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Bridal Photographers Capture Edgy Candids for 'Trash the Dress'

Aug. 14--"Trash the Dress" is a little bit strong. "Rough It Up a Little" might be more appropriate.

Sure, the petticoats can get torn, the silk might get grease smudged and the hem ends up as raggedy black trim on a white dress, but it's not like the brides are taking scissors to their gowns, splattering them with paint or soaking their satin in water.


The latest trend in bridal photography is about trying to capture candid, artistic and edgy shots of a woman in a beautiful wedding dress, rather than assembling a rigid lineup of the bridal party and telling them to say "cheese." Things just tend to get a bit more messy with the "Trash the Dress" style.

The dirt, graffiti, junkyards and forests set the backdrop for "Trash the Dress" photos, but it's the dress that really adds the edginess.

"I think the appeal of the wedding gown is that it's so out of the ordinary, and it's such a dichotomy to see this woman in a gorgeous gown that you're used to seeing in cathedrals," says Kim Reed, of Kimberly Reed photography in the North Side. "I think it's almost a little bit of the shock factor to it."

Many photographers say the stains on the dress will come out with a good dry cleaning, but rendering their wedding dress unwearable is another appeal for brides -- the idea is that it shows the bride's dedication to her marriage.

Reed photographed Erica Bowlin, 30, of Mt. Lebanon, in urban settings Downtown in January. Bowlin says she had no concerns about wearing her dress in dirty T-stations, a North Side garage or on a cement church stoop.

She says after the wedding, her dress already was a bit trashed from mud, drink stains and snags in the satin made by a bracelet she wore.

"After we got married, we got home from the honeymoon, and I hadn't touched it since," Bowlin says. "It was an inexpensive, basic dress. It wasn't something that was going to be kept as a keepsake."

Joel Wiebner and his wife, Rita, who own The Wiebners photography studio in Lacaster, are administrative staff on, a blog that promotes and documents the edgy photography trend since September 2006 under the tagline "It's about creation, not destruction."

"We don't like the word trash," says Joel Wiebner.

But he says the word's sensational nature brings lots of visitors to the Web site, which has almost 700,000 hits. The Wiebners have done one "all-out-not-worrying-about-ruining-the-dress" session, and photographed brides in places like a closed down, "gorgeous, but crusty" penitentiary in Philadelphia.

"But we don't go out and try to do 'Trash the Dress' sessions," Wiebner says. "If the idea comes up for something really cool, for something that might get the dress dirty, then it might qualify as a 'Trash the Dress,' but we don't really classify things like that," he says.

"People think photographers are out there wanting to rip and tear and destroy dresses, when really, all it is for us is removing a layer of questioning during the session," he says. "If they know they might get dirty before the session, then we don't have to ask them politely, 'Do you want to step into the creek?' "

Photographer Heather Fowler has a "Trash the Dress" category on her price list for her Philadelphia-based business, priced similarly to a bridal portrait. She'll do one of the shoots even if she wasn't the photographer the day the couple said their vows, as will most photographers.

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