Some say photographer. Maybe stylist. Some actually think of her more as a baker.
“I would call myself an artist more than anything,” she says. “I work in multiple mediums.”
And recently, across multiple generations.
Based in Los Angeles, Christine McConnell, 33, has built a substantial following — she currently has 115,000 followers on Instagram — for what the Daily Beast called “her immaculately conceived make-believe worlds” of “kitschy, idealized Americana given spiky, dark, twists.”
McConnell regularly pays photographic tribute to famous films, either with spot-on recreations (she’s a dead ringer for Kelly LeBrock in the iconic doorway pose from Weird Science) or off-the-wall interpretations (like the series of her on a date with Jason of Friday the 13th fame).
Even more fun — there’s often elaborately constructed, devilishly decorated desserts involved (the Daily Beast also called her the “Queen of Creepy Cookies”).
“I (take photographs of) a lot of baked things,” she says. “Alien Facehugger cookies and weird cakes.”
But her latest project to go viral is much more personal. McConnell realistically recreated six generations worth of portraits, all of them direct female descendants on her mother’s side, from her mother to her great-great-great grandmother.
The idea first came to her in early 2014 when her mother gave her an old red dress, the one McConnell’s seen wearing in the first photo of the series.
“Her mother had died and she was really depressed about it,” McConnell says, speaking of her mother. “My dad went out and bought her a really extravagant red dress. She always sort of associated the dress with that loss and stored it in the back of the closet. She was 32 at the time time of the picture and when I turned 32 she gave me the dress.”
McConnell says the gesture inspired her to find out more about her mother’s mother. And then her mother. And then her mother. She kept going. And going. And she kept finding photographs.
“I was actually able to go back about 200 years,” she says.
“It’s funny, the oldest one, Martha, my great-great-great grandmother–we had this picture hanging in the house for forever and nobody actually knew who she was. We just thought she was this old ancestor, but obviously no one was going to get rid of it. I actually took the backing off to find out more information and it turned out she was the mother of my great-great grandmother.”
McConnell says the project took about a week to complete. Most time was spent on the photo of the woman she most resembles, which despite being taken in 1989 was the most difficult to recreate.
“The one that was the hardest was my mother’s because all of the others had pretty simplistic backdrops, but my mother was sitting in a wicker chair” — a wicker chair in a style McConnell says she couldn’t find anywhere. The nearly identical-looking chair she wound up sitting in for the photo she made herself.
It was worth it. Posted to McConnell’s Facebook page on Sunday night, the photos have already been featured on Today.com, The Daily Mail, the Huffington Post, and plenty of other websites.
“I’ve actually gotten a ton of responses,” McConnell says. For some reason, not all were positive.
“The reactions are across the board, really,” she says. “A lot of people think it’s really cool and unique, and some people think I’m a narcissist, which is kind of funny.”
McConnell says it wasn’t ego that got her started. It was curiosity.
“I saw similarities in myself and each of these pictures and I wondered if I was in the same lighting and the same texture as the photo, would I be able to see more similarity,” she says.
Yes, she would.
“I’ve got my grandmother’s smile and my great-grandmother’s eyebrows.”
And in black and white, with a brooch clasped to the high neck of a period dress and with her hair pulled tightly behind her head, there’s even a resemblance between McConnell and her great-great-great grandmother Martha, who was born in 1821.
“These weird features seem to skip generations.”
For instance, here’s the one with her “daughter.”