“Great photography is about depth-of-feeling, not depth of field.”
This is likely the most currently popular quote about photography. I’ve seen it attributed to W. Eugene Smith, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, and countless other masters, but as near as I can tell it goes back to 1987 and Peter Adams (no relation). Now, if anyone should want to argue against this, it should be me. I’m well-known for a technique to increase depth-of-field control beyond normal physical limitations. Heck, it has my name on it. But no … I feel this quote more and more deeply the more that I shoot. After all, I could take photos with impossibly shallow depth-of-field right now, in my apartment. And yeah, they’d look kind of cool. But instead I’m out there weekend after weekend, reveling in the chaos and joy and affection unfolding in front of my lens on wedding days.
In so many ways, Trish and Bill’s wedding brought this all into sharp relief for me. We start with the couple themselves. Bill has the kind of laugh that you have to join in on, the attitude that yes, life is supposed to be fun and we’re all in this together. It would be hard to get the two of them to stop smiling even if I wanted to. Even if we were strangers, I would have looked back on this day fondly.
But no, we share countless connections. Their wedding took place just miles from where I was born. When I walked in, I saw the coordinator I’d been e-mailing back and forth with … and realized she was a classmate I hadn’t seen in almost 20 years. I went to elementary school with the pastor (who likely gave the funniest wedding speech I’ve seen in more than 300). I spent half my time growing up at my grandmother’s house, next door to one of the best men. And yes, that’s my mother popping up in some of these photos, since she’s a co-worker and apparent co-conspirator with Bill. And the reception was at the same venue that I photographed the first wedding I ever booked (but not the first I had shot), oh so long ago.
But there’s more. Because I have these connections, I learned that Bill’s lovely grandmother had died shortly after the wedding … but she made it to the ceremony. Those photos matter … not just to Bill and his family, they matter to me. It reminds me of my great-grandmother, who hung on at the hospital until I was born. She saw me, she held me, and she died a few days later. All I have of her are stories … and photos.
This is why. Magazine articles and awards and and workshops and the like are all very nice. They keep me fed, make me proud, and allow me to get hired for more weddings. But it’s times like these that remind me of the central paradox of weddings — we take getting married, something that can be very quick and easy, and we make it very, very hard. And yet it’s worth it. Because each envelope we lick, each seating chart we pore over, every place card we carefully pick out … each are a person, a relationship, a history. And that is worth capturing.
Thank you, Bill and Trish, for having me document all of this.