Trash the Dress: A Defense Memo

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Sigh.  I was having such a good Monday.  I had Twinkies for breakfast, relatively no work drama, and I managed to do all my laundry from the past month so I won't have to go on a shopping spree in order to avoid showing up at work in my skivvies.  Like I said, it was a good Monday.  Then I sat down at my computer and googled Trash the Dress ideas.  I have 4 more of these sessions lined up for the rest of the summer, and while I have pretty good ideas for two of them, the other two are leaving me in a creative slump.  So, like I said, I invoked some Google magic.... and was utterly distraught by what I came across.  Last summer, another photographer had posted a blog asking for creative ideas for a Trash the Dress session, and literally received over a thousand responses.  From what I read, at least half of them were negative, discouraging the practice of "trashing a dress."  Of course I didn't read all the responses, but from what I saw, it seemed like a lot of photographers were discouraging the practice because of the time and care a bride takes to get ready on her wedding day and put the beautiful dress on, how much a dress can cost and how trashing it can "trash the sanctity of the dress, and therefore call into question the sanctity of the marriage."  One photographer described these sessions as distasteful at best.  Really?  These posts baffled me, and my opinion is so far in the other direction that I felt the need to blog about it myself.  


First of all, I would NEVER do a shoot that I thought was distasteful, or that I thought would offend anyone, but I am confused as to how or why TTD sessions are perceived this way.  I have assisted at about 20 weddings now, and have shot 2 on my own.  I have seen firsthand the time and care the bride takes in getting ready, and there's usually not a dry eye in the house as she slips the wedding gown on.  It is a beautiful moment, and I completely understand the huge part the dress plays in creating it.  I know this is why thousands of brides a year pay hundreds of dollars to have their gowns preserved, to maybe someday hand down to their daughters when the time comes.  I do not discourage this at all, but I think a lot of people are idealizing how excited their daughters would be to wear a 20-30 year old dress.  If I was getting married, I know my mother wouldn't even ask, because while her dress looked stunning on her, she understands that fashion changes with each season, and I would look like a character out of Love Boat if I tried to put that thing on now.  I know my mother realizes this, and that's why it wouldn't offend her if I didn't wear it.  If my mom had paid to have it preserved, she would have wasted a few hundred dollars for no good reason.  She could have just as easily spent that few hundred dollars and done a Trash the Dress (if they had them back then), ending up with even more gorgeous pictures of herself in the dress, which I know my sister and I would have appreciated and cherished far more than a few pieces of outdated cloth.  


Second of all, a lot of times, the actual wedding dress isn't even the one being used.  A lot of younger couples are seeing these sessions, and seeing a way to break from the traditional photography they may have had to have on their wedding day to please their parents.  They're seeing these sessions as a funky way to celebrate their marriage, without the time constraint of a wedding day or the pressure to do the same pose over and over.  I think younger couples are being drawn to these sessions because they are a laid-back way of kicking loose and getting some great pictures of them being themselves, happy and in love with their new spouse.  A lot of couples that are drawn to these sessions are buying second, cheaper dresses to use, or doing sessions that won't actually ruin the dress so they can have it cleaned.


Third of all, suggesting that a Trash the Dress session ruins the sanctity of the dress and the sanctity of the marriage is absolutely mind-blowing to me.  I'm no expert, having been single since fire was invented, but as far as I knew, the sanctity of a marriage wasn't tied up in some beading and stitchwork.  A marriage is as strong as the two people in it, and as long as there is love and trust and communication, no trashing of the dress, accidentally or on purpose, could tear apart the foundation these two people have built together.  To me, a bride choosing to trash her wedding dress only tells me that she is a fun and creative person, qualities that are probably some of the reasons her spouse fell in love with her in the first place.


I may be rambling, but I felt the need to post some of my thoughts on this tonight.  I have done 3 TTD sessions, and each one was amazing.  I do these sessions not because these brides wanted to trash their wedding dress, but because I (along with another photographer I collaborated with) thought that they'd be a fun way to practice.   Two of the brides we have worked with aren't even engaged!  They are just models who have done us a favor and helped us build our portfolio.  I am new in photography, and still trying to learn all I can, and so these sessions have helped me gain experience with my camera and different lighting situations, while still photographing a beautiful model in a place where normally you wouldn't find a bride.  The other photographer and I have bought each dress we use, and so the models are not wasting any of their own money. Furthermore, on two out of three sessions the dress stayed clean enough to wear again, so technically, we bought these girls each a wedding dress!  My point, again,  is that I would NEVER do a session that I thought was distasteful, and if you know me at all, you know that I would never intentionally offend anyone in any way.  I guess Trash the Dress isn't for everyone, but I wouldn't have gotten the two shots on this post if we hadn't done them.  I wouldn't be comfortable shooting in Manual or posing subjects if we hadn't done them.  And so far, the models have loved their pictures, so I wouldn't have some very happy clients if we hadn't done them.


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