What do you get when you put four girlfriends, all of whom married within a couple of years of each other, back into their wedding gowns for a photo shoot in an abandoned farmhouse in rural eastern Ontario?
In a word....MAGIC! Photo Magic!
The Brides' Story
This idea took shape over many months for these four Ontario lovelies. Two of the brides, Carolyn and Jessica, are sisters; Brandice is their sister-in-law and Amanda is a dear childhood friend. The last of the group to marry, Jessica married in July. The photo shoot was scheduled for October.
After each wedding, the girls would contact Ruth Stenson, who was the wedding photographer for three of them, saying "we're going to be doing a session with you, all of us together, once we are all married!"
Coincidence or Kismet?
Kingston photographer Ruth Stenson and husband John, her second shooter, had driven along a one-lane dirt road for years, always stopping at an abandoned house, wondering about the memories within the walls. The setting was on her bucket list for a shoot for years, but what she didn't know ahead of time was that Carolyn had obtained permission from the property owners for the Caress The Dress shoot there. The photographer could hardly contain her excitement as she drove up to meet and greet the girls at the house.
What were the chances of this coincidence? That everyone involved would be drawn to this particular location for this particular purpose?
The Photographer's Story
Ruth has a flair for unique and out-of-the box scenarios so she was delighted to work with these "AMAZING women"!
"You have to understand that these girls are game for anything. The entire session was electric; we fed on each other's energy. As we made our way through dark hallways carrying flashlights - there was no electricity, you could almost feel the adrenaline in the air. As we entered the rooms, light filtered in, showing walls with torn wallpaper and graffiti."
"My heart raced as I put into actions ideas that I had nurtured for years! Halfway through the chilly three-hour session, we stopped to enjoy some wine. We were all totally at ease with each other so there was much laughter, chatter, squeals and ideas flying throughout the session."
Furniture & Critters & Props
Amanda brought her own shotgun and the other girls borrowed their husbands' guns for the shoot. It's easy to imagine the girls guarding a moonshine still when you see the photos.
"Oh my gosh, this is amazing", was the consensus from the brides as they were plunking down on couches, chairs and window sills, with Carolyn even grabbing a filthy old teddy bear. As Amanda sat down in the armchair with her leg over one arm, a frightened mouse ran out from under Carolyn's couch...but no one even bothered to move or run, they were so into the moment.
There was also old furniture outside, as Ruth describes it, "worn from the wrath of rain and snow over the years. Brandice was fully in the mood, and flew into position laying across the back of the exposed couch in her beautiful lace-covered gown, bare arms and open back without a moment's hesitation. In her 3-month-old Maggie Sottero wedding gown, Jessica snuggled into the grime and leaves in her corner."
"How could laughter, jokes and total hysteria not happen in such an extreme location? There was no stopping these girls. They were totally in the zone and moment with everything. I told my dream girls that I was sure that professional models wouldn't be as candid and good to go as they were!"
Ed. comment: What can be added to this fascinating story about fascinatingly moody photographs? The abandoned farmhouse...the intrepid brides...the camera girl with flair...the way that everyone channelled the spirit of the past. And what were the odds of Ruth's dream photo house being the one that Carolyn was able to arrange for the shoot. Was it all good fortune? Or was it fate?
Written by: Judy Johnson
Photo: Ruth Stenson Photography