SAD GURLZ - Sam Lichtenstein and Jess Williams

Sam was born in Florida. Jess was born in Pennsylvania. Both girls passionate by arts, some years later, they met at the New School of Design in New York City, where they are developing their careers in photography. It was there where they started a project for school, that is transforming into a big series, and a book.

This is SAD GURLZ, a colorful collection full of personality that tries to show a young woman that doesn’t have to be happy or radiant in front of the camera, she just have to sit, relax, be herself, and confess her secret hobbies or habits. More than 60 girls have identify themselves as SAD GURLZ, proudly showing an important part of her real inner selves in a confident environment, helping Sam and Jess to make a point in this matter. For now you can explore the vibrant diptychs in their website and social media, and wait for more to come!


Why did you start creating this kind of images and what did you want to tell with it? Why did you focus in the reason of sadness for young women?

Sam + Jess: We, and other women, have had countless experiences where we have been told to look a certain way, or to put on a smile. We got tired of conforming to those standards and decided to create this project, where women (or anyone who identifies as a female) can express themselves without a smile.


As this is a collaboration of two, how would you describe your workflow since the first inspiration until the last result? And how do you choose the participants?

S+J: First, we receive an application. Together we decide what colored background will work best with the theme, and then one of us is in charge of photographing that person. We take turns with photographing, and the person who took the photograph does the editing. We also help each other set up the still life photos, and will assist each other with lighting issues. For right now, we basically accept anyone who has applied, as we’re trying to finish up our first edition of our book.


Are you discovering something you weren’t expecting when you started the collection?

S+J: We are trying to self publish a book of our images, which is very challenging. We also didn’t expect the project to blow up as much as it has already. The book we’re putting out will have more than 60 girls, which were all shot within a 3 and a half month time period, while the two of us were still making work for our other classes.


Which photographers inspire you and why?

S: Different photographers personally inspire both of us. I’m a fan of Annie Liebovitz, William Eggleston, Gregory Crewdson, and Olivo Barbieri. 

J: I’m inspired by Ansel Adams, Stephen Shore, Kyle Thompson, and William Eggleston. 

S+J: For the project, we have been inspired mostly by Petra Collins and Raul Gonzo.


For the moment, who is your favorite SAD GURL and why?

S: This is a hard question. I think my favorites are the ones that Jess and I model for, because both of us are usually so uncomfortable in front of the camera, and it lets us be silly.

J: My favorite is my girlfriend Haley, who was the Spooky Space SAD GURL, but I feel like I’m a bit biased. It was just very true to who she is. 


Is there any SAD GURL you are missing and would love to have in your collection?

S+J: Yes! We both love the band Twenty One Pilots and would love to have someone choose that as their theme. Cat SAD GURL would be cool, since we’ve already had someone do one with dogs. 


Do you have any upcoming plans for this project?

S+J: Right now, we’re trying to spread the word about the book. Soon, we’re going to be launching some merchandise items like shirts, stickers, and phone cases. We’re really trying to get the word out to as many people as possible.


Photographers: Sam + Jess  |  Website  |  Facebook  |  Instagram

Sam Lichtenstein  |  Website

Jess Williams  |  Website


Fangirl SAD GURL

"I'm a SAD GURL because I fucking love the 1975 and there are too many hardcore fans out there for me to be their number one. It's exhausting work."

Spooky Space SAD GURL

"I'm a SAD GURL because my cognitive psych professor said that if aliens do come to visit, they'll kill us."

Comic Book SAD GURL

"I'm a SAD GURL because all my life I've loved comics and cartoons, but 9 times out of 10 when I go to the comic book store or talk about certain cartoons, I get the 'Oh, are you lost?' Or 'Are you here for your boyfriend?" Or, 'Aren't you a little old for this?'"

Freudian SAD GURL

"I'm a SAD GURL because I love reading Freud and others love criticizing him, however, I don't think we can move past the gender binary if we can't move past the language being used, as Irigaray suggests. Further, I'm a sad girl because of the physical oppression and psychological misogyny women still face."

Flower Power SAD GURL

"I'm a SAD GURL because I buy flowers and forget to take care of them until they shrivel up and die which is basically a metaphor for most of my interests."


"I'm a SAD GURL because I was born in the wrong generation. I wish I lived during the 70s so I could follow the Grateful Dead all over and wear bell bottoms and just be apart of a time that promotes peace and freedom."

Tourist SAD GURL

"I'm a SAD GURL because I'm in love with traveling, but my bosses underpay me and never let me take a day off.”


"I'm a SAD GURL because I'm such a fangirl at heart but The Beatles and the Beach Boys broke up so I have nothing to take my top off for."

Succulent SAD GURL

"I'm a SAD GURL because my mom and grandpa have crazy green thumbs but I kill plants just by looking at them. My dorm is full of half dead succulents and fully dead roses that my mom brings me whenever she visits. Having greenery around makes me happy, like having spring fever, but I can't keep them alive long enough."

Valentines Day SAD GURLZ: Sam Lichtenstein and Jess Williams (COVER)