B’ham photographer helping women find closure with photo series

'Second Dress' photo series

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A Birmingham photographer is helping women find closure by taking photos of them in their original wedding dresses.

Charity Ponter calls the photo series "Second Dress." All the women are no longer married, either by divorce or the death of their spouse. Ponter came up with the idea after going through a divorce of her own.

"I was looking at my wedding dress one day and wondering what I was going to do with it," said Ponter. "It's this perfect dress that you picked out for the perfect day and then you're no longer allowed to wear it again, but you don't want to get rid of it."

That's when Ponter started meeting with divorced and widowed women who still owned their wedding dresses. She says the portraits are a collaborative effort. The idea is to show through the photograph the woman's journey since her wedding.

"We would discuss together how we wanted the scene or the photo to look," explained Ponter. "All of it has some kind of meaning to it."

B'ham photographer using wedding dresses to help women find closure
B'ham photographer using wedding dresses to help women find closure (Source: Kenneth Smith)

According to Ponter, the process usually ends up stirring up emotions in the women they were not expecting.

"Almost every person has had some kind of realization or therapeutic experience that has brought a new form of closure they didn't expect," said Ponter. "In a way, a simple portrait session is becoming part of therapy and part of closure."

Ponter believes the most special part of the process is the actual photo. Unlike wedding photos, which can bring back painful memories, these portraits are of them in a dress that they chose. Ponter says it’s not attached to anyone other than themselves.

B'ham photographer using wedding dresses to help women find closure
B'ham photographer using wedding dresses to help women find closure (Source: Kenneth Smith)

“I think that’s really powerful and really important to do something completely for yourself that honors the journey that you’ve been on and all the resilience you’ve shown throughout the process,” explained Ponter, who said some woman have given their just dresses because they want to be part of the series but don’t feel comfortable being photographed.

"I've taken a sculptural approach to that and created like a dress form and put the dress on it," said Ponter.

She then brings the dress into the photo series by putting the train of the dress into a frame.

The photo series debuted recently as part of ArtFields, which is a show in South Carolina celebrating southern artists. Ponter hopes to have a show in Birmingham in the fall. Her plan is to invite all the women involved as guests of honor.

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