Week 1 – Trash The Dress

I’m tired of all this nonsense about beauty being only skin-deep.  That’s deep enough.  What do you want – an adorable pancreas?  ~Jean Kerr, The Snake Has All the Lines

We live in a world where we are bombarded with images of perceived beauty. You can never be skinny enough, your hair thick enough, your lips plumb enough or your legs long enough – it can all be a bit much.

Lots of people pay lip service to NOT buying into that whole schmozzel… “NO! We don’t care about our size as long as we are healthy!” Whatever… I call your bluff.

Truth be told it affects us all on one level or another, even more if you do public appearances. I would be a hypocrite if it wasn’t something I paid attention to. (I noticed that Nelly Furtado was bigger than she was in her video when she came to town to play a concert, and even commented on it.) While I do make a concerted effort not to play into it, sometimes it happens.

I would love to say I have always been comfortable in my own skin, but most of the time I’m not. Here is what I can say, I don’t let that sense of discomfort or my insecurity stop me from trying something new.

Or at least I would like to think that.

Hence the photo-shoot.

My friend and photographer Kim Buchanan has known for years that I have wanted to do a “Trash The Dress” shoot with my first wedding gown, hopefully involving a mud puddle. While we talked about it a lot it never came to fruition. I always had an excuse, until Laura Carbonneau came into the picture. Laura had recently picked up her camera again and was eager to take pictures of something other than her grand daughter. I casually mentioned what Kim and I had been chatting about and she casually mentioned her home was on a farm which, along with a broken down barn and an orchard, had one very big MUD PUDDLE! Well, there was no stopping Kim and Laura, and before you knew it I was agreeing that finally doing the “Trash The Dress” shoot would be a great idea!

Inside, I died… just a little.

Conceptually, part of this shoot for me was to be a celebration of who I had physically become since that wedding day so long ago – the dress would be hanging off of me, barely fit! Well, after an injury 18 months ago it had been a long road to recovery and while I had initially lost about 105 pounds I had gained 45 back and was more than a little frustrated about it.

This wasn’t how I wanted to look while doing this shoot.

But, it did make it perfect for week 1 of 52NEW. What would I learn from doing a photo shoot that I didn’t “have” to do? Would I be unpleasant and grumpy? Would I come out the other side feeling better or worse about my self? Could I get the same satisfaction from this shoot as I previously had hoped, would I get a picture or two that I loved?

Here’s what I learned:

  • I REALLY love having my picture taken.
  • The pressure washer at the “do it yourself” car wash can also do a good job blasting the mud out of crinoline.
  • Angles can change everything.
  • The joy of a situation can transcend the fear.
  • If you give in, let go, and enjoy – you will shine.
  • Photoshop is your friend…but not necessary. A good picture is a good picture and can stand on it’s own, shadows, wrinkles, fat, moles, and crooked teeth.
  • I had fun not because of what that dress once stood for (that became a moot point early on), but because of the person I had grown into and the wonderful people I spent the day with. Yes, time does heal wounds, even really nasty ones.

More tangible…

  • If you are getting your picture taken and are not totally comfortable with the way you look:
  • Don’t put on too much make-up.
  • Have hair and eyebrows done by a professional.
  • Wear something YOU are comfortable in but bring a couple of different outfits and make sure to get shots in all of them.
  • A good bra changes everything.
  • Get pictures from all different angles.
  • Take at least a few shots where you “pretend” you are a world famous super model, do the weird angles, stare off into the distance, practice the face of distain.
  • Also get a few pictures with a big old-fashioned smile and laugh.
  • Let the photographer know how you are feeling, and believe them when they tell you otherwise.
  • Understand going in that you are not a towering 6 feet tall and 102 pounds, and do NOT compare yourself to someone that is.
  • If you REALLY don’t want to get your picture taken but someone else REALLY wants to take your picture…suck it up buttercup and do it. If you keep doing that, before you know it you will get a good picture of yourself. Sometimes a picture isn’t about you; it’s the joy it gives the person taking it and the person who wants to look at it.

A big thank you to Valeh Asraf that rolled out of bed early to do my make-up and pin up my hair and to Steve Weckstrom for catching some video footage and being a wonderful cheerleader.

And of course the wonderful and magical photographers!

Kim Buchanan Photography
Laura Carbonneau – Graciebear Photography