Across America, it’s the time of year for prom. Aristide Economopoulos, a staff photographer at The Star-Ledger in New Jersey, has been photographing New Jersey’s high school proms since 2014. His approach is to document the highs and lows of the night; prom is synonymous with a lot of drama in a short amount of time. Economopoulos looks for photos that visualize prom’s themes: energy, love, fashion, celebration, elation and exhaustion.
Prom is a rite of passage. Along with high school graduation, it symbolically marks the end of teenage youth. There is energy and excitement for this special night that only happens once for a high school senior. It’s interesting that you can’t tell what social or economic background the students are from because everyone looks their best for this memorable night.
At first, the students were curious and wanted to pose for me. This is the selfie generation and I had to tell them that I wanted natural, candid photos of them enjoying the night. They quickly started to ignore me and I became the fly on the wall.
More schools are having red carpet walks and toast-offs for their students. It’s a chance for the whole community, hundreds sometimes, to come together and celebrate the students. Some towns even shut down a street as part of the celebration.
My prom was back in 1989 and I have a blast spending the night photographing the students. I plan to continue this project for years, eventually creating an archive of fashion and youth throughout the years. And, since I’m older, I get to learn the new hip music.