Morning Shift

Photographing Prom Culture On Chicago’s South Side

Designer Suzette Opara and photo journalist Maurene Helen Cooper. Suzette Opara's Instagram

Morning Shift

When photographer Helen Maurene Cooper was a chaperone for proms in Philadelphia, she was struck by the extravagant, detailed gowns the young women were wearing. And the male students brought their A-game to match. 

She then embarked on a project to document prom night here in Chicago. Cooper discovered that the night is so much more than a dress. It’s about family, celebration, joy and a rite of passage. 

We talk to photographer Helen Maurene Cooper and designer Suzette Opara, who designs prom dresses in Chicago. Cooper’s photos and Opara’s gowns are part of the exhibit Runway to Reality, which opens Friday at the Washington Arts Incubator.