Style Icon: Arden Ward

showing her preference for a “clean, no fuss look"Photographer, Arden Photography

by Tracy Robinson, Photography by Chuck St. John, Stylist, Tracy Robinson; Makeup by Chi Peoples. Clothing from Icon’s own wardrobe. Photographed at Heathermoor Farm.

With wedding season upon us, photographer Arden Ward is in full swing, documenting fairy tale events in her characteristic detailed style. She began honing her craft when, at age 14, her father asked her to help clean out the attic of her grandmother’s Forest Park antebellum home, and this creative teen discovered a 1938 Leica Rangefinder, soon to become an extension of her lithe arm.

First subjects included students at the ballet school run by her mother, a professional ballerina once with the Miami City Ballet.  Photographing dancers trained her to “anticipate movement and capture grace,” she says. After attending college in New Mexico, “so soaked in light it will take your breath away,” Arden was eventually led to Miami, where she was introduced to the world of high fashion, a style she incorporates into her wedding photography today. Swimsuit shoots taught her to coax confidence from brides. “Anytime you feel good about yourself, it’s conveyed through the lens,” she says.

Like her photography, Arden considers her personal style “classic and simple,” preferring a “clean, no fuss look.” She strives to be as timeless as her photographs: fresh, effortless, and never overdone or trendy. “In the business of photography, image is everything,” Arden says. “My clients are buying into an experience, and I am a part of the whole package.”

In addition to shooting an average of 50 weddings per year, Arden travels often, picking up fashion finds along the way. A recent wish-list fulfillment was her first Chanel dress, purchased before a trip to France. “I feel so confident in this dress that it was totally worth the splurge,” she says. For her next trip, to Switzerland, a Burberry coat is on the wish list. Arden is a fan of the European high-fashion houses, and investment pieces such as these construct the core of her wardrobe, which focuses on the concept of quality over quantity. Hermes scarves, Louboutin pumps and Repetto ballet flats complete looks simply. The latter are favorites because of their nostalgia: Repetto also made the toe shoes wore as a young girl. “The soft ballet-shoe leather reminds me of dance class and makes me happy,” she says.

When home in Birmingham, Arden enjoys spending free time with her Saddlebred horse, Opie, at local Heathermoor Farm, where Arden’s attire is decidedly more Ralph Lauren than Roy Rogers. In fact, the American designer is an inspiration to Arden, both in her style and life. “His ads reflect all-American values and a happy home…and that is a beautiful thing,” she says.

Arden’s style inspires us…who inspires her? Tracy asked the photographer about some of her mentors.

1) Denis Reggie

Celebrity wedding photographer Denis Reggie (who snapped the photo of JFK Jr. kissing the hand of his new bride Carolyn Bessette) was the first photographer to help Arden find her style. Now a good friend, he has continued to help her refine and grow. “He made me appreciate my roots – the benefits that growing up in the arts has given me.”

2) Bert Stern

Arden recently had the privilege of dining with photographer Bert Stern, who, per her request, critiqued some of her work. “Alongside Helmut Newton, who I can no longer meet unfortunately, Bert Stern is one of the most influential and controversial photographers. To this day, he has such an edge and innovative eye; it is unbelievable how inspiring he is.” (Stern is perhaps most famous for “The Last Sitting,” a photo shoot of Marilyn Monroe commissioned by Vogue magazine in late June 1962, just six weeks before she died. In 2008, Stern shot recreations of the images with actress Lindsay Lohan as the model for the February 25 issue of New York magazine.)

3) Martie Duncan

Credited as being Arden’s “life mentor,” event planner and party expert Martie Duncan of Martie Knows Parties is also a close friend. “She has her own style, for sure,” Arden says, “but more than that, she has a big heart, bringing joy into the lives of others. Making a difference, now that is true style!”

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