Nearly 20 years ago, near the end of my first year of a two-year photojournalism program at Loyalist College, I took my first wedding photo.
But if you asked me if I was a wedding photographer I would have cast a look of disdain. Wedding photographer? Please. I’m a documentary photographer. Wedding photographers are sell-outs who dress like shit and wear comfortable shoes.
I had just turned 20-years-old and wore the altruistic cloak of the “photojournalist who’s out to save the world.”
The photograph above was part of a series of images that made up my end-of-year photo story project, the final mark of which would weigh greatly in my final grade.
Just like today, I felt strongly about human rights issues surrounding the LGBTQ community, namely the fact that gay marriage was something still not widely accepted.
I did my research and was blown away by the fact that in a town of 40,000 people, Belleville had a gay church congregation in the Metropolitan Community Church. The congregation gathered every Saturday or Sunday – I can’t recall which – in an Anglican church.
So one day I ventured in and sat in the back row. My initial idea was to profile the church leader, sort of like a “day-in-the-life” story.
However, just before the service wrapped, two women stood up a couple rows in front of me, announced their marriage and invited all members of a small congregation to join them on their day, only a few weeks away and in perfect time for my project.
Even as a non-believer, the skies opened and the light of God shone down of me that day.
A wedding is the perfect photo story as it has a beginning, a middle and an end.
I approached the two women and introduced myself, told them that I wanted to photograph their wedding as part of my school project, doing my best to convince them that the relationship would be symbiotic; I would have a great subject for my photo story and they would get a free wedding photographer with all-day coverage.
Looking back on that project, the pictures aren’t great compared to what I’m capable of now and they’re not supposed to be. But they do mark a “beginning” for where I am now.
With more people looking for an authentic account of their wedding day, photojournalists have a huge role to play and as I began shooting weddings years after graduating I quickly realized that the day offered me a chance to do meaningful work.
As a documentary photographer that photographs weddings, I’m still aiming for the pinnacle of emotion and the depths of authenticity within my wedding photography.
I know that love is not guaranteed in life and that when I’m asked to photograph perhaps the greatest symbol of two people’s love for each other, I know that they are placing a great deal of trust in my ability to help them remember not just how their wedding day looked but also how it felt.
Am I changing the world? No.
But maybe I’m helping to change things for my clients, changing the way the see the relationships in their lives and improving their perspective how they see themselves in this crazy world.