Feminist Photographer. What does that mean, you might be wondering to yourself as you scroll through my Instagram profile or check out my newly designed website. Well, let me tell you.
For quite awhile now, I’ve been looking at the wedding industry and really hoping that it would get on board with the idea of feminism NOT meaning “bitchy-ism” or “bridezilla”. Unfortunately, much of the wedding industry still revolves around the bride--what does the bride want for her big day? What does the bride hope for her dress? What does the bride dream of for her photography? What does the bride want to do for the toasts? Bride, bride, bride, bride.
Well, that’s just silly AF.
It takes two to tango, it takes two to create a marriage, and sometimes there isn’t even a bride anywhere to be seen. Sometimes a marriage is two fantastic men, or two fantastic women, or a woman and a man, neither of whom even identify with the word “bride”.
Being a Feminist Photographer means a few things to me:
The Couple: Whenever a contact form comes in, I immediately notice who sent it (female or male partner) and how the writer refers to the partner. Now, almost always, it’s the female partner who sent the form, that’s fine, no worries. But the language that she uses to refer to her partner is critical. If he/she references the partner as a “groom” or a “bride”, that tends to be a red flag for me. The identifier of “groom” or “bride” is really only applicable on the day of the actual wedding, as far as I am concerned, so when it shows up on a contact sheet months, or sometimes years, before that date is slated to occur, it indicates to me that my couple is thinking more about the wedding than the marriage. Further, when I communicate with my couples, I work hard to communicate with both of them. If both email addresses are provided, they are both on that first contact email response. We set up a group Skype or beer drinking date. I want to meet them both. I want both folks to be there and both to be equally interested in planning their marriage, and that is what I am in the business of doing--helping support in planning a marriage, not just a wedding
The Story: This is critical to me. I spend a lot of time getting to know my couples in the weeks and months leading up to their day. I’ve said it many times before, but being friends with these two people is critical to the work I do. If I do not connect emotionally with them, then it’s usually not a great partnership. It’s probably fairly honest to anyone who spends time on my Instagram or my website that I have strong opinions, and they definitely are on the progressive side of things (Trump voters, see ya). I value kindness, compassion, equality, empowerment and independence in the people who choose me as their photographer and they usually value those same qualities in me and in my work. Beyond this, though, it is critical to me that the couple see each other in equality. I deeply value couples who look at each other as equals in one another. One of the best couples I worked with was several years ago and they both self described as feminists--both Brady (male) and Sam (female) stated their desire to enter into an equal partnership in marriage, and further they chose to marry in a state that had legal same-sex marriage at the time (Iowa). Knowing that they valued some of the very same things I did, was a critical aspect of helping me decide that this wedding was the right one for me.
Non Traditional weddings: Nontraditional weddings often lead to non traditional marriages, in one of the best sense. If a couple gets in touch and wants to elope on a secluded beach with just themselves and their dog, or is interested in signing their vows to one another so only they can understand and hear them, or couples who walk one another down the aisle, or couples who refuse to use terms like “obey” in their vows, then that is usually a sign to me that they are looking at this wedding as simply a vessel to an adventuresome marriage, which is really fantastic. I love working with couples who are willing to take a risk on their wedding day, try something new or untested and roll with it. What a great way to take on this thing we call life.
Engagement Rings for Both or None: This is a rockstar idea and something that is WAY too infrequently utilized. Here’s the deal--how are we still ok with this idea that only a woman need declare her “off-limit-ness” by wearing a ring while her partner parades around metal-free? Why does just the woman need to show through her jewelry that she’s taken? It makes literally no sense in a 2017 world, so if a couple gets in touch and lets me know they have an untraditional proposal, no proposal or engagement rings for all or none, I’m super down. We already vibe.
Financial, Emotional and Independent Security: I really like to hear that a couple is funding their own wedding and not relying on their families to support their endeavors. Don’t get me wrong, I 100% understand that that is often not feasible for many couples, and having a parent to throw in some money is a really fabulous thing (plus a lot of families just WANT to help, which is lovely), but if a couple states to me that they are working hard to stay financially independent and on budget, that says a lot about what they value and what they hold important on their day. I also really, really, really like to hear that there has been no “asking of permission” to the woman’s father or family. Again, I KNOW that isn’t traditional, and I know that we live in a society where a woman is “granted” to a man via her father, but guys, it’s so beyond time to move on from that mindset that I almost feel dirty typing it.
Name Changes, “Mrs.”, “Husband, “Wife”: For couples to consider not changing their names or not even taking on the terms of “husband” or “wife”, but rather using “spouse” or “partner”, that shows a lot to me and it is a couple with whom I want to work. Equality comes slowly, over time, but these little micro aggressions that our society has normalized are part of making that change come a little more quickly. People often are shocked and seemingly confused when I tell them that I never changed my name when Ian and I got married 8 years ago--I just didn’t. And he was totally 100% fine with that. Sure, we still have family members who insist on referring to me by his last name, or who hyphenate our names (that was difficult when we tried to get a mortgage and the bank was searching for this non-existent hyphenated Emily Alt-DeGraaf), but overall it’s been a pretty easy decision.
Human Props: I’ll keep this short. The “groom” is not a prop. He isn’t there for the woman to lean upon during the portrait session or for her to gaze at from a shorter stature, he isn’t there to lend a hand because she is too weak to stroll down the pathway without him there, and he isn’t there to carry her dress. He’s there to get married. Just like she is. So he isn’t a prop. He’s a human. He is (and should be) an equal in the marriage.
In the end, if anything this post might go to remind you that finding a great partnership with your photographer is critical. If you found yourself rolling your eyes at some of my ideas here, then we probably wouldn't jam together in real life or as photographer/couple, but if you found yourself nodding along and raising a solidarity fist against the idea of being “given” to another man by your father, then heck, we might be a rocking fit.
Xoxo from snowy, icy, rainy, foggy, and all other precipitation elements Michigan,