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Ladies in red 

Cambria photog Joe Dominguez is seeing red

click to enlarge THE MAN WITH THE PLAN :  Photgrapher Joe Domniguez conceived of the Red Project while doing senior portraits. - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • THE MAN WITH THE PLAN : Photgrapher Joe Domniguez conceived of the Red Project while doing senior portraits.
click to enlarge RED CARPET TREATMENT :  Guests entered the event via a long red carpet, each photographed as they entered. - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • RED CARPET TREATMENT : Guests entered the event via a long red carpet, each photographed as they entered.

What’s black and red and hot all over? The models and guests attending photographer Joseph Dominguez’ premiere of his Red Project!

It’s Friday, Aug. 5 at 7 p.m. and I’m in Harmony, where the normal population of 18 has exploded to about 150 really well dressed, good looking people, all in black except Joe’s models, who stand out from the crowd in stunning red dresses.

Who are these people? I don’t recognize a soul … until I spot Pewter Plough Playhouse doyen Jim Buckley, now apparently consigned to a wheelchair.

“Tonight’s the preview of our new show, The Woman in Black,” says Jim. “In the 35 years I’ve been running the playhouse, this is the first preview I’ve ever missed.”

click to enlarge A FACE IN THE CROWD :  One of Joe’s models looks on with rapt attention. - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • A FACE IN THE CROWD : One of Joe’s models looks on with rapt attention.
click to enlarge DRESS LIKE JOHNNY CASH :  Attendees were requested to dress in black, while Joe and his models dressed in red. - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • DRESS LIKE JOHNNY CASH : Attendees were requested to dress in black, while Joe and his models dressed in red.

Priorities, eh? When you’ve got a swank event with a DJ, red and black lounge furniture, a fancy culinary spread, and 26 smokin’ hot models, even 98-year-olds in wheelchairs know it’s the place to be.

And there’s my old surf buddy Dale Masten, who’s friends with the photographer and introduces me. Even though no one but Joe and his producer Monica Raethke have seen the images, he agrees to let me in the gallery room early to grab a sneak peak at the fruits of his labor.

Lining one wall are dozens of images, some close-ups, some full body shots, of Joe’s models. Though these young women aren’t professional models, with the hair, make-up, and costuming, they look gorgeous.

“That’s exactly the point,” says Joe, a compact guy who grew up in Santa Barbara but double majored in graphic design and photography at Cal Poly. “I came up with the idea while shooting senior portraits. Young women today are under so much pressure to be beautiful, and I found the experience of taking senior portraits to help reaffirm their beauty. But I would tell them, ‘I’m not here to make you a model; I’m here to record you being you.’ These girls would come out of the photo sessions with a lot of confidence.”

- BUY THE BOOK!:  To buy the book, magazine, postcards, or single images, contact Joseph Dominguez via email at info@josephdominguez.com, or by phone as 203-0550. Visit his website at jospehdominguez.com. -
  • BUY THE BOOK!: To buy the book, magazine, postcards, or single images, contact Joseph Dominguez via email at info@josephdominguez.com, or by phone as 203-0550. Visit his website at jospehdominguez.com.
click to enlarge TALKING THE TALK :  Joe Dominguez explains his project and thanks those involved. - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • TALKING THE TALK : Joe Dominguez explains his project and thanks those involved.

What finally sealed the Red Project idea in Joe’s head was a call from a parent.

“One of the girl’s mothers called me crying, and she said, ‘I’ve never seen my daughter look more beautiful. Thank you!’ I mean, what a testimony to the process. And this project was trying to capture that. It’s bigger than just a photograph, bigger than just a book full of hot girls—anyone can do that—it’s about reaffirming these young women’s inherent beauty. You know, as adults, when we interact with young people, at every point of contact we have a responsibility to inspire, to reaffirm, to build confidence.”

These young models certainly seem like they’re on top of the world tonight, a magical night celebrating real women whose inner beauty was coaxed to the surface, captured, and chronicled. For these 26 young women, this is a night they’ll never forget … and if they do, they can just open the hardcover book ($125), soft cover version ($50), or packages of postcards ($20) and remember.

Glen Starkey takes a beating and keeps on bleating. Keep up with him via twitter at twitter.com/glenstarkey, friend him at Myspace.com/glenstarkey, or contact him at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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