By Dylan Deprey
Corey Fells was stuck in a cycle. He was a teenager, and a self-proclaimed mama’s boy watching the woman he loved die in front of him.
Cancer took its toll, and Fells couldn’t help but try and fill the void with other women.
“It seemed like my senior year I was dating a new girl every month,” Fells said.
One girl had dimples, just as his mother did. Another was mean to everybody but him, just like his mother did.
“I don’t think I was doing it consciously because I think we all do that,” Fells said.
Fells was a photographer, who had a vengeance.
His girlfriend was mad he wouldn’t take pictures of her, and eventually broke up with him. Teen angst kicked in and he wanted to take pictures of girls that looked just like her. The subtle act of revenge was vain, his conscious kicked in and he instead chose to do something more positive.
His mother had instilled appreciation for women form an early age and he took it upon himself to solidify those memories.
The 100 Womxn Project is an online photo expose sharing 100 stories from Black and Hispanic women throughout every neighborhood in Milwaukee.
“There are women here in Milwaukee that are just so dope, and are from different sections of Milwaukee,” Fells said. “I just want to put this out and let people digest what women are going through from a local standpoint, and also a national standpoint.”
The project began as “50 Shades of Black” a photographic road map through the many different shades of black beauty. He hit a road bump early on as melanin levels are pretty low as Wisconsin sits in the dark for what feels like half a year.
While walking home from his job downtown toward the lake he ran across a flourishing green wall. It was unlike anything he had ever seen, the lush vine covered barricade was the perfect spot, and he wanted to photograph everybody he could in front of it.
“It didn’t seem like it was from Wisconsin. It had this aesthetic that could be found in California or Denver, or around the world” Fells said.
He photographed women over the course of the summer, and was going to stop shooting as the brisk Autumn wind set in. A friend said he should continue, and over course of three seasons he photographed women in front of the wall. Just as his mother had slowly passed, the wall he was shooting had lost its color, became weak and eventually died.
“I was able to see a very strong and highly willed woman, as a kid, to her having cancer and not even be able to control her bowels,” Fells said. “I was able to see the digression of a woman that I thought was indestructible and someone I highly admired, and the wall expresses that in a small undertone.”
As the wall digressed, the women he met had deeper stories, and his perceptions after first meeting the women were altered. He said their stories were like ice burgs, beautiful on the outside, but deep seeded far underneath the surface.
“There was a woman that is absolutely gorgeous, and right now she is 22 months sober from heroin. The story leading up to that was so daunting and so deep the wall played right off of that,” Fells said.
He said the changing scenery behind the women also signified the passing of the torch to a new generation of independent women. Fells said there few women left to shoot, and the project will roll out at the beginning of February. He is releasing 10-12 women a week on his Facebook, and one woman a day on his Instagram.
“I want each woman to have their own time to be able to have their own appreciation of who they are,” Fells said. “I believe Milwaukee and the U.S. need to hear the diverse stories from these women.”
Visit Corey Fells website at http://www.dcoreyf.org/100-womxn/