Trash the Dress
Wedding photography can be a grind, a working study of risk assessment in practice. The mind of the photographer on a hectic wedding day is constantly weighing the probability of disaster in achieving a more creative image. “If I put that bride in the gnarly dead tree on the beach for that dramatic shot, what is the statistical likelihood of her falling out or tearing that Vera Wang dress to shreds or breaking an ankle”? “Will I lose 10 safer, sure shot images in the limited time that I have to put her in the tree and get her lit”. “Will she even want my peyote induced vision of matrimony in dramatic black and white, or will she prefer the safer shots with her comely aunt on the sand with that tried and true sunset”? As photographers, we walk a fine line between creative vision and commercial viability; the trick is to sell out just a little bit while maintaing your style.
All bets go out the window on a shoot where you trash the dress. More Gothic fashion photography than anything, the trash the dress trend allows a good photographer to stretch the legs a bit – to take that risk of failure and destruction – to allow a half hour to be allocated for that one specific shot – to damn to hell walking the line with those safe as milk images that we all regurgitate endlessly that come to define us stylistically. We can create an unbridled vision simply because any woman willing to disregard a fine silk and lace keepsake from her most cherished day by rolling in sand and wet leaves is exactly the woman that wants something different, something that defines her. She doesn’t care if her daughter wears her dress in 20 years because she is cool enough to understand that the daughter would prefer to see photos of Mom looking hot and stylish, like a Helmut Newton model, then to wear her dress.
I generally have a easy touch with lighting and Photoshop, like a chef that has a delicate fish and doesn’t want to overpower the subtle overtones with something strong. For this shoot, I had a very heavy handed approach to lighting, the opposite of my normal technique. I wanted a visual sledgehammer, big studio lights outside doing big studio light things. I wanted to overpower the sun, to send enough watt-seconds of flash power towards my subjects to ignite nearby insects. Natural be damned. For me, a successful trash the dress shoot is a balance of glamour and profanity, a high middle finger to convention. I think that this shoot succeeds in letting the personalities of the models and the photographer penetrate the viewer.
Lindsay was perfect for this shoot. Not many people are willing to endure 2 second exposures in a shifting tidal pool, unblinking, while some lunatic with a camera hammers out his artistic vision at the expense of her comfort, safety, and sanity. Thanks Lindsay, you were great.
So come to Costa Rica on your honeymoon, and bring your dress. You can pay me to destroy it for the sake of art. I will smash your cell phone on a rock and key your car for free.
Leave a Reply