Many wait seemingly forever to be asked this question. Photographer Tanit Plana has collected over 70 proposal stories for her “Forever” project, in which she documents women revisiting their dusty dresses from the big day. Plana’s face lights up as she describes women in their 50s, from tiny and conservative villages, remembering how they responded to their suitors. (“I was waiting for you asking me that!”)
Plana’s subjects include the widowed, separated, happily married, unhappily married—and even a few unmarried “brides,” who simply wanted to dress up for the fantasy. Powerful symbols of physical and spiritual purity, the white dresses are given new meaning when worn by the mature women, their bodies more evolved and undoubtedly less innocent.
But each photo shoot also features an element of surprise for the subjects. After agreeing to wear their old dresses, they are driven through the woods to a mysteriously lit set, generating references to folklore and enhancing the mythology of marriage. "The trip is always exciting,” Plana reflects. “As I walk with each woman, often I wonder, ‘How did we get here?'”
Wed at the age of 28, Plana took the path expected of her, with marriage as a standardized imperative. The cultural legacy of romantic comedies and Cinderella fables, as for many of us, led her to expect that marriage would be the solution for eternal happiness. However, she found at some point that the theater of “forever” started to crumble. ”In today’s relationships, love is like a possession,” she says. “Like something concrete that we can accumulate or replace, and that can only be black or white.”
From her skepticism with happily-ever-after love stories came this project, seeking a collective reflection on the dilemma that haunts so many women. Far from being a defense against marriage, her images revel in the conflicted feelings that the ritual of commitment entails. The photo series is merely a starting point for questioning the standards that our society imposes on relationships.
For its latest phase, the project has been transformed into a massive performance, where the artist and an army of 99 other brides ran down the street after bathing in their dresses. “To be among all those hormones gave me such an incredible rush!” Plana recollects. “But often the questions come not before the action but after, when you come home and see yourself in the mirror wearing a totally wet wedding dress!”
The project is ongoing so Plana’s always looking for new brides to marry. Any takers?