In describing Caitlin and Jon’s first look at Airship37 you talk about the affection and how they immediately embraced. It appears in your beautiful photographs that you went with the flow and took some intimate close ups of this exchange. In your view how important is it go with the flow of what your couples are naturally expressing while still getting a few classic posed shots?
Something I’ve always loved about photographing people is how unpredictable it can be and although I get to know all the couples I work with very well, I often get surprised by reactions or emotions. I think being flexible and going with the flow is undeniably important especially in a dynamic environment like a wedding where emotions are high and unpredictable. First look’s are always filled with intense emotions and anxiety so it’s difficult to know for sure how someone will react to the situation so it’s best to give people space and let them take in what’s happening before I allow myself to get a bit closer.
My best images are always the fleeting in-between moments between setups or prompts I give the couples. People often seek guidance or direction when we’re doing portraits so I’ll usually set them up in a specific place or spot to execute my vision for the overall photograph, but in terms of emotion, I try to keep the couple focused on one another and eventually snippets of the relationship’s personality will break through and that’s when I take the picture.
I get to know all the couples I work with very well prior to the wedding day and build a level of trust with them, they usually forget I’m there during those moments which allows them to really focus on one another.
The getting ready pictures at the venue were striking. The setting being modern and industrial allowed the unique personal touches of the day stand out as well as highlighting the emotions of the couple and their closest wedding party guests. How did you approach capturing this?
Caitlin and Jon really set us up for success by having both their getting ready portion of the day at the venue itself.
Simplifying their timeline in this way created a much more relaxing atmosphere for the getting ready.
With Ryanne capturing the bride and her family in the lounge area, I captured the groom and his closest in the main space where the ceremony / reception were held. Having both families in such close proximity during the getting ready was not only convenient, but a fun dynamic as well since it felt more like everyone was involved and connected to what was happening. Caitlin also did an emotional first look with her dad as her friends and family watched on. The love amongst everyone in the room was evident and we took advantage of the great light and scene to capture impactful images.
Airship 37’s large space is absolutely filled with natural light on a sunny day, which we had, this allowed us so much creative flexibility when shooting the first part of the day. The light is really what’s responsible for creating the mood and ambiance of the images.
What resonates with you in the genre of photojournalism and how do you contextualize your work within this? And secondly where do you distinguish your subjectivity in capturing a wedding day?
This is an incredible question and one I haven’t had to answer in a few years now.
I’ve always been drawn to narratives that surround every day life and popular culture, that’s why I pursued an undergrad in Journalism at Ryerson University with the complete intention of working as a photojournalist. I wanted to photograph important people and events that connected communities. During my full-time positions at the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail, I realized I had a stronger passion and leaning towards documentary photography, where the projects and assignments tend to be more long-term and complex. Although the fast-paced environment of shooting sports and breaking news was fun, I found myself excelling and pursuing assignments where I’d spend a day or multiple days being directly involved with the people I’m photographing and their every-day environments.
Although I find my work as a photojournalist and wedding photographer to be completely separate and different things, I instinctually bring fragments of myself into both practices and have grown to appreciate that about my work. I understand that my presence in an environment will directly or indirectly impact the people I’m working with, so I try to make the most of it and get to know people in a personal and meaningful way, through that, I find people will allow themselves to be their true selves in front of me. This approach has worked for me so far as both a photojournalist and wedding photographer.
You very effectively used all available ambient lighting in the venue. How did you plan for this and what do you like about the results?
It’s always my personal preference to use available light when I’m photographing weddings since I believe it gives a more authentic mood to the images. I also shoot film for many weddings so utilizing natural light is a priority in order for me to create a specific feeling or tone in my images. Airship 37 is one of those rare venues that provides you with multiple locations with beautiful natural light. The ceremony / reception space has beautiful and large warehouse windows that filled up the room with beautifully soft light, it made our jobs as photographers a dream.
The wedding day portraits under the Gardiner (you describe as a busy street yet you were in a quiet space underneath) was a creative and effective setting. What do you feel is the significance of this location in Toronto for pictures and what were some of the benefits of shooting here?
When we grabbed drinks with Caitlin and Jon prior to the wedding they mentioned that they wanted to do the bridal party portraits somewhere close to the venue, somewhere authentically “Toronto”, and absolutely not the Distillery District.
At the time of our meeting, I was living in the East End in Leslieville and I had been shooting a personal documentary series about my neighbourhood and I drove through that section of the underpass everyday for a solid 3 months to photograph the surrounding environments. On my drives I always remembered the incredible skyline of the city and how the sun set in the ideal location providing surreal lighting. I casually mentioned the idea of shooting there to Caitlin and Jon and they were 100% into it. They gave me creative control and completely trusted my input.
The location was great because it was so close to Airship 37 which gave us plenty of time to get through all the portraits. The underpass has character that come through the architecture and artwork. Another benefit of the location was the amount of shade and space we had to work with. On hot summer days it’s often hard to find a comfortable location to accommodate large groups.
What was a photograph that stood out to you when you were creating the album and why was it exceptional?
I really enjoyed our getaway during sunset to capture the golden light hitting the city skyline, I found that Caitlin and Jon really embraced the opportunity to share a quiet moment together and embrace their thoughts and emotions.
But the one image specifically that stuck with me was one of the bride engulfed by her veil in the wind as the beautiful golden light of the sunset hit her. The one I captured on black and white film is probably my favourite since the aesthetic of analog grain along with the raw moment and beautiful light amalgamate to create an anachronistic portrait. One of my absolute favourite images because it was a natural moment that just happened to occur within a cinematic setting.
What were some of Caitlin and Jon’s beliefs about the meaning of their day and how did you visually express these priorities?
It was clear that Caitlin and Jon’s wedding was not just a celebration of their love for one another, but also the love they have for their friends and family. The bride and groom are such genuinely down to earth people that they made an effort to share a moment with every single person at the wedding. To add, the speeches were all impactful with varying degrees of laughter and tears, the dance floor was high energy from start to finish, the atmosphere was really fostered by the great group of people at the wedding which gave us incredible opportunities to capture candid moments between everyone.
The wedding planner described the wedding style in Caitlin’s words as Simply elegant, elegantly simple with organic vibes , soft florals and family vibes. In response to these visual and aesthetic choices how did you approach capturing all the styling so effectively?
I think this had a lot to do with the incredible vendors that work together to bring everything together on the wedding day. The venue is already a striking place in and of itself, but the combination of subtle earth tones and hues in the florals and decor really brought the space to life. Caitlin’s style was genuinely vintage and I think the choice of details to go along with her look worked extremely effectively.
I work closely with my partner Ryanne Hollies who captured most of the details of the wedding day. She’s a commercial and wedding photographer here in Toronto and I was lucky enough to have her as my second photographer that day. She has a keen eye for colour palettes and executes with an elegant editorial and artistic flair. These strengths of her photography style really added to the narrative of the wedding day photos. The beautiful natural light in the venue enhanced the vintage vibes of the wedding details and the bride’s overall style.
Since we work so often with analog film for our wedding clients we took advantage of the aesthetic and enhancements analog can bring to an image. We find that analog film and the look of film have a timeless and natural quality to them and we value having longevity to our creative style and aesthetic.It’s an important and key part of our wedding work and worked so well in this environment.
I find that with digital technology and photography that trends are constantly changing and people over-edit images in hopes of carving out a style and images start to feel lifeless and dated. I want my images to be meaningful and appreciated for their content and artistic value, not because of the medium I use or the style of my editing. My goal is for my wedding work to go beyond trendy superficial values and to focus on the people I’m working for directly.
What do you think of this quote in relation to your wedding portraits. “Sometimes a good portrait feels like a slap in the face and keeps you awake. ” Koos Breukel
I think this quote is implying that creating a strong portrait would impact the viewer in a significant way, enough to have them wake up and look beyond the surface. It’s important for me in my portrait work that I capture people as they are, but I accept that people will be mindful of their appearance at the same time, it’s about getting to a place where people are comfortable enough to disconnect from the anxiety of being photographed and finally get lost in thought or in the moment, that’s when I get an expression I want for my images. It’s a goal of mine to be sure that the couple’s I’m working with can look back at the images and feel like they’re looking at a true representation of themselves.
What in your opinion made this wedding a unique experience for you to photograph and for your couple?
The diverse landscape of environments we got to explore and utilize was amazing. Airship 37 had amazing nooks and spots for portraits and ideal space for great candid images of guests. The retro bus and graffiti really pop and Caitlin and Jon let me take some portraits during blue hour to maximize our setting. Not to mention having the lake and underpass nearby made for a convenient opportunities to take unique meaningful portraits in locations that represented the city they live in and where they began their journey together.
Beautiful locations are always great but what really makes a wedding experience for me is the people I meet and I photograph. After my first year of shooting weddings a few years ago I quickly realized that I’m apart of something very personal and intimate. I’ve learned to embrace this aspect of the job and really allow myself to be part of these people’s lives, even if it’s only temporary, in hopes in bridging an emotional gap and create something meaningful for them to look back on down the road.
The people Caitlin and Jon surround themselves with are truly a representation of who they are, they night was filled with genuine emotion, tears, laughter and sentimental moments. It was a privilege to witness it first hand and given the opportunity to create something for them.
Wedding Planner By Frances, xo Weddings
stationary Kelsie Wolfley Designs