The clock reads 2:03 a.m. and I'm in a small, dark quiet room. The only light is coming from a computer screen casting a blue green wash on my face as I stare at a wedding image depicting a moment when the bride's mother, out of a heart moved by love, took her daughter's hand. And softly kissed it.
Unlike most photographers I've never been interested in trends or even whether what I photograph fits someone's notion of what wedding photos should be. I can't tell you how many times others have told me "that's not the way it's done." But I'm not interested in how they do it. Or their status quo. And neither are my clients.
All that's the stuff of the outside temporal world. That world changes. But the inner world is where our humanity resides. That's the world I'm committed to capture. Because that lasts.
It's 11 o'clock on a Saturday night and the wedding party's been in full swing for a few hours. People are energized, dancing. Others are mingling and laughing over drinks.
I look around and see one elderly, dapper gentleman standing alone. His eyes observe the festivities. A hint of satisfaction on his face. This is his granddaughter's wedding. He counts himself blessed to be there. Then I see the bride quietly walking up behind him. I raise my camera to my eye.
She surprises him with a warm kiss to his cheek. At that same moment his expression suggests a serene, visible love swelling in his heart. The shutter clicks. That moment between them is now fixed into eternity.
Growing up as I did with an ability to draw led my mother to get me into art classes. Around the age of 10 I learned from deconstructing the Chiaroscuro technique, studying Duhrer's hands, discovering clues in the brush strokes of the Masters before us.
Now there's an art gallery inside my head and on its walls, among others, hang Vermeer, Rembrandt, J.W. Waterhouse, Steichen, Doisneau.
I became an illustrator. But one day at the urging of a wedding photographer acquaintance, I picked up a camera.
I was told to shoot a stock list but couldn't relate to poses of heads with stiff smiles poking through limousine doors. Instead I felt empathy with the humanity I saw. There was whimsy, tears, laughter. So I chose to photograph the emotions.
I saw art in the lights and shadows and forms. And those captured glimpses of time became my photographs.
But fierce tongues wagged at me. Established photographers dismissed me with "that's not the way it's done! You can't do that!" "See how my photos are better than yours?" they arrogantly boasted, their faces looking strangely at me, questioning what I was doing. Showing me their pictures they lectured, "This is what a proper wedding photo looks like!"
I gazed down at the photos I had taken. "Maybe this is the cure," I said.
About the day I showed that couple their wedding photos: Slowly, in complete silence, they both simultaneously leaned forward to look. Their eyes widened. Their lips parted as if to speak but said nothing. And their faces started to appear to glow.
All of a sudden they were excited, pointing to this photo and that, chatting rapidly with each other and with me reliving the events of the day.
And then something strange happened.
Out flowed stories about the people in these photos. Tales of an uncle who loved to pull pranks at family get-togethers. The grandmother who'd bake the best desserts for their birthdays. How this cousin was now off to serve our country. The aunt who loved to sing and almost had a chance of fame in her youth.
I say this was strange because these stories went beyond the wedding day. These memories didn't come from the wedding events, but yet, arose from those photos. The photos I had made.
And that's when I realized: I was witnessing the power of photography. It can peel back curtains of time and make our loved ones remembered forever for who they were. And for what they meant to us.
My cure proved contagious. Soon came other wedding clients. A beauty editor at ELLE, a Manhattan art gallery proprietor. These and others came seeking another aesthetic. Something other than what's been called the "sea of wedding sameness."
But there remained gatekeepers who fiercely guard their status quo. They can't embrace ideas far from theirs. They'd have me questioning what I was doing: did I want to continue my work -- or go the route they demanded, following trends they helped to set?
I couldn't change my vision to please them, not without starving my spirit. I remembered a wise teacher saying, "follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be."
Slowly I found an eager, supportive audience. They were people who got it immediately and appreciated the work I was doing. They told others. And so here and there, others discovered me.
And now when asked, "what trend do you follow?" I answer, "Mine. I add 'classic' to 'modern.'"
It's slightly past 8 a.m. on another Saturday. My assistant and I arrive to the bride's hotel room. I knock on the door and take a breath. My assistant whispers, "it's your destiny. It's why you were born an artist."
And then I think about the glow I see on couples' faces when they view their wedding albums for the very first time.
And I know I'm doing something wonderful with my photography.
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