One of my primary goals with my photography business is to offer my clients heirloom quality prints and products. I want to create artwork that will be handed down for generations to come. I think that having tangible items that have been held, touched and treasured by loved ones is a very important part of documenting family history. Part of my love for heirloom items comes from my many years of working for an architectural antique business, Southern Accents. Because of my appreciation for family treasures, I was thrilled recently when asked by my model if she could wear an heirloom night gown. There was no way I was going to say no to that request. Hearing the story of the gown, I knew I had to include it in a blog post. Not only because it is a wonderful story, but documenting these stories in writing helps further perserve them for the future.
Gentiana is a beautiful young woman, originally from Albania. Gentiana's parents brought her and her three brothers to the U.S. in search of a better life when she was 3. Growing up in Kentucky, Gentiana met Alice when she was around 10 years old. Alice, who became a dear friend and mentor, accompanied Gentiana to a recent photograhy conference where Gentiana worked as a model. The heirloom gown actually belonged to Alice's mother in law, Dorothy. The story of this beautiful gown in Alice's words: "Dorothy (Dori) Kopmeier Kummer Vallier married Gordon Kummers in 1934 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (She was from the Schlitz Brewery family.) The gown was part of her wedding truseau but, sadly, was never worn. The night before her wedding was her younger brother Billy's high school graduation. People had come from all over the country for the wedding and the graduation. It was to be a weekend of celebrations. After the graduation ceremony, Billy went out with some friends and was killed in a car accident. The parents decided to go ahead with their daughter's wedding the next day because so many guests were there. The guests ended up staying for the funeral. Because of the tragic events, Dori never wore the beautiful nightgown. In 1970, when I married her son, she gave me some of her truseau. (She knew I loved pretty things) and she told me the story. Gentiana is the first to wear the gown! Dori would be happy because we had fun at the photo shoot and Gentiana looked so lovely in it. Finally, all these years later...84 to be exact! Dori lived to be 104! "
This is such a tragic, yet beautiful, story that helps document and preserve a part of this family's history. I am so honored and humbled to have been asked to photograph Gentiana in this gorgeous gown. Gentiana is currently a student studying sociology. Having come from poverty, Gentiana has gained an immense appreciation for the opportunities she has been given for a better life and wants to give back to those less fortunate. One of her future goals is to start a non profit organization to help those in need. Gentiana, it was a pleasure meeting and working with you and your friends and I hope that we have the opportunity to work together again.