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Meeting a couple, learning their story and spending an epic day of celebration right by their side is a rather personal and involved experience... and one that I feel privileged to go through time and time again. It's true that some connections run deeper than others, but I learn what I can about every couple and attach the same level of care and attention to the integrity of their story and the process of capturing it. It helps me to identify subtle details on a wedding day to make their collection of images more personally affecting. In this specific case, Shannon, Matt and I became fast friends through a series of late night skype sessions, phone calls, hilarious greeting cards and weddings. Yes, I did just say "weddings" plural. Once in my (and Matt's) home town of Adelaide, South Australia, and again in arguably the greatest and most romantic city in the world, New York, New York!
Like I said, going through the process, even once is a privilege... But to be let in so deeply, and trusted so fully is an honor in which I'm yet to find words to appropriately describe.
Surely one wedding is enough... so why two weddings? Well you'd have to ask them that... My over-simplified answer is that much of Shannon's family is from the US, and the couple, though meeting in Australia, now live in NYC. It's their home and the place they feel most connected to. They love Australia, they have many great memories and close friends there... But these days, wandering the streets of Greenwich Village, lining up at Joe's Pizza, laughing their pants off at the Comedy Cellar and huddling together in their cozy 4th floor walk up is a more accurate depiction of their story during this wedding phase of life. So to involve all the people they care about, two weddings on opposite sides of the world seemed most fitting (this is something I can relate to). Aside from that, they just really really love each other... they even joked about a third wedding next year in Paris.
Wedding number one was a perfect day in the gorgeous vineyards of the Adelaide Hills. It was aesthetically beautiful, emotionally moving, and just an all out dance floor shindig of wild proportions! It actually ended in a total power outage at the venue, so I guess you could say they literally when out with a bang. After carefully editing the images, crafting their story and delivering them a few weeks later, I received wonderful messages of gratitude and praise from the couple and their family. This is always a relief, considering most artist's have anxieties about how their work will be received, particularly work as personal and emotionally weighted as wedding photography can be.
BUT only after wedding number one was complete, did I realize that so much of why people generally love their wedding photos is because they are an artfully recorded documentary of a once in a lifetime thing. The unveiling of which is a bound to be shrouded with positive vibes as it is culmination of hopes and expectations. People just want to know that their wedding was, in fact, as beautiful as they remember it. That's why this profession comes with a lot of pressure.
With this is mind, I began to worry that my interpretation of wedding number two might seem a little lack luster the second time around. For the couple to go through this twice, knowing what's coming, how does the artist up the anti and deliver something accurate and beautiful yet unexpected enough to provoke the same level of positive response as the first time around. I'd be lying if I said I didn't lose sleep of this.
I arrived in New York a couple of days before the wedding, prepared and excited, but still nervous. Then, I caught up with Shannon and Matt at a pre-wedding cocktail party with their New York friends. And upon seeing them, I felt different. Something had changed, something I forgot to factor in, which completely alleviated the pressure I had been carrying. There was a closeness between us now, having been through something so personal together, they now felt so familiar to me... like we'd known each other for years! I began to realize that telling their story differently the second time wasn't going to be a monumentally challenging artistic task after all... because my perspective had shifted so greatly that I practically had a new set of eyes. My vision for their story was now so clear because our relationship was different, I knew them, I knew what to look for. Not to mention, their surroundings were different, the sights, sounds, textures and energy was all is such stark contrast to the quiet rolling hills of their Adelaide wedding venue. All I had to do, was document, leave room for fun and creativity and everything would be swell! And it was.
Wedding number two was a pop up wedding on a grassy lakeside patch in central park after a splendid afternoon of doing as New Yorkers do -- strolling through their neighborhood, taking in the visual feast of organized chaos that the city is so famous for. Later, a rooftop reception at the very spot that Matt proposed to Shannon, eye level with Chrysler building (Shannon's favorite iconic city scape).
After hearing vows and speeches that I could almost mouth the words to, after sharing inside jokes and mimicking bird calls with the bridal party, and after a series of group hugs and cancan dancing whilst singing Frank Sinatra songs on a shuffle board court in Brooklyn, I felt like part of the family. The honor of telling this story is overshadowed only by my love and gratitude for this couple and their amazing family and friends.