves. Undiscouraged by the sand in his camera from his recent trip to Utah, Schoonmaker instructs the models, telling them how to stand, where the lighting hits best and different poses to strike.
The Lockwood Library is nothing like a typical modeling shoot.
Students were reading books, preparing for midterms and observing the shoot everywhere the club propped up a camera. At one point, a librarian tried to pass by with her cart, then decided to go around a different way.
Some students, like senior nursing major Isabella Amarante, found themselves a bit intimidated by the public nature of the dark academia shoot, her first ever.
“I never take photos,” Amarante said. “I’m that person that relies on people who are like, ‘Oh my god, we gotta take a photo!’”
Ultimately, Amarante overcame her nerves and finished the shoot. Afterall, she joined the club to get out of her comfort zone.
“Since COVID-19, people isolate themselves and I wanted to get out there more,” Amarante said.
Junior criminology major and club founder and president Samantha Polanco — like her fellow fashionistas — comes to life when she’s in the crosshairs of Schoonmaker’s camera lens. Polanco believes that being creative through fashion, makeup and pictures is key to self-expression.
“In college, it’s hard. It’s easy to lose yourself with everything that’s going on,” Polanco said. “So finding one outlet to just be your true self is a good thing.”
Alex Novak is an assistant arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The arts desk can be reached at email@example.com
Alex Novak is a senior arts editor at The Spectrum.