“I bet you a fiver you can’t get a picture of Auntie Joan smiling” – this was a direct quote from a groom joking with me during the planning meeting for his wedding. (I’ve obviously changed Auntie Joan’s name, just to be on the safe side!). It was a pretty fair bet to be honest because, when I met “Auntie Joan” a few days later at the wedding it was clear that she was, what my Dad would describe as, “a bit of an old boiler” and, to quote another charming Northern term had a face “like the inside of a slate hangers nail bag”!
Auntie Joan apart, wedding guests are great fun to photograph and I always think it’s really important to include as many in the final set of images as possible. Photographing individual people is relatively easy and, the larger the group becomes, the harder it is to find and connection and meaning in the image. I’m not hugely interested in just photographing people in isolation as it’s always the context and the moment in time of the image that I find fascinating.
The picture above is a good example. It would have been relatively easy to photograph the people individually or maybe in pairs interacting and chatting but it is much harder to make a coherent whole out if several relatively disconnected elements. First of all the image reads rather pleasantly from left to right as your eye follows the aim of the photographer’s lens through. It has an almost preplanned curve and as you travel along it you become involved in three little stories as the woman in the big hat chats to the man in the chair, the next woman fiddles with her camera and the final pair are in more animated conversation.
These individual little stories are punctuated by a nicely static person leaning in the background and by the rather bored looking static man with the drink on the far right (I wish I had included more of him). It’s a rather subtle image but becomes all the more interesting once you take a bit of time to read it – it sort of hangs well compositionally and also in terms of it’s timing and storytelling as well and to me is much more interesting (and harder to photograph) than a static group or portrait of each guest.
There are always much more animated moments when guests are chatting and interacting as well and I am always on the look out for these as well. This is often where listening to what’s going on, anticipation and timing are vital. I have included a selection from the same wedding as the first picture below
….and…..just to make it crystal clear, Auntie Joan wasn’t at any of the wedding above and yes, I did win the bet fairly and squarely and presented the groom with SEVERAL smiling (ok, grimacing!) pictures of the afore mentioned old bag and sadly, I never did receive my £5!!