It wasn’t my wedding.
I was there with another photographer, making images to enhance the overall story. But even at a wedding where I’m not the contracted shooter, even when I’ve never met the couple, even when the venue is unfamiliar and the timeline is unknown: I feel a sort of ownership. These moments are mine to reveal and explore.
Shooting secondary gives me space. Space to wander. Space to experiment. Space to navel-gaze and self-reflect while the lead shooter manages details and checks boxes.
So I look for light – the delicate and the bold and the lighthearted. Photographs are made in sun and in shadow. Stories are told in the juxtaposition of the two.
I look through and in-between and over and inside-of. Because this is how we experience the world. Life is not flat and simple. It is layered and textured and complex and a bit off-kilter. I try to photograph this, this way of being in the world, this way that my eyes truly see.
I look for laughter. For silliness. For the under-the-surface tears and over-the-top exhuberation.
I look to be hidden and secretive and unseen, a fly on the wall in a gauzy black dress and worn leather boots.
I look for what matters. Small touches. Subtle glances. I want the quiet, the stillness, the anticipation.
And I try. I try the thing that I’m not brave enough to try when it’s all on the line – when I’m lead and I’m responsible. I try freelensing a first look, with a bride and groom on two different planes. And I love what I make.
In post-production, I make what moves me. Less stuff. More love.
I look for the new angle on the same ol’ thing. Because it has all been done. We have seen everything under the sun. Nothing is new. It is only reclaimed and restored by me, by you, by them.
I look for the “unimportant” moments – the moments I usually miss because I’m chasing the wedding party or pinning boutonnieres or updating the timeline or finally (finally) taking a quick bathroom break.
I photograph details the way I see them – not the way I’ve seen them photographed before, but the way they feel to me, with their distinct energy and significance.
I follow the wrong people, Nancy Drew-ing the dad and the officiant and a random guest with beautiful tattoos. And I find story there, where no one else was looking.
I don’t change lenses. I push myself to use the one that’s there on my camera body. “The best camera is the one that’s with you,” Chase Jarvis says. He’s right. The best EVERYTHING is whatever you have on hand in that particular moment.
The best moments happen away from the center of attention, in dim corners of the lawn and in the far reaches of the room.
And the best portraits are those not made, but embraced – the way one holds close a well-worn quilt.
I would like to move through life in this way. I would like to slow down, breathe deeply, let the small bits of life’s loveliness scatter through my soul like the wind through my hair.
I would like to take the time to see. To hear. To taste. To smell. To touch. To know.
I want to go and do and be. I want to explore. There is so much world. There are so many people. There is so little time.
I want to hear the words others speak and allow them to wash through me. I want to understand. Where did you come from? What happened to you there?
I want to marvel at imperfections and rejoice in the unknown, the uncertain, the irreverent. I do not have a single friend who has lived an exacting life. Perhaps because I met them, found them too dull, and moved on.
I want to be moved by the love I see. It does not have to be my love. Real love impacts us all, as drenching as rain and as solid as earth.
I want to use my hands and my body and my mind and my heart to make, to build, to grow, to influence. It is too familiar to stand still. And it is terribly uncomfortable.
I want to dance. To sing. To close my eyes and not flinch. To feel without regret.
I can’t help but wonder: if the universe plops joy down in front of me, and I turn my nose up at it, what am I proving? If the meal tastes good, maybe, instead of counting the calories, I just need to eat it.