My wife tells me, actually she told me, the beauty of a wedding is in the details. My idea, which didn’t fly, was open another bag of chips and this time get a keg, let’s get married. She had different ideas, and thank God she did. Her attention to detail made our wedding one of the most beautiful I have ever attended. I could be somewhat prejudiced but if you want one of our attendee’s opinions, call me and I’ll give you some names, I feel confident they will say the same thing.
On our wedding day my brother, who is a pastor, performed the ceremony. Before it all started he took me aside and said, “Something is going to go wrong today. So when it happens you can say, well there it is, and get along with the rest of the day. Later you will look back on it and laugh, this will happen for years. So, relax, enjoy yourself.”
I really didn’t completely understand what he was saying at the time, I was pretty nervous. As the years have gone by we, my wife and myself, have looked back on my father’s sunglasses and laughed. They were pretty bad. To give him some credit, he was suffering from some eye problems at the time, but there he was with the glasses given to him by the eye doctor at my wedding. You know the type. They wrap around completely, are very dark, and he can wear his regular glasses under them, and are entirely unfashionable. This seems pretty petty now that I write it down, but it is what we look back at as what went wrong that day and are still laughing about it.
We look back and laugh at this, it seems, every time we haul out our wedding album for some friend who has come to visit and didn’t make the wedding. It’s one of the details we see when the pages open once more and we get to relive that day a little bit. I’d say this happens less and less now but for many years it was at least once a year. It happened recently when one of my wife’s college roommates was in town to see her daughter graduate from the University of Southern California. She commented on the fabric patterns my wife had chosen for the tablecloths, the flowers in all the arrangements, and the expression on my face as we were walking back down the aisle after that metaphorical kiss. She commented about the pictures of my sibling’s children playing on the grass and the beach. There is an image of our nephew trying to lick the edge of the cake before we even got to cut it. His tongue looks so long, his eyes are closed, and his face is in what must be a sugary expectation expression. I think he was 5 years old at the time.
What’s really amazing about this is it’s all been recorded through photography. Without photography, I’m sure my memory would begin to fail me and I wouldn’t have that opportunity to look back and laugh, and remember, and fall in love all over again. Ok, that was a little corny, but it is true.
Ian Summers is a man I think I know well and have deep respect for in my heart. Ian told me one day about a workshop he was leading, or someone else was leading, where there was a group of commercial photographers and one wedding photographer. During the few-day-long workshop the wedding photographer got fed up with the superior attitude of the commercial photographers. The commercial shooters let it be known that their work was more valuable because of the fees they could charge for a single image, and all the other stuff that makes commercial photographs what they are. At one point the wedding photographer stopped the workshop and said something like, “If you throw away the magazines your images are in, which is just what most people do, you have nothing but the fee you have already spent. I’ve heard you complain about clients who don’t pay for your services for over 60-90 days. My clients pay me an advance of 50% and then even before I deliver their final photos I have collected the rest of my fees. I always have money in the bank and I’m booked 9 months out. My photos will be looked at over and over again and cherished for years to come and by people, children that aren’t even born yet. Can any of you say that about your last Absolute bottle ad?”
There was an uncomfortable quiet.
Sometimes, it’s the details that make the difference. In searching for this month’s topic, weddings, I ran across Heather Moreau Vallentyne Photography http://www.vallentynephotography.com in the search area of the APA National website. I would also note that there were only 12 photographers under the specialty of weddings in the whole nation. I’m sure there’s a lot of commercial work involving wedding type photography, but I guess the clients are looking maybe in lifestyle, second.
Heather’s attention to detail is what attracted me to her work. Capturing the raspberries in the fluted champagne glasses, finding the private moment of a little boy dressed in maybe his first tux and feeling a little ignored or just needing help to tie those big boy shoes, the unguarded mother’s expression at some crucial point of the ceremony, and a public humorous moment with the bride and her small helpers all under the veil. I’m sure the bride carefully chose the colors and dress style for those bride’s maids, but do you think she ever thought of viewing them all from the rear? That bustle of bottoms, headless by design, transforms a personal wedding style choice into an image, even those who weren’t invited, can appreciate. Those moments are now history, but captured, recorded by photography to be relived by some friend who comes to visit or even a grandchild of the bride 50 years later. Either way, the photos will be cherished for generations to come.
Looking further into Heather’s work it became clear she just doesn’t point her camera in hopes of getting that “decisive moment.” She has a real sense of color, composition, a complete understanding of photography, and a real connection with people. Those are the details the bride didn’t know would happen. Those are the details a real pro brings to the party… or reception.
I say, well done, Heather.
I’m Eliot Crowley and this is my opinion.
Candidate for Masters of Fine Arts Degree, Academy of Art University, San Francisco
Faculty: Brooks Institute, Santa Barbara, CA
APA General Member since mid 80’s