I thought I'd share a story.... a true story, the story about how I first realised the importance and the magical value of photography and a moment in time that, though I didn't know it at the time, would shape the rest of my life.
One boring wet winter day when I was eight I had been left to my own devices. We lived in a big house so it was easy for me as the youngest to just hide away and find my own quiet places. I can’t remember if I was looking for hidden Christmas presents or lost chocolates or just something interesting to pass away the wet day… any could be true.
At the back of a cupboard I found an old, large green leather-bound book with thick woven paper with gold metal corners. It was unlike any book that I had seen before and it instantly took on a quality of mystique. The cupboard was full of junk and I couldn’t understand why something that was obviously special had ended up here.
I rescued it and hid in my bedroom to see what was inside. As soon as I did everything became clear. It was my parents wedding album full of fading and slightly yellowed black and white photographs held onto the dark mat pages by old fashioned corner mounts and under each photograph the names and relationship of everyone in the photographs written in white pen in a beautiful italic script.
I was the youngest sibling by a long way in my family, coming late in my parents marriage and by the time I was eight they were already drifting apart. Both came from difficult backgrounds and as a result while I had an understanding that there were grandparents, uncles aunts and cousins I had never met any of them. At eight years old I felt the lack of family. My eldest brother was leaving home and my remaining brother and sister were older and cooler and not interested in the dweeb little brother. It was that age when, at school, friends would talk about grans and grandads, family get togethers at Christmas and birthdays and so on, none of which was my world.
Suddenly in that old dusty book for the first time in my life I saw two things. I saw a young couple very much in love with each other, full emotions which had been misplaced over the years but were there once and had resulted in my three siblings and myself. Equally important to me however was that through the pages of that book and the photographs it held I met my extended family for the first time. Uncles, aunts, cousins names which had been nothing more than vague shadowy memories like half forgotten dreams suddenly had faces.
I don’t have the writing skills to describe just how magical that moment was or how much it meant. In that one moment I realised just how important photographs were not just to those in them but to their children and beyond. It was at that moment that I began to think about photography and what it would be like to create such images for myself and for others and it was a thought process that resulted in photography being my career for the past 30 years.
Today I don’t remember every photograph I have taken but I still from time-to-time go back through my catalogue of images and experience a wealth of emotions good and bad but more often laughing as I remember what a wonderful life my cameras have given me.
My images to me are windows into memories of the many news stories I covered as a photojournalist, the celebrities I’ve met shooting for magazines and marketing campaigns and most importantly of all knowing that in so many homes, brides, grooms, children and families are looking up at their walls or glancing through photo albums of images we have created for them and discovering that same magical moment of heightened memory of a particular time, place person and emotion important to them.
So to brides and grooms I'd say (not as a photographer but as a person) when you are planning your wedding I understand it is a massive undertaking and there are so many elements which seem so important and all take up limited budgets. It’s difficult to balance what is important with what isn’t. I know I’ve been through it myself.
But while it is important to get everything right, just remember that after the day is over, the flowers fade, the meal is eaten and is barely remembered and the music fades but two things remain and grow in importance and emotional value. The love, companionship and support of your life partner and your memories of the day.
Your wedding photographs in years to come will often be the trigger for those memories and will be a door into that time for those who weren’t there on that day, your children, your grandchildren and the generations to come all of whom will see those wonderful moments and emotions frozen in time for ever.
I’m not saying you have to come to us at Life Portraits for your photography there are numerous good photographers out there. What I would say is don’t make your choice of photographer a cold decision based on “money and how many pictures do I get”. Take your time to find someone who’s work touches you, who you connect with when you meet them, who demonstrates that they have the skill, experience and equipment to make sure that no matter what happens on the day you will get a set of beautiful images. If all of that is us then we would be honoured to be a part of your day.
Critically though, when you make your decision about your photography and your photographer, don’t just think about whether or not such things are important to you alone. Think about the years to come when your wedding will be a memory, think about the little eight-year-old who may just find your wedding album and open it like a window into the past where younger faces and faces who are no longer there stare back full of life and laughter. Think about that eight-year-old stopping and staring at two particular faces of the people he loves and looks up to the most staring at each other with the greatest love in the world. Then think about years later and picture that eight year old sharing those same images with a child of their own. Good photography is timeless.