St. Mary’s County, Maryland
August 10, 2007
You might remember Jessica from her wedding photos last May, or my recent WPJA award winners. Jessica’s well-known on this blog! I was thrilled when she asked me for a post-wedding bridal session. She wanted a portrait session that would feature her gown, without any worries of getting it dirty or damaged. Some people call these sessions “Trash the Dress” shoots, but I prefer to think of them as “Fearless Bridals.” The goal wasn’t to destroy her gown, but rather to celebrate it without fear.
Jessica describes her intentions far better than I could. She asked me if she could write a post for my blog about her decision to do this photo shoot. It’s exciting for me to share Jessica’s thoughts in her own words:
Why? That’s your first question, isn’t it?
Weddings are emotional. A wedding gown is one of the most emotionally charged pieces of clothing a woman can own. This creates a need to keep it, to packrat it away for years and years. I love my gown. I love the way it hangs on my frame and I love the way my husband looked at me in it on our wedding day. But I also had little idea what to do with the gown after the wedding. My mother cleaned and stored hers. A friend sold hers; another friend donated hers to Brides Against Breast Cancer; yet another friend saved hers for her daughter to wear or perhaps her christening gown. So many options, but none held my interest. With a need to find a unique way of remembering my dress, I came across the idea of “trashing” it.
For months I wrestled with what “trashing” meant. Did it mean fire and scissors? Did it mean mud and water? Was it simply brides photographed in unique places? In short, it is all of these things. Like a wedding and its associated gown, trashing is unique unto the bride. As I broached the subject with my husband, my parents, and my friends, the reactions were violently different from person to person. I was definitely surprised and a little taken aback at the level of emotional investment other people had in MY gown. But I’m stubborn and I emailed Charlotte to see if she’d be willing to assist me. I was nervous asking because this shoot would require a very open mind and to my delight, Charlotte agreed with enthusiasm. Despite having asked for help trashing my dress, the “traditional monster” preyed on my mind a bit. What if the dress didn’t come clean?
As you can see, we shot in a church, in the woods, at a bar, in a cornfield, on a tractor, in a barn, and at the beach. I was anxious, but with each site I let go of something else I’d been holding too tight: what people would think. Instead, I felt sexy and invincible. I didn’t care that people were videotaping the insane bride in the cornfield. I didn’t care that people were driving by either staring or honking. I didn’t care that my toes were muddy and my neck was streaked with sweat. This photo shoot had morphed from a creative idea to NEEDED. Treating the strongest wedding symbol with such disregard was liberating and therapeutic. All of the things that didn’t go exactly as we had planned, I didn’t care anymore. The weather, the flowers, the guest list, the limo…don’t care. This shoot allowed me to move past the wedding and fully into my marriage. As I shoved the most expensive and symbolic item of my wardrobe into a giant green trashbag to haul home, I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. As I listened to the water swish inside the bag, I thought, “Every bride needs to do this.” Now that it’s done, it’s time to find the best dry cleaner I can…preferably one with an open mind.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.
Thank you so much, Jessica, for your eloquent contribution to my blog, and for asking me to share this experience with you. I think I had as much fun as you did, and I hope the photos are everything you hoped for and more.
Thank you also to my fantastic assistant for the day, Tom Sanderson, who came all the way from Williamsburg to help us with this shoot. I’d also like to thank Jessica’s mother for taking so many wonderful candids! I’ll post those on another day, so stay tuned.
We started the shoot at Jessica’s family’s church, where I experimented with different
ways to photograph a bride. It was fun to try something different in such a familiar setting.
Then we headed outside to the forest behind the church.
Jessica and her husband, Scott, met at this uh… rustic… bar in Maryland.
It’s called the Green Door, and we had fun with it!
We found this cornfield behind the bar.
Then we headed to Mary’s Hope, Jessica and Scott’s wedding venue. Mike and I had wanted
to photograph them in front of these red barns on their wedding day, but it rained so hard
that were weren’t able to do it. It was fun to have a second chance with a bride!
Finally we headed to the beach where Jessica used to live. Fun!
I love seeing a hint of her ring here.