There she spun, folds of gown in her delicate fists, tall shoes on her feet, rouge on her lips - the Trocadero and sunrise with the cool breeze and the pigeons. Others crowded to the ledge, waiting to capture their dream forever on film. And a man with a camera leaned over to me and pointed to her. "Where's the groom?" he asked. As if a woman dancing in Paris had to be in love. As if a woman in a gown had to be betrothed. As if a woman fulfilled had to have permission. So I paused and looked back at that beautiful creature who, like the tower behind her, stood tall, strong, and worthy of admiration all on her own.
Paris. September. 8 am. Bright rays of sunlight and cool wind. The Trocadero and pigeons. And on the ledge from which millions have viewed Paris' most iconic landmark, there are several photographers. There is a bride and a groom, and there is a recently engaged couple, and then there is my client, in a lavender-grey gown and her favorite stilettos. She spins, fists full of layers of tulle and embroidery, and she laughs. The wind catches her hair.
The other photographers at this ledge are kind and accommodating. We stay out of each other's way, get our shots, and trade places. They are kind and I'm appreciative. And then one of them looks at my client and then back at me. "Where's the groom?" he jokes.
Of course, there is no groom. And no one noticed his apparent absence until now. My stomach drops - I know my client heard his words. But then I look back up at her. She stands tall, like the legendary tower behind her, beautiful and breathtaking all on her own.
Why must women in our society only be worthy of beautiful gowns and jewelry and special days if they've been proposed to? I ask every woman who comes to my studio, "When was the last time you were photographed?" 99% of the married ones say, "My wedding day," and 99% of the unmarried ones say, "My senior pictures." Now these are both beautiful milestones, but women are worth celebrating at every age. At every size. At every stage of life.
If we have names for "wedding portraits" and "senior portraits" and "maternity portraits," I say we start naming the types of shoots I do every week: "just healed from a devastating divorce" portraits, "just lost 50 pounds" portraits, "I'm the heaviest I've ever been but I need to celebrate myself anyway because I am still worthy" portraits," "I worked my butt off for my Master's degree and want to treat myself" portraits, "it's been 20 years since my wedding and I am a completely different person now" portraits, "I've made it through three miscarriages and want to love myself whether I'll ever bear children or not" portraits, "I just got out of an abusive relationship" portraits, "I work really hard at my career and want to pamper myself" portraits, and finally, my very favorite, "I just want to" portraits.
Grooms are awesome. I have an incredible one. But in the past seven years of marriage, I've learned that self discovery, self love, and self celebration build strength, clarity, and satisfaction. (Fasten your own oxygen mask before assisting others.)
And you, woman. What I write to you is meant to be an invitation. An invitation to believe you are worthy - all on your own.