It’s sometimes a bit difficult to describe my style of wedding photography quickly and most importantly without sounding a bit pompous and self indulgent. I always think that using words like “photo documentary” and “reportage” is a bit off putting and you see them over used all over photographer’s websites anyway. If asked what I do I often waffle around areas including photographing moments of interaction, story telling photography, capturing emotion, fun and laughter, not setting up pictures or posing people” and “keeping it as natural as possible” and then almost inevitably either myself or the person I’m talking to brings up the “fly on the wall” phrase!
So yes, my job is to be a fly on the wall!?
Sounds appealing! It also conjours up connotations of paparazzi style spying on people with big long lenses, hiding in the undergrowth and trying to catch people out unaware. Shooting away sniper style taking hundreds of pictures like a machine gun – “taking” pictures, extracting them in a cold and brutal manner.
That’s NOT what I do at all!
First of all the lens thing. There’s nothing more off putting than a photographer standing miles away with a massive lens. You have no idea what they are doing, they look suspicious and they are removed both physically and emotionally from the wedding. I tend to use a relatively small lens and camera and you will find me there mingling with guests, involved in what’s going on and close by – yes I’m taking pictures but and I work extremely hard to be as unobtrusive as possible – being unobtrusive doesn’t mean invisible it means being natural and unthreatening, blending in and making people feel at ease. I’ll have a chat with people, smile at people, help out where needed and get involved – it’s what I enjoy doing and helps me to become part of the wedding and blend in. I can then get much more natural pictures from the inside rather than being a cold and distant observer.
I don’t really want people to be unaware of me either. I’m not trying to catch people out or waiting for them to perform for the camera. All I want is for them to be themselves and to act completely naturally so that I can photograph that. If people feel as if I’m “the photographer” and they are the subject they will either “perform” for the camera or ask me what to do – disaster! Far better for them to accept me as a guest who is taking pictures and is part of the wedding, I’m sort of there but not there, non threatening and accepted as part of the furniture! Now being this forgettable takes practice (!) and is a combination of non threatening behaviour and body language, self assuredness and confidence.
I can’t say I’m all that keen on the idea of “taking” pictures either. It always seems a bit of an imposition to take something from someone without asking and in the fly on the wall scenario suggests that the photographer is a passive observer taking what he can get when he can get it and hoping for the best. Again this isn’t really true as I wouldn’t describe myself as a passive observer. I think that I work for and “make” my images rather than just hoping for the best and passively “taking” them as an opportunist. I absolutely don’t orchestrate or set up any of my pictures but I am very selective about what I photograph and what my images are saying and I’m also acutely aware when photographing about why the picture is important and how it contributes to the over all story of the day. I can also “make” pictures by choosing to include or exclude different images from the frame, explore different angles and juxtapositions and, most importantly, choose the exact moment to press the shutter. Non of this is random or opportunist – it’s carefully considered, empathetic to the subject, not “taken” but crafted.
So I’m certainly not just a “fly on the wall” – I can’t think of a better phrase that’s easy to understand , snappy and not stuffy so I might still use it but perhaps I should describe myself as a professional wedding guest? No, that sounds bad as well. Hopefully I’m just the one who was part of the day taking pictures, and amazing pictures as well, hopefully the impact of me being there taking them will be minimal when compared to the impact those images will have on the rest of your married and family life. Maybe an insignificant person making significant images – no, that’s awful!
Anyway, if you would like me to make some amazing images from your wedding in as non threatening and low key way as possible then get in touch – I’d love to hear from you!