Photo: STJ Creative Photography

"Our whole love story is because of St. John."

By Marisa Spyker

When Marty Bruckner and Lauren Saia got engaged, the question of where they’d take their photos was a no-brainer.

The couple, who met on the island of St. John six years ago, happened to already live on an idyllic speck of land in the Caribbean that was—until a few months ago—a frequent host to far-flung lovers seeking a destination wedding in paradise.  

Then Hurricanes Irma and Maria happened. The storms raged for hours, devastating homes, trees, beaches, and businesses, cutting power for nearly two months, and forcing the evacuation of thousands.

Related: The 10 Most Disastrous Hurricanes in U.S. History:

Photo: STJ Creative Photography

Bruckner rode the storm out from St. John, while Saia was in Boston visiting her family. When the shock of it all settled, Bruckner threw out the idea of having their love captured amongst the wreckage, as a symbol of what they could survive as a couple.

“Our whole love story is because of St. John,” said Saia.

Photo: STJ Creative Photography

They called on photographer friend Anne Bequette with STJ Creative Photography, who’s used to shooting couples in the flawless sort of surroundings you’d expect to find on St. John: windswept beaches, hypnotic aqua water, and the mountains of neighboring islands in the distance. Those photo-ready spots had all but disappeared.

Photo: STJ Creative Photography

“[When they asked me to do the shoot], I instantly started planning in my head where to go,” said Bequette. “It didn’t take long to decide, as I had just driven North Shore road the day prior, which is where all the beautiful beaches of the National Park are. These are the most ideal shoot locations for any photographer on island…they were also the most devastated areas of our park.”

Photo: STJ Creative Photography

The photos are a beautiful juxtaposition between love and devastation; both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. Backdrops of swaying palms are replaced with fallen trees, scattered debris, and crumbled buildings.

Photo: STJ Creative Photography

While the photos are certainly meaningful for the couple, they also serve as gentle reminders of the struggles the Caribbean islands continue to face.

Said Bequette: “The morning of Hurricane Irma, I read the daily quote that I receive via email, and it will forever stay with me: 'They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.' I got chills when I read it. And that is exactly how I feel about Hurricanes Irma and Maria. From here, I have all the faith that we will regrow and rebuild, including the seeds within ourselves."

If you’d like to help with the recovery, consider donating to the Love For Love City Foundation, which Bruckner and Saia are working with to help rebuild the island. Or check out more ways to help here.

Photo: STJ Creative Photography