What’s Old is New: Return to Weddings

From Daniel Milnor: What’s Old is New: Return to Weddings.

My new/old style of working provides a certain type of image, and regardless of whether you like it or not, it stand outs from the modern wedding world. The 70-200mm 2.8 is the lens of choice it seems for modern folks, although it seems that one person finally discovered the fixed lens and now everyone is using fast 50′s and 85′s, but my longest lens will be a 50mm. This work stands out. Again, you might not like it, but it does, and my best selling point over the past few years has been to ask clients, “Can you choose the other photographers work out of a lineup?” Frankly, in most cases, with modern, digital shooters, you can’t. The bulk of the work looks exactly the same.

Over at photo.net in the weddings forum, in a thread that I was contributing to, another photographer linked to this post by photographer Daniel Milnor. I was moved and encouraged by Milnor’s post because, although my background is quite different from Milnor’s, nevertheless, I’ve been struggling in my own way with some of the very same issues that he discusses in this post. And although I am not returning to film, as Milnor has, I have nevertheless taken my own steps to return to classic technique—for example, by selling all my zoom lenses and returning to shooting with a handful of outstanding prime (fixed focal-length) lenses, or by hand-metering scenes rather than letting my camera think for me.

Anyway, what I have never wanted to do is cover weddings the way they are covered by so many other photographers. A wedding photographer has a documentary job to do, of course, and I don’t for a second pretend that job is unimportant because most of it doesn’t seem to be very “creative.” I say “seem to be,” because in fact, there is a way to do that documentary job creatively, but that means avoiding the clichés and looking hard for the unique, special elements of this wedding that distinguishes it from every other wedding in history, looking hard for the unique special personalities of this couple that makes them distinct from every other couple in history. It’s a tall order, in fact, it’s very nearly a recipe for guaranteed failure. Still, it’s worth the attempt. The sad truth is, if marriages are disposable, wedding photographs must be even more so. So many wedding photographs taken today will be dated and uninteresting long before the couple’s marriage falls apart. I pray that the marriages whose start I have the honor of photographing will last, and I want my photos to last with them, not as masterpieces of public art hanging in museums, but as masterpieces of private or personal art, that will grow in meaning and value as the clients grow older and look back upon them, together.


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