I have a lot of thoughts on weddings.
After working several hundred of them, I guess that's not a surprise. They have left me with a lot of thoughts jostling around in my mind, about the industry and about photography specifically and also about the cultural significance of weddings and the personal significance and why do we do all of this anyway. There are a lot of jobs that end up just being jobs and I was afraid for the first couple of years that this industry would quickly start to feel like just a job, and it might still someday but it hasn't yet. I do plan to write more and get all of these thoughts out of my brain eventually, and these words will be messy but I think they're important and they are a big part of why I do this in many ways. I haven't written much that was intended to actually be shared with people in a long time, and it's a muscle that I need to use more.
Now, here's the part that has been banging around in my head -
I really do preach a lot towards elopements and intimate celebrations, which I still stand by, but there is something so special about a wedding day with a group of people gathered together to celebrate this common thing that unites them. Culturally, historically, weddings and love are things that just transcend time. There are moments that I let myself lean into my nihilistic tendencies and think why are we doing this? (about work, and about weddings, and about love and relationships in general) and at the end of the day, even through all of the messy things about existence, humans will always choose to love. We have had love stories for as long as we have had the means to tell them. Weddings themselves change and shift through time and cultures but the fact that we as humans still choose to come together to celebrate love is something that really fascinates me.
The obvious part of wedding photography is preserving every joyous moment, but there is an underlying knowledge that this may be the only time this particular group of people, who the couple loves more than anyone in the entire world, is ever gathered together. The sobering reality that I don't often see acknowledged is that wedding photographers are very likely to capture one of the last really great images of someone our couples love at their weddings. It's a reality that is unpleasant to think about, but one that makes me take this job very seriously. People say that weddings are a once-in-a-lifetime day, or "the best day of your life", and while I have never completely subscribed to all the pressure that this places on the experience from a couple's perspective, there is something about the bravery and intentionality of that day and that commitment that really is remarkable.
Life is precious and fragile and unpredictable, and I am rarely more aware of this than I am on a wedding day.
I have spent weeks dreaming up a transition here that isn't jarring, and it won't come to me, and I think that's okay because the experience was jarring.
Over the summer, one of my dearest friends passed away very suddenly.
The tricky part is that I want these words to be about her, and not about me, and I feel shitty sharing about her in this way in my business, and I don't want these words to just be a process of my grief (which it very much is). This is not the first time I have been confronted by immense grief, but the reality is that the circumstances not only directly relate to my job but have completely altered my perception when I'm photographing a wedding.
Two days before she passed, she attended her cousin's wedding. She got dressed up, and spent time with her loved ones, and took photos, and 48 hours later she was gone.
I think of her cousins and her family seeing glimpses of her in the wedding gallery after she passed.
I think of the photographer editing images of her, after, and I don't know if they knew or not.
I think of her at every wedding I photograph.
And the truth is that this is also a guarantee of life and of humanity.
And that's what makes this whole love story the most potent, isn't it?
That's what makes these images important. That's why I care about leaving you with images you can feel and memories you can taste and a story that you get to hang on to.
A lot of the time, images are all we have left. And that matters.