The Fountain by Brian Surguine

A strange sequence of sounds: whirring noises, then fizzing, and finally the pattering of water as it falls on children anxiously waiting to cool off in the radiant sun. Shrieks and screams ring out as billowing plumes fall from the sky, bent by the wind.

I visit St. Joseph often. My in-laws live and work there, and we love to visit the beaches and wineries. My wife and I got married there just a month and a half ago, and we can't think of a better place we could have held our wedding. The lake, the beach, the town - they all carry significant memories and meaning for us.

On this particular day, we had decided to visit the pier. The placid blue of the lake and sky were dotted with the fluorescent pinks and lime greens of neon-colored swimwear screeching for attention. As we walked past the fountain, the huge jets came on, and I recognized an opportunity. With a fleeting, partially-exasperated look from my wife, I left her with my film camera and ran into the spray with my Fuji.

The weeks since our wedding have been filled with wedding photography. It's been really great work, and I love having Marsie shoot with me as my new assistant, but from time to time it's good to shoot something different. Though we've been to St. Joseph a lot, I always overlooked the fountain.

Photographing something you're familiar with is oddly satisfying. I know the fountain: I've walked around it, looked at it from the bluffs, watched it from Silver Beach Pizza. But the people in the fountain on this day grabbed me. Relaxed from a long weekend, carefree from the sun and water: fountains bring something innocent out in people.

I didn't plan on it, but I'm glad I got a little wet. It's like the fountain left its mark on me: "It's not the same if you don't get wet. Here you go! Now stop worrying and have fun." That little splash was the one perfect, needed ingredient. I left feeling cleansed of my concerns, rested, and joyful.

Picking a Dress by Brian Surguine

I love this image.

Today, I photographed the Open House at the Brides Project. It was BUSY - all the volunteers were engaged with brides-to-be. Dresses were constantly being shuttled back and forth between the racks and the changing rooms.

And in the midst of the hubbub, I had the privilege to observe and photograph women assessing dresses with their mothers, sisters, and friends. Trying on wedding gowns is a social exercise in honesty, encouragement, and imagination.

In the image above, you're seeing the same bride-to-be three times: the actual bride-to-be is on the left of the image, blurred out in the foreground. A large mirror on the wall picks up the sharp reflection in the right of the image, and in the middle is a reflection of her reflection in another mirror.

Bridal Gowns - for a cause by Brian Surguine

When my fiancée was dress shopping, she came across The Brides Project, a local dress shop with a neat twist. They sell donated dresses, and proceeds go to cancer support programs in Ann Arbor. We visited them during their Wednesday open hours, and were thoroughly impressed with their humble professionalism and diverse dress selection.

They're the real deal. (And yes, we bought Marsie's dress from them.)

The Brides Project runs on volunteer power, so I offered to help with their runway segment at a bridal show over the weekend. The original runway group had to pull out at the last minute, so Monique and her crew of volunteers bravely stepped up on short notice.

Pre-runway jitters. These are VOLUNTEERS, PEOPLE.

Pre-runway jitters. These are VOLUNTEERS, PEOPLE.

Two dozen dresses were shown. With just three volunteer models, it was an extremely quick turnaround to change dresses - but they didn't miss a beat.

Again, VOLUNTEERS.

Again, VOLUNTEERS.

So many great dresses.

So many great dresses.

These Keller & Stein bouquets are quite exquisite. Family-owned since 1898!

These Keller & Stein bouquets are quite exquisite. Family-owned since 1898!

This is just a small sampling of the dresses available at The Brides Project. And it really begs the question: why spend four figures on a dress you'll only wear once, when you can find a great, clean, very-lightly-used dress for much less?

I'm going to editorialize for a bit. Let's think for a second about wedding dresses: after placing an order, a new dress gets made halfway around the world by someone who probably doesn't make a lot of money, then gets shipped thousands of miles to America, where it gets worn once. That is an incredible amount of resources to put into something you wear for one day.

The idea of reusing a wedding dress does not seem to be a popular one in America. However, in Toronto, where The Brides Project got started, brides-to-be are quite receptive to reusing dresses.

Considering what I saw on the runway, and my fiancée's experience buying a dress from them, I think The Brides Project makes an incredibly compelling case to be put on any bride-to-be's shopping list.

 

Dresses: The Brides Project  |  Bouquets: Keller & Stein  |  Makeup: Enhance  |  Hair: Studio 101 Plymouth