I did a new fashion photoshoot Tuesday with a new model, Bonnie W. It was loosely inspired by Bonnie Elizabeth Parker (October 1, 1910 – May 23, 1934) who, along with Clyde Barrow, traveled the Central United States with a criminal gang during the Great Depression, known for bank robberies.
Yes, we lacked a Clyde for the Bonnie and Clyde-inspired photoshoot, but I’m still pretty happy with how the styling turned out.
All of the credit for that goes to Bonnie W, who was pretty amazing to collaborate with. Unlike the villainess she portrayed here, she is quite nice and law-abiding, although she does seem to have a bit of Bonnie Parker’s toughness, which is refreshing for someone this lovely.
I hope we get to shoot again sometime because she is terrific and really put effort into it. She said she had previously done some photoshoots with a girlfriend while living in Italy a few years ago. She and connected after I did a model call a couple of weeks ago looking for new faces to shoot with. I’m constantly shooting new stuff, both for my Instagram and to amass a stock photo library. I can really appreciate those big beautiful eyes and her sense of humor. She wasn’t afraid to put herself out there and have fun with it. Why not?
We shot at Council Bluff School, the only remaining one-room schoolhouse in DeKalb County, Alabama. It has been deeded to Landmarks of DeKalb, Inc. for restoration. I deliberately made it look like old-timey archival photos from the Great Depression era.
The school is local in a very rural area, down a small, unmarked road. The single homeowner at the end of that road was very cool. I don’t know that I would have been as accommodating to folks toting around shotguns, but I’m pretty sure we were obviously dressing up and taking photos.
The Council Bluff School was erected in 1903 near the top of Sand Mountain. After a new school was created in 1924, the structure was used for sacred harp singings and school reunions. The building is listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.
Landmarks could use help preserving the Council Bluff School if anyone would like to donate or become a member. I sit on the group’s board. We also preserve the Fort Payne Opera House, the Fort Payne Cabin Historic Site, the Fort Payne Cabin Excavation Projects, the Andrew Ross Home, the historic Willstown Cemetery, and the historic Wills Valley School. To avoid confusion, this photoshoot was a personal project, but I hope Landmarks gets some positive attention for our efforts.
Bonnie and Clyde’s exploits captured the attention of the American press and its readership during what is occasionally referred to as the “public enemy era” between 1931 and 1934. They usually released their hostages far from home, sometimes with money to help them return home. Stories of such encounters made headlines, as did the more violent episodes. The Barrow Gang did not hesitate to shoot anyone who got in their way.
Bonnie Parker (not Bonnie W, my model) was present at 100 or more felonies during the two years that she was Barrow’s companion, romanticized and depicted as a cigar-smoking, machine gun-wielding killer in newspapers, newsreels, and pulp detective magazines of the day.
One famous historical photo showed Bonnie with a shotgun reaching for an officer’s pistol in Clyde’s waistband.
According to historian Jeff Guinn, photos of her smoking a cigar found at a hideout resulted in Parker’s glamorization and the creation of myths about the gang. The Joplin photos introduced new criminal superstars with the most titillating trademark of all — illicit sex. Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were wild and young, and undoubtedly slept together. How scandalous!!
The 1967 film “Bonnie and Clyde”, directed by Arthur Penn and starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in the title roles, revived interest in the criminals and glamorized them with a romantic aura. The 2019 Netflix film “The Highwaymen” depicted the law’s pursuit of Bonnie and Clyde.
Bonnie Elizabeth Parker was born in 1910 in Rowena, Texas.
As an adult, Bonnie wrote poems such as “The Story of Suicide Sal” and “The Trail’s End”, the latter more commonly known as “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde”, a poem about an innocent country girl lured by her boyfriend into a life a crime. Two weeks before her brutal death, Bonnie sent this prescient poem to her mother that finished with the verse:
Some day they’ll go down together;
And they’ll bury them side by side,
To a few it’ll be grief—
To the law a relief—
But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.
Before joining Clyde on the crime spree, Parker moved back in with her mother after a failed marriage and worked as a waitress in Dallas. One of her regular customers was postal worker Ted Hinton. In 1932, he joined the Dallas Sheriff’s Department and eventually served as a member of the posse that killed Bonnie and Clyde in a bloody ambush on May 23, 1934.
That posse, led by former Texas Ranger captain Frank Hamer, pumped more than 130 rounds of steel-jacketed bullets into their stolen Ford V-8 outside Sailes, Louisiana. According to accounts shared with the History Channel…
“With acrid gunsmoke still lingering in the air, gawkers descended upon the ambush site and attempted to leave with macabre souvenirs from the bodies of the outlaws still slumped in the front seat. According to Jeff Guinn’s book Go Down Together, one man tried to cut off Clyde’s ear with a pocket knife and another attempted to sever his trigger finger before the lawmen intervened. One person in the throng however managed to clip locks of Bonnie’s hair and swathes of her blood-soaked dress.”
Gruesome, eh? The automobile was returned to its former owner, Ruth Warren of Topeka, Kansas. She leased and eventually sold the car to Charles Stanley, an anti-crime lecturer who toured fairgrounds with the “death car” and the mothers of Bonnie and Clyde in tow as sideshow attractions. Still speckled with bullet holes, the “death car” is now an attraction in the lobby of Whiskey Pete’s Casino in Primm, Nevada, a small resort town on the California border 40 miles south of Las Vegas. I saw it in 2007 while in Primm helping to shoot a reality TV show for MAVTV.
Bonnie Parker was a brutal criminal, but her life was a tragedy. And their lives as outlaws during an already desperate time were not nearly as glamorous as portrayed in the media of that period.
Before researching them, I was unaware that one night in June 1933, Bonnie and Clyde were speeding along the rural roads of north Texas so quickly that they missed a detour sign warning of a bridge under construction. The duo’s Ford V-8 smashed through a barricade at 70 miles per hour and sailed through the air before landing in a dry riverbed. Scalding acid poured out of the smashed car battery and severely burned Bonnie’s right leg, eating away at her flesh down to the bone in some places. As a result of the third-degree burns, Bonnie walked with a pronounced limp for the rest of her life, and she had such difficulty walking that at times she hopped or needed Clyde to carry her.
At the age of 18, Parker briefly kept a diary in which she wrote of her loneliness, her impatience with life in Dallas, and her love of taking pictures. By age 24, she was dead.
Bonnie and Clyde wished to be buried side-by-side, but Bonnie’s mother, who had disapproved of her relationship with Clyde, had her daughter buried in a separate Dallas cemetery. The gravestone includes the hand-picked epitaph: “Gone but not forgotten.”
I can’t condone robbing banks or shooting guns at innocent people, but a love of shooting pictures is alright by me.
Much more to come from this photoshoot.