What's the afterlife of the average wedding gown?
Is it folded carefully into a box, sealing satin, embroidery, silk, and lace from moths and mites? Is it loaned or given to another bride? Is it sold on eBay, just another piece of post-wedding detritus? Or is it kept for a daughter, who may or may not favor Mom's decades-old dress?
What if it could be worn again on the street, in a fountain, near a Dumpster, on railroad tracks? What if it could get totally dirty?
This is Canton-based photographer Dina Konovalov's vision for Boston-area brides, who along with partner and videographer Dmitriy Dribinskiy is creating new and grittier post-wedding albums. In these shots, brides "trash" their dresses, taking beautiful pictures in dirty places and doing messy things with no care for the kinds of stains and smudges that would create panic on the wedding day.
"I think people pick this photo shoot for different reasons," mused Konovalov, 30, who offers the two-hour shoots for $500 (adding $250 for additional locations), through her studio, A Dream Picture. She's not alone; wedding photographers around the country have jumped on the trend since Las Vegas photographer John Michael Cooper coined "Trash the Dress" several years ago. (Some in Massachusetts call it Drown the Gown or Mess with the Dress.) The shoots are still rare, said Sally Jones, executive editor of theknot.com, who's blogged on photos of brides at amusement parks and junkyards. "But there's definitely a buzz."
Konovalov said her shoots empower brides. "Everybody's doing it to tell their own little story. I let the women go and they end up doing something for themselves."
On a recent Wednesday outside Fenway Park, massive Sox fan and newlywed Jill Katsiroubas reveled in dirtying her white strapless Paloma Blanca.
Her husband, Ted Katsiroubas, brought the couple's bulldog, Vern, to pose with her. Cops on horseback wandered into her frame.
Konovalov's cameras caught Jill, a 27-year-old personal trainer, running and jumping down Yawkey Way, a Sox cap replacing her veil, a Youkilis jersey on her shoulders. ("Is she a runaway bride?" more than one observer asked.)
She also chowed on a ketchup- and mustard-smeared hot dog ("You guys scrimped on the reception dinner," the hot dog guy cracked), tossed back a beer at the Bleacher Bar, and plopped down on a grungy loading dock. Later, she played in the fountains at the Christian Science Plaza.
"I think it's hilarious," said Ted, who slipped a ring on Jill's finger last year. "I think we're part of the generation where things just aren't as sacred as they used to be."
Some tourists, however, were a little shocked. "Don't you want to keep your dress?" asked 23-year-old Jean Loo of Singapore.
"Yeah," Jill answered, "I'm going to keep it. Just dirty!"
"I think you only believe you will wear your dress once," she said, with a grin. "But the day goes by so quickly. You only get to be a bride once. But I get to be one twice."
Another former bride, Angela Kazarlyga of Framingham, had a different vision when she became Konovalov's first dress-trashing subject in April. Separated from her husband and pursuing divorce, the 31-year-old mother of a 5-year-old used the shoot to symbolize letting go and facing the future.
Her photos are moody and evocative, shot at an airfield in Norwood. Kazarlyga even lay on nearby railroad tracks in her $250 Filene's Basement Running of the Brides special, accessorized with black knee-high boots and a leather jacket. ("I really love classic literature," she said. "It's kind of like Anna Karenina style.")
"The wedding album I did way back doesn't mean anything anymore," she said of her 2002 shots. "I'm kind of sad. This way, I still get to have pictures of the wedding dress, and they don't have my ex in them. And they're really cool.
"I tend to be a little proper, making sure [everything is] perfect, not a wrinkle here, not a wrinkle there," Kazarlyga said. But laying on the tracks, "It actually felt really, really liberating. It's fun and empowering and freeing."
Next on Konovalov's calendar: Tatyana Malkina of Needham, married six years ago. The insurance company owner plans to hit the streets of Chinatown in mid-June, "trashing" her $2,500 white satin Lazaro.
"I thought it would be an awesome thing to do for myself," said the 31-year-old Malkina. "Especially when you have two kids and not a lot of fun in your life."
She envisions Chinatown as a gritty backdrop. "My first idea was to walk through a large group of people dressed in a wedding dress, and everyone else is dressed normal. Maybe I'll even eat a meal. I was kind of thinking of sitting in a small place, having some sake. Or buying a couple of ducks and carrying them with me!"
Her husband, Ilya, will not be there, Malkina insisted no husband, no kids. This is for her.
"Because at your wedding, you worry about whether your dress will get dirty, whether your hair looks good. And the next day, you don't remember what happened."