Last Thursday I shared Style Me Pretty's announcement that the owner of the blog was able to regain control of the business and would be continuing the blog after all. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, let me give you the important details. Style Me Pretty is the largest wedding blog in the world and for the last 10 years photographers everywhere have coveted to have their work featured on the site. Style Me Pretty has a very particular wedding atheistic though. They love light and airy images that feature stunning florals, the most beautiful of gowns and lavish, stylish details. And they also really love thin, white brides. They were bought out awhile back by AOL and they decided that keeping Style Me Pretty open wasn't worth it, and thus it was to go offline the end of this month, until owner Abby was able to require it. It's been a mess. And in the middle of it all, a conversation about the diversity has sprung up.
For years, inclusivity minded wedding professionals have been begging the brand to do more than just say that love is for everyone, but to show a wider variety of content and couples on their site, to little avail. They rarely feature LGBT couples (let alone a trans* or queer couple) and even more rare, a black bride or groom or a plus size, fat bodied person. Its honestly gross. One of the biggest resources to couples planning their wedding day, who is dedicated to providing beautiful inspiration, doesn't see LGBTQ, people of color or bigger people as beautiful or worthy of their site.
What sparked my post on facebook last week though was how quickly some of the local photographers I know have spoken out now that Style Me Pretty is staying, saying that they hope to see more diversity in the brands reboot. Which sounds great right? Photographers calling for more inclusion and diversity makes it seem like maybe the industry is changing right? But these are the same photographers who think it "makes them cool to photograph a same sex wedding" but have no interest in working with a queer couple who uses they/them pronouns. They also are the same photographers who don't have people of color in their portfolios, who struggle to work with plus size and fat bodies, who parade more thin, white, cis gendered clients on social media. And they are the same ones who have told me that they believe my marriage is sinful and would send me to hell but also "love love, so send me all your queer friends mmkay?"
Before I started writing this, I was editing and fighting back tears thinking about how this incredible couple who's wedding I am working on would have been treated by any other photographer. In an industry that has LOVE at the heart of it, that shouldn't be a concern but it is. I think about the couples I have submitted to publications and been told that "their wedding just isn't the right fit" which is code for my couple is too fat, too queer, too different, not white. I think about my amazing brides who had/have to face buying a dress in a world where size 2 is the standard. I think about how just last week a photographer said she was only taking clients who she felt she was a good fit for stylistically, which let's be real, is a nice way of saying I am too fat, too gay and not pretty enough for her brand. I think about every one of my GN, trans and queer friends who are "just weird" to the photographers in this area and would never have their pronouns respected. I think about all the couples who have told me stories of being turned down or judged or rejected because of who they are or who they love.
This isn't some random group of people that I am going to bat for. These are my friends, my clients, the people in my community, hell even Jordan and I. These are people who deserve better, who aren't some checkbox to mark off by having shot "one of." And I am overwhelmed with how to make the local photographers around me see that even though they are acknowledging that there is is problem, that they are also part of the problem.
It's not hard to have a variety of clients in your portfolio, especially when you live in or near one the largest metropolitan cities in the United States. It's not hard to learn more about different cultures or customs or the LGBTQ community when the internet is full of information. It takes you being willing to take the time to learn. Its part of your job as a photographer to know how to pose and communicate and expose properly literally anyone who comes to you. So stop being lazy or hiding behind religion or saying that "this is just how you shoot" when you can and should do better. It's not hard. It's time consuming. And requires you to see your own biases, which can feel overwhelming. But thats the real heart of calling for inclusion...calling for it within yourself first.
What I know I can do is to change my small little corner of the internet. I can post, with great joy and celebration, the couples who have trusted me to photographer their love. I can share their stories and show off their beautiful love and be willing to do so in a way that doesn't tokenize them, but makes them feel like they matter to me. This is what my job is about. This what photographers should be focused on...not fakely bitching on the internet about how much they want to see inclusion but never doing anything to be more inclusive themselves. But since I can only control what I do, not what others do, I am going to share below just SOME of the beautiful folks I have been able to work with over the years, because they are what this industry is about. They are what is core of inspiration and style and beauty and strength and I am so incredibly honored to know each of them. And I can only hope that somewhere on another corner of the internet a photographer scrolls through these images and realizes just how whitewashed, not diverse or inclusive their work actually is and inspires them to change that.