Dirt Is the New Black: Tommy Corey and Hiker Trash Vogue

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On April 22, 2017, I started what would become a failed thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. On April 15, 2018, I returned to re-hike the trail from start to finish. It took me six months to hike 2,650 miles from the United States-Mexico border to the United States-Canada border. Along the way, I created an editorial-style photography project dubbed “Hiker Trash Vogue.”

The series features intimate-yet-somewhat-comical portraits of long-distance hikers posing like high-fashion models. The irony? The Pacific Crest Trail is perhaps as far from high-fashion as you can get. Everyone photographed had gone at least a week without showering, was covered in dirt and smelled less than fresh.

While the project started as a joke, it means more to me now than I could’ve ever anticipated. As I worked on the collection, hikers would tell me how beautiful and confident I made them feel during a shoot. Looking at the images as a whole makes me see this project was, and is, a creative way to challenge the commercial standards of beauty. The people photographed have not been through hours of hair and makeup; they’re not airbrushed or photoshopped. They are sweaty and tired, raw and real and perhaps, at times, a little bloody.

At the end of six months, I realized I’d created something really special. From the dry, otherworldly Southern Californian desert, to the snowy passes of the Sierra Nevada, to the unbearable heat of Northern California, to the rolling hills of Oregon and the steep, jagged peaks of Washington, I survived the rain, the snow, the river crossings, the wasp stings, the ass chafe and the days and nights where I felt genuinely alone. Through it all, while I was just trying to survive, I made art to thrive.

This story first appeared in RANGE Magazine Issue 10, which is dedicated to the idea of progress. Get your hands on a copy HERE.

XX Tommy Corey