You get asked a million times while growing up. Your answer changes 100 times from the time your two sometimes right through retirement. Sometimes what you give for an answer is the last thing you imagined years before. What do you want to be?
I started answering this question with a zoologist and then played with the idea of marine biology- rather typical for your average young girl. Art never creeped into my answer until high school when I found myself staying after school just to spend more time in the dark room and spending every study hall cutting up photo paper, rolling film for other students and doing any odd jobs I could find around the lab just to earn a few extra rolls of film to shoot. Photography captured me, fascinated me, challenged me and it inspired me. By the time I got to my Junior year of high school and the real questions about what you’ll study in collage and where you want to go pop up in every conversation from your guidance councilor to the bank teller- the only answer I could confidently say was “I want to study photography”. Everyones first question: “will you shoot weddings?”
UGGGH WEDDINGS?!?! YUCK. Keep in mind this was the late 90’s early 2000’s and wedding photography was not what it is today. Most wedding photographers were still older men, everyone was shooting film and there wasn’t much of the artistic aspect of wedding photography that thankfully we have today. I was NEVER going to shoot weddings that was stuffy and formal and no fun. I was going to take pretty landscapes, editorial portraits and somehow become famous and shoot for magazines and sell prints for thousands of dollars. I honestly had NO idea what being a “photographer” would really look like and how I could possibly make it into a living, but I did know that shooting weddings was not on my agenda.
Fast forward to the year after I graduated from Northeastern University with a photography degree. I had moved to Texas and was working with a local photography studio there shooting families, seniors, bridal portraits, pageant girls and of course the dreaded wedding. The first weekend that the ladies who ran the studio took me along to a wedding I was not totally sure what to expect. I wasn’t excited per say but the $100 cash at the end of the day was worth giving it a try. I’d been shooting with them for a while and knew this bride as I’d been at her bridal portrait shoot. We arrived at a wood paneled church with overhead florescent lights and no windows. The reception was in the church function room which looked remarkably like a elementary school cafeteria. There was taffeta, paper streamers, Jordan almonds and paper plates. It wasn’t full of crystal dropped florals, black bow or string quartets. But there was a whole love of love.
The groom was in the coast guard and was quiet and reserved dressed in his crisp white uniform. When the music started and the doors to the church opened and he saw his bride for the fist time walking down the aisle I remember looking through my 200mm lens from the back of the church and seeing tears well up in his eyes. I immediately had this nervous butterfly feeling in my stomach. All I could think was ‘I hope I am able to capture this moment in all of its perfection’. The emotion in the room was palpable and I couldn’t believe how I instantly felt like I was a part of this tight knit group of family and friends witnessing this beautiful marriage begin. I cried looking through that lens and prayed my auto focus worked and that I hadn’t messed up the only job I had been given by my boss to capture the grooms face when he saw his bride walk down the aisle.
You could feel the in that room, love they had for one another and the love that everyone had for the bride and groom. I started to feel myself fall in love with love. I wasn’t married at the time, I was about a year or a little more into my relationship with my now husband. I wasn’t sure that I knew what this kind of love really was- this forever, all inclusive, all consuming love. But I knew I wanted to be around more of it. While I was waiting with the couple, just before they walked out through millions of bubbles to their get away truck, all I could think about was just how sad I was that the day was over. It had been so much fun. A day full of anxious moments with the bride before the ceremony, love and emotion when they said their vows and of course lots of laughter at the speeches from best friends and siblings. I had had a blast. I remember babbling to the couple “This was my first wedding and I can’t thank you enough for letting me be a part of documenting your day- I love this job!” The bride smiled and possibly thought I was a little crazy but I wanted them to know that they had quite literally changed my life.
I fell in love with shooting weddings that day. I fell in love with documenting love, documenting the start of something bigger then any of us. I couldn’t help it- families and friends surrounding a happy couple who are head over heals in love. Maybe there are pretty flowers, maybe there is a gorgeous dress and maybe there are black ties and crystal tree centerpieces but as fun as those things can be to take photos of -its the love that I love. Its the love you can feel when you walk into the room. It’s the love you can see in the eyes of the father of the bride seeing his baby girl all grown up. It’s the hands wrapped around her waste, holding her close, while they dance their first dance. Its the love that surrounds everyone all day long- thats why I love my job and why I choose to shoot weddings. It may not always be perfect but there is always an abundance of love and I feel so incredibly lucky to document that love.