You wrote a lovely article Life is Happening! On Being Present at Your Wedding. I loved it and think it is a great resource for anyone getting married! In it you discuss how to be present in your life, how to connect with the people around you, and how to experience joy. Can you talk a little bit about this?
We spend a lot of our lives numbing and distracting ourselves, be it on social media, television, shopping, drinking, working – everyone has their thing. I’m guilty of this too, so last year I took an eight week course in mindful meditation just to try something different. That was when some of these ideas started to solidify.
I think from attending so many weddings and seeing how the stress can affect people, I started wanting more for my clients – no, you know what? I want more for the whole world! Weddings have become such a huge industry, that it’s easy to get caught up in the details, when all people really want is to be surrounded by their loved ones, throw an awesome party, and look beautiful.
Of course people still want to have a photo session to capture the atmosphere (as well as their design efforts) so I started to wonder whether there was a way to make the photography a real, enjoyable part of the experience – experiential photography. I combined portraiture and mindfulness, and more recently the “Beloved Photogenic Technique”. It’s the idea that genuine moments and real expressions are the most beautiful, and show people in the most photogenic light on film too.
You speak about getting into the moment of your day, and how “I want you to look incredible and then forget about how you look, and remember the reason you’re getting married in the first place.” Have you developed some techniques that enable people to more fully do this on their big day?
The main aspect of this is trust. If you trust that your photographer has got your back – and they will show how beautiful you are – then you don’t have to spend the day worrying about your arms, your double chin, your gummy smile, etc. Especially as a woman, I pay a lot of attention to capturing brides / grooms in all of their various forms, anywhere from a demure smile to the good old fashioned scream-laughing. We all have different ways we like to see ourselves. Who am I to edit out a your preferred self-expression? I aim to capture them all and let you decide.
But trust is so much more than worrying about your looks. In order for my subjects to show their true selves, I also have to be willing to expose my true self. This takes vulnerability and a major release of judgment. One thing that helps is to carefully choose who you work with: people you connect to, and feel chemistry with; another is simply to get to know one another. When you take the time and care to do these things, it is easier for everyone to let their individuality shine through. It allows the photography experience to be more collaborative, and lets authentic feelings emerge with less censorship during the photo shoot. And that is beautiful.
You wrote about the wedding of Aaron and Sahrah being such a pleasant experience for you as all the parties worked so well together. In a wedding there are many professionals involved in pulling it all together. How does the photographer fit into this?
Now, I may be biased in this, but the importance of photography at a wedding cannot be overstated. Photographers have two jobs: to provide an awesome wedding photography experience to couples, including memories they’ll share on for generations (no pressure!!),,, and secondly to create images for all the other artists’ portfolios. The key to this is respecting one another’s expertise, by giving professionals the time and space to do what they do best… And then allowing the photographer the time and space to capture it. I also try to contact everyone and make sure they have access to the photos afterwards.
Some wedding photography is more intimate and natural than others. The pictures you took of Sarah and Aaron at the Berkeley Fieldhouse are so intimate and personal. What do you attribute this outcome to?
Surrounded by loved ones, Sahrah & Aaron experienced some highly emotional moments, and we tried our best to capture that. I think getting to know one another, throughout the planning and the engagement shoot, allowed them to feel more comfortable in front of the camera (or maybe to ignore the camera more) on their wedding day.
Sahrah and Aaron’s Berkeley Fieldhouse wedding pictures tell a story of tradition, culture and love. There are many layers of culture and tradition in every unique wedding. How do you bring out the unique personality of each one in your photographs?
This is a question of storytelling. It’s one thing to photograph all the details and decor as documentation, but you don’t want it to look like a product shot in a catalogue. I strive to capture the feeling of the day – the atmosphere. I try to imagine what one of my subjects might be feeling in that moment, and somehow tell that story.
You really maximized the setting of the Berkeley Fieldhouse in your pictures of Aaron and Sahrah. You seem to really understand the venue and its attributes. How important is this for a photographer to have a good working knowledge of the setting and all the potential qualities of it.
One of the exciting things about wedding photography is the spontaneity of the day – lots of elements are out of your control, and the challenge is to look for beautiful light and de-clutter the background. The Berkeley Fieldhouse is a wonderful setting for this, because of all the natural light and the artistic details of the space itself.
You used the abundant natural lighting to its full potential at the wedding. To what extent do you have to know all the available light sources of any location and plan for it?
Previous knowledge of the location is definitely a bonus, but I would say this comes down to experience as a photographer. That, and being obsessively prepared for anything (with professional gear, and more, backup professional gear).
The traditional ceremony at Saharah and Aaron’s wedding was so beautiful. Had you participated as a photographer in a ceremony like this before? What was the experience like sharing a cultural tradition?
I had only photographed one Korean Tea Ceremony before Sahrah & Aaron’s. I loved it. I like that they had a friend explain all the steps of the ceremony, and the significance of the traditions. I felt honoured to witness the meaningful exchange of these two families, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a bit emotional myself.
Sarah and Aaron’s wedding at the Berkeley Fieldhouse had a blend of deep cultural tradition and a quality of whimsical handmade decor. All of these elements came out in your photographs. How do you balance all of the elements at a wedding?
Sahrah and Aaron made a lot of their decor themselves, which was simply amazing! Beyond that a lot comes down to timing. Planning a timeline where the photographer can have access to areas after they are decorated, but before anyone can enter, allows us to think more carefully about what to capture and how. It’s important that when you look back on your wedding photos that you remember the feeling of the day, as opposed to just seeing a catalogue of the products.
In your downtime where are you most likely to go with your camera?
Around the world! I love to travel, and have spent months in places such as Kenya, Central America and Europe, wandering and photographing what I see. But now I also have a new, little niece who I’m totally in love with, so I’m quickly learning about mama-and-baby photography too.
What drew you to photography?
Light; in art school I used to wonder why I loved the paintings of Caravaggio so much, when they were all so classical old school. Then I got into the darkroom, and realized it was the dramatic light that drew me in. Since then, I’ve also become captivated by the process of experiential photography – human connection – the letting down of emotional barriers to see and be seen. Oh, it’s all very deep and new age-y, but what to say? That’s what really floats my boat.
Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful stories, photographs and expertise.
Venue: Berkeley Fieldhouse