Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Tales from Elsewhere – The Wedding Dress

Daniel used to belong to the camera club in Bristol of which I have been a member for some 15 years. In those days he was a cameraman with the BBC, though his real love was still photography. He then made a brave decision, and the best of his life. He gave up the steady job and decided with his wife Jen – another keen photographer – to go freelance. After some advertising work they got their first real break; they were asked by a wealthy local family to take pictures at their son’s wedding.

Daniel excelled at composed groups and outdoor romantic set-ups, Jen had a flair for indoor shots – the bride getting ready, the church, and those quirky shots that the family love to see afterwards and laugh at together. In short, theirs was a marriage made in heaven in every sense.

It soon became apparent that their business was thriving, and they got organised. This coincided with the advent of digital photography, which made everything simpler and quicker. The photographer could instantly check the results, couples could come and view their wedding pictures almost straight away if they wanted to and mistakes could be corrected on the computer. A far cry from the days of rolls of film bulging out of your pockets and the hernia-causing camera bag hanging from your shoulder crammed with special effect filters and reflectors, and no more dodging and burning if there was too much contrast between the white wedding dress of the bride and the dark suit of the groom.

This story demonstrates how one bride had every reason to be grateful to computer technology, and it was one of the anecdotes told to us at camera club by Daniel when he was our speaker for the evening some years ago.

Daniel and Jen’s reputation grew quickly without their needing to advertise their services, and they started to travel abroad on special commissions. One such occasion concerned an immensely wealthy Dutch-American family from New York whose tall, statuesque and beautiful daughter Marika was marrying a darkly handsome young man – neither of them would have looked out of place in Vogue. They had decided that the wedding should be in the Tuscan hills of Italy, and they rented an entire Palazzo for a week for the event. They hired an aeroplane and coaches to transport all their friends and relations from the United States to Italy, which included Vera Wang, who had designed “The Dress” and had been paid to attend.

(Google image)
This is what the top half of the dress looked like,
if I remember the pictures shown to us at the time correctly
- a ruched bodice and satin skirt, quite close fitting.
The bride also had dark hair worn swept up.

Daniel and Jen had an all-expenses paid week in the Tuscan village before the wedding, since they had to take pictures of the spectacular surroundings to include as part of the wedding album. They enjoyed it, but they worked flat out all week. As Daniel told us “thank goodness we were in the digital era, or we would have needed trolleys to cart our rolls of film around...” . The quality of light in Tuscany sends photographers into transports of delight – it is something to do with the effect of the sunshine on the warm stone and red tiled roofs of the buildings combined with the cloudless azure skies and the rows of Lombardy poplars along the gently rolling hills.

On the morning of the wedding Daniel and Jen had split the duties: he would walk around the grounds snapping the groom and his friends, and Jen would be inside with Marika, photographing her as she prepared for her big day. The hairdresser and manicurist were hard at work, the bride’s friends fussing around her, and Vera Wang doing her last minute checks on the dress – plenty of interesting subjects for her to capture.

Daniel told us that as they returned to the Palazzo they heard screaming coming from somewhere upstairs, and presently Jen descended the stairs in a hurry, as worried looking staff made their way upstairs carrying things.

“There’s been an emergency” she said breathlessly “you can’t imagine, and I can’t explain it to you now, but the wedding is going to be very late. Please could you take the groom away from here, and his friends, it’s best they shouldn’t be around – can you go for another walk?” She caught up with him half an hour later, and explained to him what had happened.

(Google image)
All had been relatively happy and peaceful, though Marika was a highly strung person and the women knew she was clearly feeling very nervous as she applied her makeup. Nobody noticed until after she had been carefully walked into her creamy satin dress and the million buttons had been done up, that she had forgotten to put a little blusher on her cheeks. Someone ran to get it, and the girl unscrewed the lid of the small jar and with one finger dabbed at the thin creamy solution underneath. But the tension got the better of her... and she dropped it. Down her front.

No doubt her forthcoming marriage would give her many happy days ahead – but this wasn’t destined to be one of them. The pot of rouge had emptied down her bodice and streaked down the skirt to the floor – deep carmine gashes down Vera Wang’s creation. That’s when the shrieking started, and the girl was out of control for several minutes.

The staff at the Palazzo moved swiftly into action. Sponges, delicate washing substances and hairdryers appeared and several people set to work while her friends tried to calm her down – it was essential that her face should not swell and go blotchy from the upset, or her devastation would be complete. The dress was carefully washed with the sponge, over and over again, as the layers of carmine started to fade. The hairdryers coaxed the fabric back to life, but two factors became apparent. The staff had done sterling work, but they had not been able to eradicate the offending colour altogether – there were pale pink streaks all down the dress, there was no getting away from it. In addition, while the fabric had responded so well because of its very high quality, it had nevertheless shrunk following the ministrations of the hairdryers, and the hem was now an inch shorter than the underskirt. The girl was too distracted at first by the pink streaks to even notice the hem however, and it was wisely not mentioned by anybody else.

The wedding proceeded smoothly, as all the guests politely ignored the fact that Marika was struggling to look and feel composed, the freshly applied makeup barely concealing her anguish. She was used to being the belle of the ball merely because she was there, and not because of the kindness and goodwill of those around her. The guests had unanimously agreed not to use their cameras to photograph her, in return for which they would all get free albums from Daniel and Jen, paid for by her father.

Daniel showed us some of the wedding pictures, and we all leaned forward eagerly; admittedly we were a little disappointed. The girl looked stunning, the dress reached to the floor, and only when he pointed it out in one of the pictures could we see the faintest trace of pink, which could have been a trick of the light. The computer had erased the reality. The carmine had gone, the skirt had been lengthened, the slightly swollen eyelids had disappeared. But what was lacking was the happy and relaxed radiance on the face of the bride – the smile was slightly wooden.

This story remains only in the memory of the guests – there is no evidence. They all have the lovely pictures to look at, and one day they may even ask themselves if it really happened. Digital photography will have truly finished the job.
(Google image)


Photo Finish
from Lonicera's non-digital photo archives

More flora than fauna - but it's spring after all...



Tina said...

ohhh the water picture is so it a digital creation or live???

The magazines came yesterday. THANKYOU!! You should have read them first at least to get maximum value :)

is there anything you desire from the states??


OneStonedCrow said...

Heh! ... great story, well told ... it's strange how something always goes wrong at weddings ...

... yes, digital is the best thing since the invention of photography, though I don't like to manipulate an image too much ...

great images Caroline.

Sandy Lee said...

I'll remember that next year when my daughter gets married. Maybe erase a few wrinkles by then as well. Great story.

Lonicera said...

Thanks Tina - it depends which water pic you mean. The dark pink one is borrowed from the internet, the one with the fish is mine, a straight snapshot, one of several, which was selectively cropped and enlarged a little, hence the slightly blurred look (don't know how to create digital pictures. So glad the magazines arrived!
Thanks Graham - the only manipulation I'm likely to give is to straighten, crop and lighten/darken. I reckon if you need any more than that you should go back another day and take the picture properly.
Sandy, the main thing I picked up is that makeup and expensive clothes don't like each other, though they may go well together! The photographer had the pictures on his website for several years, and I was really looking forward to giving everybody the link, but sadly he's removed them. Such a shame.
Thanks all for the nice comments.

Joyful said...

An interesting story and very well told by you ;-)

Lonicera said...

Thanks Joyful! Glad you liked it. I've just posted a new one today.

Vagabonde said...

It was a wedding to remember and certainly lucky that it was in the computer age. Your non-digital pictures are stunning.

Lonicera said...

Thanks Vagabonde - I do appreciate your having left so many comments on the different posts!

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