Trash the Dress

Newlyweds prepare to jump into Kennebec River for Trash the Dress photo shoot.

If you’ve been a photographer for any length of time it’s inevitable. At some point, no matter what your speciality, you will be asked to photograph a wedding. I shot a few weddings early in my career but now, I refer couples to photographers who specialize in them.

Never Say Never:

I received a call from my good friend Peter, who lives in Maine. He said his niece Libby was getting married and asked if  I’d photograph her wedding. The ceremony and reception would be held at his mother’s home situated along the Kennebec River. My ties to that place run deep as I have been their guest many times over the years. I agreed to do it, happy to have the opportunity to repay their generosity and I could take a few extra days and make it a vacation. Stopping in Providence on the way up I picked up my son Wynn, to share the experience and to assist during the wedding. 

It was a beautiful outdoor ceremony, the reception was held under a large tent by the river. The people, the location, the weather, the music, the food, were wonderful. It was the most enjoyable wedding I have ever attended, let alone photographed. 

Trash the Dress

Newlyweds make their way to a canoe for a trash the dress photo shoot.

Wynn Plants a Seed:

Towards the end of the reception Wynn jokingly asked Libby if she wanted to do a “Trash the Dress” shoot the next day. Libby and her new husband Andrew talked it over for a minute and replied “Yes!”  They thought it would be fun to go to the island and jump off the cliff into the river.

The plan was for me to photograph the” lovers leap” from a canoe. Wynn would paddle in the front, Libby’s Uncle Nick, would paddle from the back, I’d sit in the middle and shoot. 

The Kennebec is a tidal river, only placid for a short period of time, at high and at low tide. By the time everyone was ready low tide was long gone and it would be several hours until high tide. We would now be fighting very strong currents. So strong in fact, that you needed to paddle upstream as hard as you could to counteract the current carrying you down stream as you crossed. If you miscalculated the trajectory you could end up below and on the wrong side of the island.

My crew paddled to the Island first so I could photograph the newlywed’s as they made their way across. Libby was no stranger to the river and knew just what she was doing. Andrew, on the other hand, just needed to have faith, and to keep paddling. 

3Newlyweds, trash the dress

Newlyweds Andrew and Libby make their way to the cliff where will they jump into The Kennebec River.

Might As Well Jump!

Everyone got to the island without incident and we made our way to the top of the cliff. Andrew hung a Just Married sign then stripped down to his birthday suit but as the song goes, “You Can Leave Your Hat On.” Wynn, Nick and I made our way back our canoe as Libby and Andrew positioned themselves on the edge of the cliff, contemplating what they were about to do.

Once our canoe was at a reasonable distance from the cliff  I double checked my camera settings and gave Libby and Andrew the go ahead. They counted to three then jumped. I fired off nine frames before they hit the water.

Newlyweds leap into Kennebec River

Newlyweds leap into Kennebec River for Trash the Dress photo shoot.


Lilly on the shore

Libby, looking like The Winged Victory of Samothrace, after the jump.



Newlyweds Andrew and Libby with her grandmother

Newlyweds Andrew and Libby with her grandmother Natalie.

A Word of Caution: Scenarios such as this can put subjects and/or yourself in danger. Weigh the risks and take necessary precautions. No Trash the Dress photo is worth risking life or limb. In this case I was confident my subjects and my crew were up to the task and that all would return to shore safely. My trust was not misplaced.



Late afternoon on Sand Beach, Acadia National Park, Maine


The time finally came, we knew it would but we tried not to dwell on it, that time when your only child goes off to college and leaves you and your spouse alone for the first time in nearly two decades. 
It wasn’t a given, Wynn wanted to study industrial design and there are several good schools right here in Philadelphia that offer it. I suppose I always imagined he’d go to one of the local schools and live at home for at least the next few years but Wynn wanted to go to RISD and damn if he didn’t get accepted! 
Reid Beach State Park
Move in day was Sept. 6th so we decided to spend a week visiting our friends Peter and Meagan and their sons Dae and Noah who live in Maine and another week camping in Acadia National Park then move Wynn into his dorm room in Providence, RI on our way back home.


We were joined in Maine by our friends Marlene and Stephen and their son Louis and daughter Maureen who live in Germany. We had visited them last summer spending time in Freiberg, visiting Berlin and then riding bicycles to the town of Usedom on the Baltic Sea.
Pete had introduced us to Marlene and Stephan over twenty years ago when we all lived in West Philadelphia.  Wynn and Louis were born just a few months apart and had played together when they were toddlers. Marlene, Stephan and Louis moved backed to Germany after Marlene was offered a position at The University of Freiberg.


Echo Lake, Acadia National Park

We would spend the first week at Pete’s, making day trips that would include hanging out at local beaches, shopping and dining in the nearby town of Bath, visiting Pete’s mother Natalie, who lives by the Kennebec River and taking a ferry to the island of Vinalhaven. Then we packed the van and headed north to Acadia.


It was a scenic, three-hour drive from Woolwich to Acadia where we would pitch our tents at the Blackwoods campground. Each day consisted of hiking one of the many trails followed by a swim in the cold water of the Atlantic off  Sand Beach or in the slightly warmer water of Echo Lake which is located on what the locals call “The Quite Side” of the Island.  


First day at RISD 
The last leg our journey involved driving to Providence and helping Wynn set up his dorm room and assemble his bicycle before attending the official RISD welcome for first year students held in the historic First Baptist Church. There were several speakers including President Rosanne Somerson who at the close of her remarks told us to meet our son or daughter on the lawn for ice cream, then tell them goodbye, adding “They are ours now.”


It’s only been three weeks since we dropped Wynn off and so far so good. He seems to like it there and it sounds like they’re keeping him pretty busy. He is even considering joining the RISD cycling team. He calls or texts everyday, let’s see how long that lasts, and we will be going up to visit in October for Parent’s weekend.
I had a dream last week where I was working the backyard and I heard him call out “Hey!” and I turned to see him walking up the steps from the street so yeah, I guessI miss him.
 I console myself with fact that Wynn is where he wants to be and doing what he wants to do. I also know he will fit right in with all the other artsy, fartsy weirdos at RISD. I also remember the words of a friend who is also the parent of a son who went away to college, “With summer break, spring break and all the holidays they’ll still be home six months of the year anyway.”


First Day at RISD, Courtyard outside the dorm. 


Oh and did I mention Wynn left us with several hundred thousand honeybees and eight chickens?  
If you have had a son or daughter go off to college, or are a student away from home for the first time leave a comment and let me know how you dealt, or are dealing with the transition.