Something has been eating at me for a little while and I want to tell you about it – but first I want to tell you about some of my brides.
There’s the one who was the top ranked mountain bike racer in her state, who rode the entire Colorado Trail, who teaches art to kids.
There’s the one who took up biathlon (cross country skiing and shooting) on a whim, who is learning to hunt elk so as to have an ethical source of meat, who is an ass-kicking attorney.
There’s the one who, at the ripe old age of 25, has traveled to well over 20 countries, whose work has taken her around the world.
And that’s just a few of them – they’re teachers, doctors, runners, triathletes, skiers, climbers, mountaineers. They backpack and camp and travel. They’re educated and they put that education to work in their jobs. They’re mothers (if only to dogs) and sisters and daughters. They’re layered and accomplished and kicking ass in so many ways.
And yet, when you see them on Instagram – they look like brides. And we talk about them like that’s all they are. Brides.
Photography is a visual art. I get that. I get that its easy to see a stunning woman and stop there. Digging deeper takes time, both as a consumer of images and one who produces them. Reading those stories – and taking the time to write them out – is way harder and more time consuming than posting a pretty picture and talking about how good the couple looks.
But I think there is – and should be – so much more to what we do and talk about than appearance.
I know that the women (and the men too, but like many things in our culture this is something that is largely experienced by the women) I photograph have a lot more going on than just looking great at their wedding. I know that you want to be more than just a pretty statue in your dress and that you’re a lot more than just a prop. I know that society tries to pigeon hole you into this thing – “bride” – that may feel comfortable and exciting or stifling and confusing. I know that you’re expected to be one thing on that day and that that one thing might not quite feel right (regardless of how excited you are to get married).
I see you. I get it. And I think we can all do so much better.
So I challenge all of us to do better. I challenge the photographers (myself included) to talk about things other than how beautiful our couple was when we posted about them on social media or on our blog. I challenge those of you who read and comment to talk about something other than appearance. I challenge us to be mindful of the way we talk about people and the categories we put them in. I challenge all of us to remember that there are a whole lot of things that make up a “bride” other than how she looks on that day.
For the record, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with talking about how beautiful someone looked on their wedding day – about how gorgeous their dress was or how perfectly imperfect their hair looked or the way that they radiated happiness as they walked down the aisle. And I certainly don’t think its wrong to want to look and feel beautiful on your wedding day (hell, who doesn’t want that!?). I just think we should be careful not to make those things all that we talk about. Because we’re all so much more than that.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Am I the only one who feels this way? Am I the only one who struggles with what we see and how we speak in this incredibly visual form of art?