In the locker room of Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatics, photographer Melissa Powell (of Project:Life Photography) laces up the corset of the wedding gown that Corinne, the model for the day's shoot, is wearing.
"Keep the straps on," Powell instructs patiently. "The water will pull down the dress, so she may need the support."
As Corinne runs her hand down the sheer, beaded bodice, someone asks her a question that probably should have been posed earlier.
"Hey. You can swim, right?"
On this cold December day, Corinne and her new husband Matt have agreed to take part in a "trash the dress" photography session.
The concept has been around for a number of years; many credit the trend to Las Vegas photographer John Michael Cooper, who, in 2001, was bored with traditional wedding photography and wanted to do something creative, something radical. Quite literally, in a "trash the dress" session, brides do another photography session after the ceremony and destroy their gowns in the name of art. One of Cooper's most astounding shots is of a bride whose dress is on fire (via the magic of Photoshop).
Nowadays, the "trash the dress" phenomenon may describe any kind of photography that depicts brides and grooms in a nontraditional setting.
For Powell and her husband Brian, who shoot weddings and related portraits together under Project:Life Photography, "trash the dress" translates to underwater photography. They've shot eight underwater sessions since 2011.
"We had seen pictures of some underwater models in big beautiful gowns, and we loved the way the water can create movement in the dress," Powell says. "We thought that it would be really fun to try that with a wedding dress."
Many brides might not be able to fathom "trashing" their dresses after spending hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars on the right gown. But Powell says depending on the material of the dress, oftentimes doing an underwater photography session won't hurt it. To date, none of their brides' dresses have been ruined.
"It's a really fun thing to do, to be able to put on the dress again and come away with photos that are completely different from your wedding," Powell says. "And depending on the dress, maybe not even having to trash it — still get to put it back in its box and keep it for your daughter."
To book your own underwater photography session, visit www.projectlifephotography.com.
Shout-out to Amanda Pagano of Isabel's Corner for putting together this awesome video.