The gorgeous gallery of images is almost as beautiful as the meaning and inspiration behind today’s shoot, dreamed up and captured by RTFaith Photography, with planning assistance from Shantilly Gatherings. This talented duo decided to create a shoot reflective of the transformation and growth our industry and our world is going through right now, elegantly embracing positive and necessary change. Please read the beautiful words from Shantel and Rithy to learn more about the creative process behind this empowering shoot – we couldn’t be more in love.
Vision Behind the Shoot
From the planner, Shantel Dix, and photographer, Rithy Tamba… “Change does Not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.” -MLK
The inspiration behind the Empowerment Bridal shoot came to us in three stages and the shoot itself went through a transformation while it was in the developmental phase. As artists, we observe what is going on in the world around us and use art to reflect the change that we wish to see.
METAMORPHOSIS “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” -Maya Angelou
Shantel: I originally created the idea of a butterfly shoot as a fantasy shoot in a desire to reflect my own individual growth as an artist and a lover. Butterflies are gorgeous fragile creatures who undergo a full body transformation that requires strength in both body and mind. This is something people also endure in a metaphorical sense while journeying down the path of love with their spouse.
Adapting to change is necessary if you really want to be able to merge as a couple. Often your relationship will be put to the test many times causing your love to continuously transform. At the heart of my inspiration, my own relationship had endured many changes over the last year and our growth was truly worth representation, little did I know that the world around us was about to experience change as well.
PANDEMIC “Change is never easy, but always possible.” -Barack Obama Just as we had begun to cultivate this gorgeous vision, the world was hit with an unforeseen force that rocked the status quo. During this time of pandemic, many have been and continue to contemplate the state of normal we once accepted. I witnessed couples planning their weddings struggle with the pressure to postpone their weddings. As people have adjusted to our new normal, they began to embrace smaller ceremonies, micro weddings and elopements. It has been truly beautiful watching love continue to transform to conquer all adversities.
BLACK LIVES MATTER “I am No Longer accepting the things I cannot change. I Am changing the things I cannot accept.” -Angela Davis At this point I was beginning to call into question whether a butterfly shoot was the way to go, as we didn’t even know if we would be able to do a shoot at all. But this was my form of self expression where I could show the world the change that I wanted to see come about. Growing up I’d been to countless romance filled BIPOC weddings and as an adult I’ve helped beautify many brides and yet I still see very few represented in magazines and blogs. As much as I have always desired to see a face that reflects mine on the cover, I also wanted to see fellow vendors owned by individuals of color cited in these very same publications. I knew that this had to be where I began.
What can I do to start the change I want to see? Change that is needed now. I realized that this shoot needed to become about more than just me as a Black woman, a Black mother, and a Black bride. This project reflects what I’ve always felt was missing from the wedding advertising industry: representation for the love and beauty of all Black brides. Now more than ever is the time to embrace positive change. Old ideas of what is considered desirable have often not embraced the beauty that is the Black woman. Just like the huge variety of butterflies, diversity is also a display of breathtaking beauty that should be shared with the word. I hope that you will assist us in our endeavor to show the diversity that true love encourages.
Vision in the Details
Butterfly veil It is said that when a butterfly flies in front of you that it symbolizes a change is coming and that you need to leave your past behind to embrace it. We chose four Black models to show the beauty, strength and diversity of the Black bride. There is not a huge diversity amongst wedding vendors in Oregon but this is changing rapidly and I am happy to say we had a group of very talented individuals. I suggest to not feel any qualms about reaching out and asking companies if they are BIPOC owned.
Rithy (Photographer)- styled the tablescape and the cake bar. The shoot reminded me of a modern romance, which we don’t often see featuring brides or people of color. So I wanted to keep the aesthetic modern, but have flowy drapes to create a romantic feel. The vision I had was a strong, but delicate table where the brides can sit and converse about all things near and dear to their hearts.
Advice for those planning:
Spring/summer wedding This is definitely a spring and/or summer wedding as butterflies respond much better to warm weather, also be sure to order butterflies native to where you’re getting married. We used fake butterflies ordered from a small company on Etsy that were made from recycled materials. I highly recommend this unless you can get butterflies locally so as to avoid any cruel treatment towards the butterfly in cross country shipping. Thrift give We thrifted a few background pieces where we could like pillows, throws and shoes adding into the sustainability of the shoot. I highly recommend thrifting for little decor and accent pieces not only is it good for the environment but it can cut down on costs and help you get unique pieces. Of course this is easier to do if you give yourself plenty of time leading up to your special day. Hiring an event planner can help you organize all of this and help you get your vision nailed down from day one.
All of our vendors were absolutely amazing and contributed so much. RTFaith Photography is POC owned and her beautiful photography lended to the soft and romantic feel while capturing the models strength. She also handled all of the details with perfect precision, from dress details, to table and cake setup. Her vision behind her film camera brought the shoot to life. Her cues and precision with the models brought chills to the room and we couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.
Easton Broad was the venue we chose, this female owned venue has urban appeal that gave us a modern twist that helped emphasize the strength behind the shoot. Finding a venue that fits your vision and will work with you towards your wedding is so important. Stephanie Mai is a POC Bridal designer which as it stands is hard to find and her work is absolutely ethereal. She helped us choose the dresses that would help bring both a modern and romantic feel on our Brides. Our florist was Knot and Fern, she pulled together a strong arch of feminine florals that perfectly framed our Brides.
Our models Shantel, Decontee, Mikaela and Karrin were all chosen for their strength during these trying times and their own unique beauty as Black women. Decontee told me that despite being a successful model even having walked in NY Fashion week she had never been asked to model as a bride and never expected to have this opportunity again because of the color of her skin. Our models had their natural beauty accentuated by Shantilly Artistry overseen by Shantel Dix with Hair and Makeup by Marissa Nwerem who is a multitalented Black Cosmetologist. They went for a rosey look to compliment the setting and bring out that Bridal flush. Vintage Meets Modern was kind enough to add in her sophisticated rental pieces that helped complete the overall aesthetic. This is a BIPOC owned company. Fat Cupcake created a sleek and modern all white cake with a white chocolate drip, white roses and white pearls. Those pearls matched the gorgeous gold earring accented with freshwater pearls from Amaree and Reese Jewelry a WOC owned jeweler. Adding into our sustainability we also enlisted Emma Brooke Jewelry who creates beautiful, modern pieces including the rings and necklaces from vintage or damaged pieces. Our crown and hair pieces were from Stem and Stone and Taimani Emerald Creative. Coordination by WOC owned Shantilly Gatherings.
From the florist… In a quest to expand my community I have been involving myself + my business in various collaborations with other wedding industry vendors. I met Rithy of RT Faith Photography while working on a styled shoot last year. We instantly connected and kept each other in mind for future projects, so I was delighted that she reached out to me to about working on a collaborative shoot based on a vision of make-up artist Shantel of Shantilly Make Up Artistry. I had not yet met Shantel but was excited to bring flowers to a photoshoot with butterflies as the main inspiration. So dreamy! During planning the photoshoot direction went through its own metamorphosis as the world around us was changing daily. This sweet and feminine photoshoot that would include a veil of butterflies became something much more profound, and Empowerment Bridal shoot. An opportunity to highlight some amazing Portland local BIPOC owned businesses while showing Portland a more diverse bride.
The day of the shoot was similar to the set-up of many other shoots I’ve been to. Everyone set up their hair and make-up tools, we began to set the scene by setting the table with gorgeous flatware and glassware, fun music played in the background and I started to build the floral installation that would be the backdrop. Golden hour was approaching and there was a clear moment that, in my opinion, set this shoot apart from others I have participated in. The energy pivoted, and everyone’s chemistry aligned. As we were finding perfect lighting and Rithy began to position the models she asked them to close their eyes, directing each model to embody a different vibe. She counted to three and these beautiful women opened their eyes with the some truly fierce looks. We all stopped and commented on how bold + beautiful it was. We all got the feels, jaws dropping, looking at one another and truly feeling the MAGIC. Shantel, Decontee, Mikaela and Karrin all posed with such confidence and poise. Their bold looks were just as beautiful as their smiles.
I am truly grateful that I was invited to collaborate with these women and proud of the images that came from this day. The message comes across so authentically in Rithy’s images, not only because of her talent but because the women shown in the images are truly beautiful Black empowered individuals.
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Photographer: RTFaith Photography | Coordinator: Shantilly Gatherings | Floral Design: Knot and Fern | Dress: DeLux Bridal | Wedding Dress: Stephanie Mai | Cake: Fat Cupcake | Hair and Makeup: Shantilly Artistry | Hair and Makeup: Marissa Nwerem | Venue: Easton Broad | Crown: Stem and Stone | Event & Wedding Venue: Easton Broad | Jewlery: Amaree and Reese | Model: Decontee Peters | Model : Mikaela Woods | Model : Karrin Shriner | Model : Shantel Dix | Rentals: Sherine Iskandar | Rings and Necklaces: Emma Brooke | Styling Mat: JRD Artshop