“Prom Night ’62: Alone with Mr. McNamara” should have been the name of this photo. It’s not just the kitschy aspect of the photo that is interesting, but the oddly symmetrical nature of it in general; the brick pattern on the wall in relation to the well, the conical ruffled dress and the upward sweep of the pine trees.
There’s a few elements going on; the staged setting is at once congruous and incongruous to each of its props, she’s standing at a well, (why?!) made of a brick-patterned cardboard within another brick enclosure, a river of grey crepe paper draped over more brick and just beyond the door opening is yet another brick ensemble, brick leading into more brick– an Ikea display gone wrong?It’s hard to tell if it’s really a set of stairs or another background, did she come through there? Or was she always there?
Not an uncommon prom photo, perhaps of the time, but it’s somewhat sinister, the inharmonious confluence of artificial materials and the girl–smack in the middle, dressed to kill, not a hair out of place, perfect pink with white gloves and a tiara. Why would anyone stand at a well in a ball gown?
It’s as if her geometry teacher had wandered in the room and said “Hey let’s have a photo!” The girl looks caught in the headlights–somehow she ended up alone with Mr. McNamara. “Beautiful, beautiful, you’re a perfect inverted Isosceles triangle”, he sighs and runs his hands over the ruffles of her dress. We need to get her out of there quickly! A mad rush from stale colors and pencil crimped fingers! She steps back and falls into the well, pink taffeta slips over the edge and she is gone, the teacher is alone now, he looks over inside the well, it’s empty, a slew of old paper cups, popcorn and corsets litter the bottom.