Out of the Box is a choose-your-own-adventure styled shoot challenge hosted by Catalyst and curated by Color Pop Events. Each team of vendors received a special mystery box filled with fun, beautiful, eclectic shoot supplies to be incorporated into a styled wedding shoot.
A letter from the team captain, Lisa Venticinque:
Team Diamonds & Pearls is a collection of artists, activists, writers, performers, and multi-talented creatives from Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. By participating in the Out of the Box Challenge, our goals were to celebrate love in an authentic and dynamic way, to contribute to the representation of diversity in wedding-and-couples-related imagery, and to bring attention to the wild and wonderful community in which we live.
The Twin Cities are a place where arts and culture thrive; they are at the center of everything here. The incredible diversity within our communities creates a rich foundation for excellence and abundance in music, performance, fine art, writing, and more. We exist in a space of artistic freedom because Minneapolis largely flies under the “culturally significant” radar, and we don’t have anything to prove to the rest of the world. As one of our team members so aptly stated, “Minneapolis is casual and kinky/edgy/fun; there’s space for the coolest bad kids and the baddest cool kids.” As individuals and as a group, we were shaped by our community, and we are now helping to shape it in return.
For all of its charms, it would be impossible to describe current life in Minneapolis without noting a sense of loss—in the past year, we not only lost Prince who has long been our funk-loving, gender-bending style icon and cultural ambassador to the rest of the world, but we also lost a beautiful and vibrant young man named Philando Castile, who was tragically and senselessly killed by a police officer in the summer of 2016. During the past year, the eyes of the world were on us as we protested and mourned and unified in the streets to insist that #blacklivesmatter, and even though the news cameras are long gone, our fight for justice is far from over.
It was an honor and a thrill to be chosen to participate in this competition. From the initial launching point of a “styled wedding shoot,” we strove to synthesize all the beautiful and lovingly-crafted elements we received in our box into a cohesive story that would create an imaginative, narrative-driven use of its various stylistic elements. Thanks to the vibrant pop aesthetic that was featured amongst the box’s contents (notably in the brightly designed papers provided by Suite Smith, the customizable acrylic name tags of California Lustre, and the spectacularly colorful and shiny confetti sent by The Confetti Bar), we clearly established a late-80s/early-90s theme that brought us right back to that “fresh” era where a poppin’ personal style was everything. We also had a simply gorgeous and elegant silk wedding dress provided by Ash and Light and the most adorable striped bow tie by Becoming Neckwear. Plus a random little Lego guy thrown in the box by the competition producers just for fun. With only a week to make and execute a plan, we jumped right into the creation process.
However, here’s where our story started to take a different course:
It didn’t take our team long to get to a point where we felt like we were bending and molding to a pre-existing set of norms surrounding what a wedding is “supposed” to look like. Here we were, a group of incredibly intelligent and progressive women trying to change The Conversation, hitting up against a wall because, as one of the brilliant minds on the team commented, “trying to create something and perform according to the rules of the ‘typical wedding fantasy’ really doesn’t feel very queer at all.” Everything we were doing started to feel a bit false, and for us, wrong. We spent several days in some tough and honest conversations, revolving around the performative symbolism inherent to wedding dresses (no matter how beautiful the dress, and ours most certainly was) and ceremonies, and our growing unease with fabricating a false narrative for the sake of staged representation that could be seen to perpetuate some things that we collectively want and need to resist. We really wanted to provide a counter narrative to the typical wedding story as well as issues of the gaze (as turned upon women, and particularly women of color), but were surprised by how the process made us feel trapped within the confines of a pre-existing wedding culture that did/does not serve us. It should also be noted that this process took place within the days immediately following the installment of that new president, and our collective feelings about our new reality added (and will continue to add) additional weight to our position regarding gender and race and sexuality. As a team full of working creatives including queer people, women, and people of color, we had every reason to resist even the hint of a reminder of the struggle to fit into a pre-existing mold that each of us, to varying extents, must already contend with every single day of our lives. Somewhere in the process, we realized that we really need to be truly "Out of the Box," because there just didn’t seem to be space for us within it.
Guided by the incredible spirit, insight, and wisdom of our models and other team members, we experienced a journey together that, while not simple or comfortable or easy, did result in us deliberately deciding to let go of the “rules” and just celebrate who we are: a group of excellent people who are trying to do what’s right in this world and who wanted to uplift and celebrate love and freedom and individuality in its many unique forms. We asked ourselves how we could use the framework of this project, and all the talent and intelligence and passion amongst the members of the team, for the power of good.
So…we scrapped the whole “make-it-look-like-a-wedding” thing and embarked on a phenomenal day of authenticity, collaboration, and creativity. Drawing from all those fun elements in our box, we had a delightful late-80s-themed romp through Minneapolis on a sunny winter day. Our amazing makeup artist Ingrid Kent, whose work ranges from weddings to high fashion, worked her magic to emphasize the natural beauty of our inspirational and courageous models, real-life couple (and artists themselves) Lisa Marie Brimmer & Katie Robinson. Our brilliant art direction team, who spun the design elements found in the box into some fantastically inventive 3-dimensional style pieces, was headed by Allison Brueggemann from Storied Creative and Mackenzie Owens from KNZ (who also provided the gorgeous jewelry featured in the shoot, including necklaces crafted from brass beads imported from Ethiopia). The creative powerhouse behind Artemisia Studios, Kim Harrison, created a fabulous floral bouquet that riffed off our fun-and-funky theme, as well as extra floral pieces for additional on-style elements (used in the boutonnière with the little Lego guy from the box). Dessert-maker extraordinaire Randy Ferguson of RandyPie presented us with an AMAZING coconut cream pie (with decadent chocolate ganache and toasted almonds) that was not only the most handsome pie we’ve ever seen, but it also happened to be out-of-this-world delicious (as we discovered at the end of the shoot day).
We visited a few favorite places that represent queer/colorful/creative Minneapolis to us: the beloved star-spangled First Avenue music nightclub (which was made famous by Prince in the film Purple Rain, and which has featured very heavily in many of the best nights of our own lives, as collectively the members of our team have likely attended more than 1000 concerts there!), as well as the iconic music-notes wall created in the 1970s by local artist Jill Rivard (fun fact: Prince posed for a photo shoot in front of that very same wall in 1977). We also spent some great time at ElseWarehouse, a residential loft building in the up-and-coming North Loop area of Minneapolis, which has a gorgeous (and rentable) event room and rooftop deck that offers an incredible view of the downtown Minneapolis skyline. We finished the day off at Lisa Venticinque Photography’s photo studio in Northeast Minneapolis, where our models got to enjoy some quality time reflecting on each other and also the adventures that the day—and the experience—had brought.
“trying to create something and perform according to the rules of the ‘typical wedding fantasy’ really doesn’t feel very queer at all.”
All in all, this was an unforgettable experience that did not shy away from the full spectrum of embedded representation issues, emotions, perspectives, and creative input. As a diverse group of individuals trying to make our way in today’s world (where we must maintain a daily fight for our personal rights, individual freedom, our safety and more), it can be disheartening to face a situation where we feel like we have to fit into a spaces and roles in which we are not comfortable and/or with which we don’t agree. Whether as artists striving to redefine the norms and traditions of the wedding industry, so that its traditions evolve toward authenticity and inclusivity, or as individuals fighting to exercise our personal right to express and celebrate love in its many forms, sometimes it can be liberating to let go of all expectations and to just let things be as they are. Our shoot may not have ended up as it started, but we honored each other and the process, and in the end our shoot was absolutely perfect for just what it is, because we are just as we are.
Thank you to all the brave and beautiful souls who helped to make it all happen: to each and every generous person on our team because everyone worked so hard during an otherwise unbelievably crazy-busy time of life (can’t believe we pulled it off in the end!!); and to Tijana at Ash and Light for coming through with incredible support for that beautiful dress which we ended up loving but not using in the shoot; and to Leah at Color Pop Events for letting us participate; and an extra special thanks to the team at Catalyst Wedding Co. (Jen, Liz, & Carly) for your unwavering support and understanding through the process. You were there for us, and we appreciate you so much.
Enjoy the photos, everyone! We hope they make you smile.
Lisa Venticinque Photography // Photographer & Producer // @lisa25photo
Storied Creative // Art Direction & Graphic Design & Styling // @storiedcreative
Mackenzie Owens - KNZ // Jewelry Artist / Stylist // @k_n_z
Artemisia Studios // Florist // @artemisiastudiosmn
Ingrid Kent // Hair & Makeup Artist // @ingridkent1
Lisa Marie Brimmer // Model & Narrative Crafter // @2speakease
Katie Robinson // Model & Narrative Crafter // @katiesrobin
RandyPie // Dessert Maker & Pie Master // @randypiemn
Else Warehouse // Venue // @elsewarehouse