The art photography magazines Fraction and Fisheye recently featured images from my Private Fears series. Curators Lisa Woodward and Mia Dalglish of the Pictura Gallery describe the series as one of their two highlights from the Denver Month of Photography portfolio review a few weeks ago in this blog post. Director Kat Kiernan of the Panopticon Gallery and the magazine Don’t Take Pictures did so as well in her highlight reel from the same review. I’ve been working on the project for about two years and have only recently begun to show it.
This project has nothing to do with wedding photography, but does give some insight into who I am as a photographer and where my emphasis lies, regardless of the type of work I’m doing. I am first and foremost a storyteller, and no two stories are the same. Authenticity is important to me, as is working in what is considered to be documentary photography. I don’t describe myself as a photojournalist or documentarian because it’s a trendy way to market myself to shoot weddings. It’s my background, my parallel life, and how I approach everything I do with a camera.
Michelle and Nick could look out their living room window and see their wedding site, Coohills restaurant in downtown Denver. Actually, the wedding was on an old steel trestle bridge over Cherry Creek, only a few dozen feet from the restaurant door. They were down to earth, sharp-witted, and enjoyed a pint. We got along just fine.
Lauren and Gregg are two of the most amazing people I’ve had the pleasure to work with as a Denver wedding photojournalist. I had flown out to Washington DC to do a corporate shoot and was just packing up my equipment in the building lobby when they approached me and asked if I could make some portraits for their company website. They had been watching me work and thought I would be a good fit. When I sent them the pictures, they called me and asked me to shoot their wedding. They’ve been quite successful navigating the complexities of federal and state government real estate, but when it comes to major decisions they tend to follow their instincts.
I’ve found that some of the best pictures are unexpected, and there’s no substitute for simply being there, being present and being ready. Sometimes that means waiting for something that never happens, not a personal first choice when you’ve been carrying cameras and on your feet for ten hours. Receptions can seem repetitive at times, with the third and fourth hours of dancing being remarkably similar. But things change at the end. Most of the guests have said goodbye, the music has ended, and the lights have come up, the caterer’s desperate plea for everyone to go home. The wedding has gone from being a public event back to a private one, the couple and their die hard crew, family and friends that might as well be. There is pivot from celebration back to intimacy, a last chance to share feelings that rarely find expression.
So I pack up my lights, but I leave my cameras out. Still watching, lingering, wandering about as the band has left and the tables and chairs are back in the truck. I’m almost certain there’s nothing left, but I keep that one camera and lens in hand, waiting just a little longer. Because you never know.
Forcing a child to smile when they don’t feel like it is seldom a good idea. Following that up with “C’mon, show some teeth” is similarly ill-advised. They were preparing to do a group picture at a Denver Botanic Gardens wedding.
Lauren and Joe’s Bluemont, Virginia wedding was at her father’s farm in Loudoun County, between Paris and Leesburg. Together they created Grimm Artisanal Ales, a Brooklyn-based nomadic brewery which has been absurdly successful in international competitions. Like their relationship, it was a day of friendship and sincerity, with a bit of fireworks.
Denver is a great place for engagement photography. Urban and rural environments are only a few minutes apart. Because I mainly do wedding photojournalism, this isn’t something a lot of my clients think to ask for, but it’s a fun way to spend a couple hours and for us to get to know each other better. It’s a bit of a paradox, but once they get to know me it becomes that much easier to completely forget about me on the day of the wedding.
Weddings are all about ritual; white dresses, vows, rings, first dances, etc. Regardless of how unique a given wedding is, there are certain patterns, which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because a wedding photographer has a rough idea of the arc of the day, a curse because if you’ve been doing this for awhile you want to avoid taking pictures you’ve made before. Even though your mandate is to make the best pictures possible of this wedding regardless of what precedes it. Other patterns emerge over a period of time, often having less to do with weddings per se than human nature.
A lot of wedding photographers are calling themselves wedding photojournalists these days. It’s hip, it’s trendy, and for the sake of marketing, many photographers have those words on their websites. If authentic wedding photos are important to you however, you should know how to spot the real thing before you hire someone.