I’ve been photographing weddings now for about 12 years, and I started photographing about 15 years ago. Obviously the first few years I was growing and was a new beginner, but it’s always interesting to evaluate what you cherished when you began a hobby. I never used to take the time to photograph landscapes, I thought that everyone did them and they were over saturated, so there was no point. Honestly, this is still kind of true, you can look up a photograph of anywhere in the world and it has been taken, but I do now find satisfaction in printing my own landscapes from my travels instead of purchasing them.
When I started to photograph weddings I didn’t really understand the value of family photographs. I didn’t understand the value of candids. I didn’t understand much. I was following the trends of the couple photography I’d view online or on pinterest and think that’s all I needed to capture. I remember my first few weddings rarely getting individuals of the wedding party and only did family images on request – but they weren’t thought of heavily, nor did I seek out light or backdrops. Why? Because it wasn’t really normalized or presented online as ‘important.’ Now I know that most of those images just are not glamorized by the industry, so they keep them hidden for the most part.
This blog today isn’t going to be about me and my struggles, although I’ve been under water lately. This is going to be about the importance of the things this industry hides or doesn’t discuss.
This week I got emotional talking to my parents about my perspective shift in the photography world. This past year I lost a young family member, the second one in our family under the age of 34 due to a type of tumor/cancer. This year specifically after that loss, I had to photograph a few family photographs during a wedding and was very heavily triggered by someone who looked and moved just like my cousin in recovery. It was so so hard to not break down, but I had a duty, and I knew the value of these photographs, just as I knew the value of them when I sought out to take photographs of him just in case it ended in the nightmare that it did.
The wedding industry is problematic in many ways. I keep joking with my friends that I am going to destroy the wedding industry and discuss it all in a podcast when I slowly start to leave it, but that joke is starting to become more real. More so, I’ve made it my mission to be the leading example of what I need to change about it. Inclusion, lack of focus on ‘pretty images,’ and more focus on interactions is all things, but not limited to, what needs to be changed.
My photograph is inspired by this idea of our childhood and child-like minds that never escape us. We are children in aging bodies. We know what we have always known, which is a very limited experience. We have the opportunity to grow that inner-like child, expose them to situations and experiences beyond our own, or we can stay ignorant and never grow beyond our own mind – it’s both up to us, and also, not our fault at the same time if we don’t have the access to see beyond our own lenses.
As I walked around my three weddings this weekend, I saw many different family and friends. I saw how older men joked with one another and couldn’t help but to think about how those jokes were probably the ones they said when they were 18. I started to think about how we look in the mirror and sometimes don’t recognize the person looking back at us because of the person we’ve seen for decades that slowly begins to age in front of us. I started to think about death.
But not death in the, woe is me, way… but in the way that I, a wedding photographer, sometimes capture the last hugs, kisses, portraits, laughter, tears, and emotions. That I get to prove that people existed in this space, at this time. People always want to hide from the camera due to their insecurities, but what a disservice that is to the people younger than you. The people that want to feel you through an image, the people that remember how you busted out in laughter or how warm your hug felt.
There is something incredibly beautiful about being able to capture things that we cannot take with us. A house, a hug, a moment. Social media presents all of these photographers on mountains as stellar photographers, and maybe they are, but I am here to say that’s not what makes a portrait beautiful. Any image of a couple in perfect light is pretty, but its the moments that really make us feel that are beautiful. Can you have both? absolutely. Should you have perfect portraits and images that make you feel something? absolutely. But instead of conjuring up this perfect portrait in your head, let the real ones pull you. We are only here for a short time – make your mark, take the photograph, let it be captured, cherish the thing that you cannot physically take with you. If it’s one thing I want to change about this industry it’s that the moments photographers should really be seeking are the ones that people cannot take themselves. Our jobs is to photograph memories, not solely staged ones.