The Zen of Photography
My photography journey started earlier than most. When I was in the 7th grade my father bought me a camera at a garage sale for 50 cents, an Argus c3 or something like that. A simple FILM camera that was going to my learning tool while using it for a school project that was recently assigned to me. A photo journalism project that ended up being much more. My father has 2 degrees in art so to say I had big shoes to fill or a high standard to live up to was an understatement. The project earned me a very big A+ on the front of my story board and this is where my photographic journey began.
Since that first collection of black and white photographs my curiosity and fascination grew. Unlike my father who enjoyed floral, landscapes and the occasional street photography I gravitated more towards portraiture. Being a semi socially awkward teen I used photography to break out of my shell in a way. I found having a camera gave me a confidence and motivation that I enjoyed. Was it the photography or the social aspect that I thrived on? Looking back it was both being intertwined that really kept me moving forward in developing my craft. During a time where other kids my age got video games, sports equipment or new Air Jordans for Christmas I got film, lenses or even new cameras. My dad lived by the belief that if I could make a living with a hobby he was going to fully invest in that hobby as much as he could.
Fast forward to college and that time in life when you are supposed to find yourself and what you want to do. I took photography classes, learned about dodging and burning, contrast, composition, the foundations for what would eventually become tools in Photoshop. I started photographing my friends bands, cars I would see on the street and as many people I could. This lead to my first wedding, then a few more after that. My main client base was my friends parents who were getting remarried. Armed with my fathers Hasselblad 500c/m and a bag full of 120 film I would go to these weddings and capture mostly posed portraits. It wasn't very glamorous to a college kid. This is where I started to loose interest in photography not realizing the art never left me and in a few years would evolve into a new career path for me.
My foundation was the application of settings to create a picture not as much using a photograph to tell a story. Once I started to apply the latter to my thought process I began growing as an artist not just a hobbyist. The hobby grew into a part time job, not so much for creativity but for some extra money. A part time job transitioned into a full time job where I began networking in a small community on the verge of forever changing an art and an industry forever. Learning from those in the forefront of the digital revolution was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Before Facebook, YouTube, pinterest or Instagram. Photography forums and meet ups molded my style and approach to photography.
I thrive on chaos but I stick to a process
Weddings as a whole are organized chaos. Behind all the glitz and glamour is a team of wedding vendors doing everything in their power to make every moment seem as if it is going to plan. The constant time crunches, on the fly schedule changes, and the unprovoked but expected meltdown at the end of the aisle by the ring bearer is what makes wedding photography a full body workout. On one hand all weddings are the same and on the other hand they aren't. I can photograph 2 weddings, back to back at the same venue but shoot them very differently. I have photographed first AND second weddings for the same bride. Completely different each time (thankfully). Every aspect of weddings is well planned yet 5 seconds from exploding in your face. This delicate balance creates the memories and tells the story of the couple wedding day. In 15 years I have photographed over 450 weddings, that's a lot of memories and a whole lot of chapters to stories. My approach to weddings has evolved throughout those 450 ceremonies. When I first started my goal was essentially to get all the images in focus, did not matter what the content or context of the images, just as long as they were in focus (and close to being properly exposed). Eventually I matured in my vision, it was the stories within the bigger story that needed to be documented. The intimate moments the couple couldn't see during their vows because they were too busy staring into each others eyes. Reactions, candid moments, the last "I love you" between a father and his unmarried only daughter. There is only one opportunity to put those moments on "film". Those portraits of the grandparents might be the last pictures ever taken of them. It's sad but fulfilling for me when someone passes that I have photographed. I share the grief of the family but rejoice knowing I gave them GOOD photographs of their loved one they can look at and remind them of a happy time. Any trained monkey can get a passable photo of a table setting, $300 shoes, or a dress hanging from a tree. The meaningful images from a wedding are the ones that take 1/250th of a second to either capture or loose forever. Those images are what I have trained myself to anticipate and prepare no matter what chaos may ensue.
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while you could miss it."
- Ferris Bueller
Clients need to be much more than "customers"
The relationship between a photographer and their clients is deeper than it may seem on the surface. A connection needs to be made in order to build trust that this bond is going to create the proper documentation of the couples relationship and the celebration to come. Some couples just want a photographer to show up and snap some photos. Whether due to budget constraints or a limited desire for an in depth account of every moment of the day. Other couples want a photographer or a team of creative professionals to follow them around for an entire event filled weekend with volumes of albums being the end product. I cater to neither of those brands of weddings. My clients bring me into a typically tight knit family and friend circle in which a tasteful ceremony and party needs to be accurately yet playfully immortalized. Brides and Grooms who want my way of seeing the world to be the rose colored glasses they look through when they need a trip down memory lane. Working towards this common goal is why I enjoy the clients I am hired by.
When work with a couple during their first shoot my goal is to get them comfortable with being in front of MY CAMERA, not just any hunk of glass that is pointed to them. I study their relationship like a poker player watches for tells from their opponents I am looking for the nuances that make this couple work. Knowing these inside jokes, back stories, history is what makes photographs personal and natural. There's a fine line between modern photojournalism and well posed portraiture, for me I am forever flirting with that line trying to blend the best aspects of both disciplines. This is what goes on in my head when I am working with my clients.
There are photographers on every corner these days, many times stacked 2 or 3 deep. I don't like to see them as my competition I think of them as options for the clients who are looking for a photographer different than me and that is ok. "You can't please everyone" is a phrase we have all heard no matter the context. I do not want to please everyone, my hope is that I find people who enjoy the same things, can laugh at the same jokes, and see the world a little bit differently than the way we are told to view it. When that happens, that is when photography is happy place and no longer my job.