A Deeper Meaning of Wedding Photography
I think it’s fair to say that as photographers – and all artists in general – often get wrapped up in our own heads about the value and importance of our work. Maybe I’m speaking for myself here, but after 20+ years of doing this I know it’s easy for me to sit around mulling over if anything I’m doing really has any true lasting value. Depending on the day I can feel like my work is meaningful and other days I can feel incredibly dismissive of it all. We read articles on the importance of wedding photography and the ‘power of the print’ and albums as some lasting heirloom and all that jazz, but that often rings hollow coming across as a sales pitch with no tangible meaning.
That can all change however when the gravity of what we do lands right in our lap (or in this case, our Facebook feed.)
Going back now five years this August, I had the extraordinary experience of being asked to photograph a wedding in Hawaii at the beautiful Olawalu Plantation House. Long story short, this couple had planned everything to be here in CT at a vinery after which they took a vacation to Maui. Falling in love with it, they switched everything around from a large wedding in New England to an intimate 14 person family-only affair on the island.
What was cool too was that we all just really hit it off; that rare situation where you almost feel like you’ve KNOWN these people for a long time, as corny as that sounds. At one point, we had even talked about hanging out together and doing an engagement session near where they lived at the time down South.
So when they asked if I would go to Hawaii with them, trust me when I tell you they didn’t have to ask twice! I turned it into a week’s long trip for myself, tooling around the whole island in my Jeep BEFORE the actual wedding. We did an impromptu ‘engagement session’ one day (not sure you can call it that a day or 2 before a wedding, but still), they invited me to the rehearsal luau (pretty cool) and we even ended up together at the local supermarket buying drinks, soda and flowers for the big day. After the wedding, the 3 of us sat in the outdoor hotel lobby polishing off the remaining beer! The family really welcomed me with open arms and I truly felt part of the day. Since then I’ve followed their escapades on Facebook and watched as they’ve moved homes, changed jobs and welcomed 2 children into their lives.
So it was with a bit of stop-me-in-my-tracks shock when I saw a few weeks back that the grooms Father had passed away. While it seemed sudden to me, apparently he had been sick for quite some time, including those days in Maui of which I had no idea.
It was this photo that I first saw online – one of him they had enlarged and framed, leaning on the worn seat his favorite leather chair at home. A quick, toss-off candid I’d taken during the wedding almost 5 years previous.
I sat there staring at it for a few minutes, my heart sinking trying to absorb it all – feeling as if I’d lost someone in my own family. I mean, it REALLY struck me. You probably are asking why I’d get so emotional over a gentleman I’d only spent a couple of days with. It was indeed a very strange feeling, but somehow seeing my photograph of him beaming with happiness from his son’s wedding only intensified it.
So it made me stop. And think. Seeing his photo being used for a memorial – the image that would be on display for him to be remembered by. The joy in his face. The fact that perhaps I thought – just maybe – he had been able to forget about his illness for a while during this wedding and embrace the joy of his son getting married. All that rushed through my mind.
And it made me think.
Sometimes even the most incidental photographs we take have a lasting power far beyond us, and contain more meaning to the recipients that way may ever know. So remember that when you’re at an event feeling perhaps you’re just going through the motions: you may never really know how what your doing today might have meaning for generations to come. And that’s the deeper meaning to what we do – We photograph to remind people of the love that exists in their lives.