I have a horrible confession to make. I'm really fed up with the wedding industry. Not my brides , not the families, not the wonderful vendors I work with every weekend... I love those parts. They give me purpose and fulfillment, and remind me damn near every weekend what love is. Some weekends it's my 9-5 job and some weekends I ball my eyes out like a freaking baby. That isn't the part I'm fed up with. That part that bothers me is the roaring disregard for the actual wedding and instead the importance on the "details" or "stuff" of a wedding.Lately I've been going through somewhat of a transformation. I've been peeling back the layers of the old and renewing myself as a photographer , as an artist. Something I think that happens to most of us every few years, and I found myself just rolling my eyes at some of my past practices.
Let me take a step back here as I in the past have been the most guilty of this. I would do so many styled shoots as a wedding to get featured. Quite frankly it's been encouraged . I had to become my own creative director trying to come up with new stuff, so much so I have even made my own wedding dresses just to have something more eye catching and unique to be on a blog. What, with Styled shoots over the last few years have becoming somewhat of the norm now, it was the logical move I thought. You can barely tell a real wedding from a fake one nowadays, and the constant pop ups from Pinterest or Style Me Pretty or other wedding blogs - its all over the place. Just a vomit of pastel flowers , fake cakes , and perfectly posed bride's and grooms that aren't even real couples, just models.
And while it's great for inspiration, it's just that...inspiration. As photographers , to live on our income we need a way to network our work and get more eyes on it to expand so our unstable cash flow will have more higher chances of being fed. So of course the smart thing to do would be to jump on the band wagon and fix yourself up a styled shoot right? It's happened so much so that brides now come to us saying " I'm sorry we are boring people and don't have a lot of details - thanks for agreeing to shoot our wedding " Are you kidding??? 1. You paid me to be here, so I want to be here. 2. The marriage is the important part, not the publishing . Now, I say that behind my teeth because who doesn't like getting published? It's like winning an award to be chosen. But at the same time seeing now the sea of "details" come in and out over and over everywhere, nothing can stay in style for longer than a month practically. But the worse part is it just seems like the noise has overridden the heart of what we are there to do.
Today I got rejected from a publication. Nothing new, it happens all the time and I never really try to take it personally. But after weeks of feeling this unsettling annoyance - I got a rejection for a beautiful wedding inside and out. By that I mean the location was amazing, couple was gorgeous , they love and emotions were some of the best I've ever captured , the tears, the smiles, the memories were so palpable I thought I would have publications fighting over it. But it was rejected because there weren't enough " personalized details" . Now first let me say , I get it - for a magazine especially in this industry their priority is new and exciting content and you probably cant sell a wedding magazine off stories and love. I understand for sure and do not fault the editor or any editor whatsoever. But it got me thinking a little more about what I'm doing and there was something inside of me that felt like " you know, if the wedding and love aren't good enough for the magazine...then I don't want to be published." Could I say that with a straight face and mean it? I mean, It doesn't really matter how great of a photographer I am to be in a magazine, just that the details of the wedding happened to be in style for something that would fit into the editors layout for that issue. It's really the luck of the draw these days.
While publishing is a huge deal and honor (and great bragging rights, who are we kidding?) at the end of the day the smiles on my clients faces from the moments of love I captured I can honestly say mean more. But those photos won't see the light of day in a magazine. That photo of her expensive shoes that means alot to the wedding blog doesn't mean anything to her compared to the photo of her dancing with her grandpa that passed a few weeks after the wedding. I had to ask myself again why I am shooting what I'm shooting? I've even been struggling through shooting film VS digital which I had been on Team Film trend strongly for a couple years, only to hear myself say in my head once " If I don't shoot film for this wedding, I wonder if I'll still get published? " ouch. Did I really say that? The truth hurts. Hearing that in my own head made me say " What the hell am I doing?! I'll shoot whatever is going to be best for the wedding! " and haven't looked back.
Michael Howard has this great quote on his website that part of it says " Photography should be used as a way of archiving the important people and moments in your life. Photographs are book markers to your past, and I want my images to play that role in your life." That quote still gives me chills when I read it. I want my images to play that role in someone's life! After losing my grandma, I realized how important what I do means to a couple after the fact. I went searching through the hundreds of photos I had hoping that my photographer has gotten some shots of her - My heart was relieved to see so many great memories that had not be lost. My detail shots are going to be chopped liver the moment the new issue of someones magazine comes out or even hours after its featured on someone's wedding blog because its on to the next new and exciting trend. I guess whats been happening as the industry has been changing over the last few years is that I personally feel like there is so much clutter. So many fake weddings, so many contrived details, so many of us just trying to get a shot at being seen. It's become such a focus. I just want to take a moment an breathe, refocus and clear out all the crap in my work.
I'm not trying to be blacklisted from the publishing community, or try to be edgy for the sake of stirring the pot but ultimately that shouldn't be my main concern - If the brides are seeing that I want to shoot their wedding for them, not the magazine...I'll be successful either way. My heart desires strongly for my work to mean something, and whether or not if their "details" are good enough - their wedding will be. And I'll be right there with my heart and my camera to get it.