Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Pleasure of Pain

(All pics. snapped on 11/30/10)

I guess the best way to explain why I do half of the crazy shit that I do, in order to try and produce compelling material for my blog - is that I am inexplicably addicted to the thrill that comes from stepping outside of a certain comfort zone. Case in point? These photos that I shot in and around the Shenendoah River - just a few weeks ago, on the last day of November...

If there's one thing in life that I absolutely hate with a passion - it's being cold. I honestly have no tolerance for it whatsoever, and the bummer is - I spend September through May each year, pretty much freezing my tuchus off...So why then (you may be wondering) would I do something as harebrained, as intentionally dunking my whole body in a frigid-ass river for the sake of a few silly photos? This might not come as much of a surprise, but I shall state the obvious anyway - my self-portraits actually incite me to do foolish things, and the collateral reward that comes from putting myself in situations that I never would, under normal circumstances - is a sense of accomplishment and immense self-satisfaction...

I kinda cheated a little in the beginning of this shoot, by wearing rubber boots and only wading around in a shallow part of the river. It was my way of gradually warming up (heh) to the idea of eventual, total submersion in the water. And although at this point I was (mostly) dry (until I went in a leetle too deep for the shot above) it was drizzly and damp, and that - coupled with the nippy air temp - was enough to make me just a wee bit uncomfortable.

Photographing myself under the bridges, in the blue slip and red boots - had been a snap, last-minute decision. Just before leaving the house (with the intention of taking only the wedding dress pics.) I thought, "Well shoot. May as well get as many different pics. as I can, while I'm somewhat mentally prepared to deal with the cold" 

The blue slip pics. were just fluff though, and a not so thinly-veiled means by which to put off the inevitable. After about an hour of blatant stalling, I accepted that I had to either fish or cut bait. I hopped in my car, blasted the heat, and drove to the spot where I hoped that momentarily sacrificing my sanity, might result in a tour de force photo... 

Can I just tell you guys something? That freaking water was at a totally incomprehensible level of cold. The moment that I lay face down in the river, and for the endurance of the time that I spent trying to hold still until the shutter clicked - it felt like my body from my face to my toes - had been punched by a giant or something...Each time I lifted my head from the water - I couldn't stifle involuntarily shrieking, "Oh my GOD that's cold!" I only stopped repetitiously chanting things like, "I can't believe how cold that is, I can't believe how cold that is" for those few seconds that I was face-down in the water. And then the instant the picture had been snapped, I would pop up as quickly as I could, trip and sometimes stumble over the heavy, wet dress while trying desperately to scramble out of the river, and back to the shore for a brief respite...before setting the timer, and doing it again. 

This was the one shoot out of all of them so far, where I was incredibly happy to have ONLY 10 seconds during which to get in position and stay that way before my time was up...and quite frankly - each attempt felt a helluva lot longer than 10 seconds. However, the rippling in the water caused by getting my body into place, would've dissipated a bit - if I'd had just a few more seconds during which to get completely still. To me, the ripples detract from the face-down shots, soooo......sadly? That highly sought-after tour de force photo - continues to elude me.

Oh! And to answer the question that some of you might be silently pondering, "Why a wedding dress in a river? Like, what's the point?" all I can say about that is this - after having the dress in my possession for about a week, and repeatedly walking past where it hung in my living room, I simply could not figure out how to incorporate it in my pics.. And then bam! I woke up one morning and the river thing came to me - for no rhyme or reason at all...

You see, when frequenting my local thrift shops, in search of garments to inspire new self-portraits - I always stalk the wedding dress sections. Usually I walk away empty-handed, but the day that I happened upon this little lovely (even though it was entirely out of my price range) I knew right away that I couldn't leave without it. For one thing, it was the right size for me (so no clothespins to complicate a potential shoot) and the quality of the dress was above average per the typical selection - pure white raw silk and minimally adorned, which I prefer...My oldest daughter was with me when I splurged on the dress, and when the lady at the register asked, "Oh Honey, are you getting married?" my daughter and I both snickered and shot each other a knowing glance as if to say, "Shyeah right! Like that's ever gonna happen" Turns out I'm not the only one who'll likely never walk down the aisle again...after the abuse the dress suffered in the river and on its muddy banks, the poor thing was fairly well ruined...

Naturally, I couldn't wrap the river shoot before snapping a few pics. of myself in the water completely nude - just so I could say that I'd done it? Perhaps. But the really mental part was, for as much as it hurt (and believe me - it was agonizingly painful!) some sick side of me still very much enjoyed it...


  1. wow! this is a great shoot Lauralyn. You musta froze your balls off! KUDOS!


  2. I guess I must HAVE! Cuz there certainly weren't any down there when I got in the shower later on...

    Thanks so much fer checkin' ye ole bloggage OUT!

  3. YEA! Thanks for COMin' here, Kevin!

  4. You amaze me. I'm in awe. All of that.

    "Trash The Dress" is one of my recent favorite photo projects that I've been seeing on flickr. I hope to take some of a local friend like that soon. Your shot is a perfect example of what I'd like to achieve when I give it a try.

  5. Ooooh! I like the sounds of THAT! I'll have to go check out the "Trash the Dress" project...

    I hope the shoot with your friend goes well...don't forget to let us see what you guys come up with (I'm VERY curious now!)

    Thank you for being so supportive...I can't tell you how much it means to me!

  6. Hi Lauralyn,

    I just followed a link to your blog from - love it!

    Your face-down picture is so great. I love the ripples in the water! As a matter of fact that's what makes the story to me. I had this fantastic one running through my head about a murdered bride and the serial killer who likes to take pictures of his/her victims. I'd consider it an action shot!

    Thanks for being willing to step out of the box and make your art, and for sharing it!

  7. Oh my GOSH - no WAY! Thank YOU! For reading Haje's interview AND for checkin' out my blog! I love that the one pic. inspired a story in your mind - that is eXACTly the thing that I always HOPE will happen, whenever people look at my pics....Thanks again!

  8. Brrr! Awesome photos - and the final one is one of my December favourites! Look out for the post later this week,

    xx Dee

  9. No WAY! Thank you so much for stoppin' BY, Dee - AND for makin' mah pic. one of your Dec. FAVES!!! *Muah*

  10. Thank you so MUCH! 'Preciate you stoppin' by!

  11. Great pics and stamina! I came here via Joan Price Naked At Our Age who gave me PennyForYour(dirty)thoughts now this/you. Wow. I'm thinking of sex blogging and you've got me reaching for my camera again. What pics and courage by the river. Hats and pants off to you.. Mom's over 40 rock. Even for us older guys! -Dan, 65