Three little words. Marriages are based on three little words, and it was three little words that let me know this wedding would be an absolutely amazing way for me to start 2014. Lip. Sync. Contest. And not just any lip-sync contest, but one that morphed into a surprise flash-mob performance of “What Does the Fox Say?” to the bride — this all adds up to the perfect combination in my eyes: We take this marriage and our love seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously. We can have an amazingly beautiful day, and look fantastic doing it, but stay focused on celebrating that love with friends and family in a big, loud, hilarious way. I don’t know if the Crest Hollow Country Club knew what it was in for with Mabel and Anil, but they have already given me a great feeling about 2014.
Category Archives: Full wedding
Often, the weddings I shoot have been a long time coming for couples. I photographed a couple who had been together for 16 years and whose official wedding theme was “Fricking Finally!” But in a way Jossie and Andrew’s wedding felt like it had been a long time coming for me.
Six years ago, I’d already been shooting weddings for a while, but I knew next to nothing about the wedding industrial complex, or the photographers in the industry. I was entirely steeped in the work of photojournalism, looking at images off the newswires each morning as well as classic documentarians such as Capa or Smith, but I didn’t know a Jerry Ghionis from a Jessica Claire. I decided it would be fun to network with some other photographers in my area, so when I read about Mystic Seminars — then just a one-day affair in a single hotel conference room — I figured it was worth the chance, and took a snowy drive up I-95.
I met some great people that day and picked up some good tricks, but I wasn’t prepared for some skinny, dapper dude named Ben Chrisman to get up on stage and blow my mind. These weren’t images of cut-and-paste, church-then-banquet hall affairs. These were long-multi-day documentations that dripped with life, energy, and creativity. He’d taken similar inspiration from war photographers like James Nachtway, and had even studied under some, and was quite open that when it cant o choices of an easy life versus art, he chose art. I met him on stage after, and told him I’d buy him a drink and we’d chat about Robert Capa someday.
It took a while, but I bought that drink. Years later, we’re now friends, dance partners,, and colleagues. But when he called me asking “Hey, I’d love to shoot with you sometime, do you have any weddings left this year?” part of me still went back to January 2008′s feeling of “Who is this guy?”
I’m so happy that we got to collaborate on Jossie and Andrew’s Ritz Carlton Coconut Grove wedding, because it was crazy in all the best ways. Jossie is a dance instructor, which is always a good sign for someone who loves crazy receptions, and she told me beforehand that the “crazy dancers” would be out in force. And I thought, “You bet they are!” — with her dance students all over and props in every corner of the room, people were tearing it up.
I didn’t realize that in South American and Latin culture, the “crazy dancers” meant Rio-style costumes, stilts and drums and absolute insanity. We never left the confines of the building the entire day, but it felt like a cultural exchange and as much an extravaganza as a wedding.
Thank you Jossie and Andrew for letting us in to this ludicrous, hilarious, fantastic day, and thanks to Ben for the collaboration: we got the drink, but there’s a lot more to say about Capa.
And incidentally, six years later I am also speaking at this upcoming Mystic Seminar in less than two weeks. Who knows what future speaker will be in the audience?
(A good chunk of the photos are by Ben; the watermarks are automatic to avoid orphan works in the Era of Pinterest.)
The world is a pretty cool place. I sit here in the winter wonderland of upstate New York snowfall, the snow thick and clumpy in the ways that only last for about two hours of an average New York City Year, and I think “I want to shoot a wedding right now, right here!” I travel to lands of palm trees or ancient architecture or exotic locales and I think “Give me a wedding party to play with, right here!” I understand the draw of variety and the exotic … but it doesn’t pull at me as hard as it might, because my neighborhood includes places like the Gramercy Park Hotel, a five-minute walk away. And I know that there are people freezing in the snow or melting under and equatorial sun who are aching inside for a wedding as elegant, as personal, as painstakingly gorgeous as Merris and Michael’s.
Hurricane Sandy was a giant pain for me, like many in the region — a week without power right in the middle of peak season, and five or six weddings put into varying degrees of disarray — but good can come out of the darkest days. In this case, Sandy set the scene for a portentous car pool with Merris and Michael, which lead to this day. It was such a fantastic event to document, a real forging of a new family with heaps of raw emotion, and it was made all the more fantastic because I joined the fantastic Tatiana to photograph this day.
Congratulations Merris and Michael — let’s hope for continuing love and fewer hurricanes.
As a long time New Yorker and Manhattan-based wedding photographer, I’m used to things most people aren’t — the subways underground and constant sirens fade into the background music of my mind, and my sense of personal space was left behind somewhere in the Nineties. But I get excited by exotic things like “trees” and “leaves” and “grass,” so I was thrilled to take a road trip up to Walpole NH in the fall to shoot Demere and James’ backyard wedding.
There’s a certain poetry about transforming a space you have a long history with into a wedding venue. Weddings are so much more than a simple day or a collection of Pinterest boards and Etsy favorites; it’s the connections you’ve spent a lifetime building that make it worth the pain of actually planning a wedding. And those relationships made this day a joy throughout, well worth the 13-hour round trip.
Thanks to David Pun for assistance and being a great road trip buddy.
Sweet. Down-to-earth. Deeply connected. It’s not just that I enjoyed spending the day with Naomi and Ben, documenting their relationship, friends and family, and not enough that I loved the choices they made for their wedding day … I respected them. At every point they chose to focus on the deep relationships they had with friends and family, and keep things simple and beautiful. When I walked in to the Wainwright House, Ben was already at work helping to build his own chuppah (and doing a great job — if I built one I’d nervously watch out for even light winds). Family dogs ran free, even breaking loose into the reception at one point. Along the way the great team at Ruby Stone Productions kept the day well-styled and running smoothly, so that everything just felt easy and fun.
At least three of the 10 funniest speeches I’d heard at weddings all year were at Miranda and Vanessa’s reception, and during the third I couldn’t hold back both a shocked laugh at some strange synchronicity: When Vanessa first met her future roommate (and speech-giver), she’d asked her: “Are you the best at anything?”
I am fascinated by people who are among the best at things, the weirder the better. What drives them, how to their brains work, what are their daily lives like … these questions itch at me. I have an ongoing photography project devoted to it, but it’s been put on hold for … well … the entirety of my wedding photography career. Oops.
But life has a way of coming full circle, and this same career brought me to document the glorious wedding of Miranda and Vanessa. At the time, Vanessa had been alluding to her apparently masterful Minesweeper record, but in most circles she’s better known for poker. Suffice to say I made sure to never bet anything with anyone at the wedding.
And for at least this day, my questions were answered — what drives them forward is an incredible bond of love and joy, and deep commitment to friends from all circles of their live. It was as calm and beautiful a day as I’d ever had at Stage 6 at Steiner Studios, because for someone who has mastered a sport famous for steely intensity, it was simply … chill (for a wedding).
Miranda’s kindness and warmth kept things throughout the day, right to asking me whether I could teach them how to Dougie. Sadly it never played, but we shared a gorgeous night on the Steiner Rooftop, with my second Sidney Morgan and Photo Booth master Steven Tang. Thank you, Miranda and Vanessa, for having me document this day; you’re the best.
When you take two people with something like nine degrees between them, and you surround them with their college professor friends and family, there are some things you might expect, like the heartfelt, clever, well-executed speeches, or the performances of classical music by some of the groomsmen. You may not expect breakdancing. But Brenda and Solomon’s wedding hit all of these notes and so many more, from a gaggle of adorable flower girls dressed as fairies, to a beautiful ceremony at the surprisingly pastoral northern tip of Manhattan in the New Leaf Cafe, and exquisitely managed details (that I may add in a director’s cut of this post — I’m posting from the road at the moment).
In fact, there was so much to pack in that I found myself desperately wishing that the wedding day were longer, not something that often happens after a full day of beating myself into a pulp to get the best photos I can at every moment. When their friends finally let loose on the dance floor, it was like a coiled spring ready for release. These professors can party.
Thanks so much for having me share this day, and thanks to Pieter Sientara for his help.
Filipino weddings tend to be an incredibly vibrant mix of deep ceremonial meaning and broad family ties, with more people in the processionals than even attend many of the weddings I shoot. These both lead to a deep sort of community investment in the wedding … or in other words, people are ready to party.
How do you take this energy and turn it to 11? First, you invite a LOT of people, whom The Venetian does a great job at housing in style.. Second, you be twin vibrating bundles of energy like Erica and Dan Eric. A couple that taught everyone how to Dougie for their first dance, and who had her father do a mean Beyonce impersonation for the father/daughter dance. There is warmth and then there is Erica, who at a number of times throughout the day would stop whatever she was doing and give me a hug. “I’m so glad you’re here!”
I was glad too. Glad to be there with such amazing, crazy people. Glad to share the day seconded by the amazing Tatiana, who also got her share of hugs, and my intern Leah. And really, just glad to show you these photos.
It’s sometimes hard to describe the unique thrill of a wedding day to people who haven’t experienced them as a photographer. There’s an incredible, omnipresent pressure, knowing that you just have one chance, that you should always do the best you possibly can no matter what … but at the same time it’s so incredibly enjoyable. And it’s made all the more so with hilarious clients like Amanda and Mitchell (who does a mean “slap the bass” impression from I Love You, Man), a fantastic venue like Tappan Hill Mansion, and help from Tatiana’s capable skills and winning ways.
I don’t need to tell you how emotional the day was — you’ll see that. I can only say that I shared in every moment of exhilaration.
Maggie is a decisive person. When she first met with me, not long before her wedding, she was just in for a couple days from her home in China, and I quickly realized that this was not the traditional “Convince me why I should hire you” meeting, but rather “This is why I’m hiring you.”
Weddings are hard enough to plan when you have plenty of time and are able to keep checking in the venue — it’s another story when you live almost 10,000 miles away and with just a matter of weeks to put the major details together, but she handled it with grace and all sorts of style, for example putting a modern twist on Chinese cultural traditions by ending the reception in a killer (Western-style) red dress.
As the thermometer pushes 100 degrees this week, we forget what a short time ago that it was cold and windy, but the wind whipped so hard during the ceremony that for a bit I was sure I was going to be documentarian of disaster. But clearly Maggie’s decisiveness included some very strong tents — and of course, no winds are going to bother the sturdy Hempstead House.
Thank you Pieter Sienatra for your help on this fantastic, blustery day. And thanks to Maggie and Jonathan’s friends and family for making it such a fun day — not every groomsman out there would dress themselves up in toilet paper and re-enact the proposal just so the groom could earn the right to see his bride. And we won’t discuss the body hair collection part.
This spring’s cold weather was a double-edged sword. Tracy and Dan were married in May, a bit after the traditional peak of the cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens Palm House. But thanks to a late-to-arrive spring, they exploded into color just at the right time. The coordinator surprised them with the idea that they could have the ceremony right out in the middle of them, and thank the photo gods that it all worked out.
Of course, the cold hadn’t quite stopped snapping. Want to creating a bonding experience for a group of bridesmaids who don’t know each other that well? Have fantastic light, flowing dresses and a ceremony in the low 50s. By the end they were huddled together, and instant friends just in time for a wild, beautiful party. I tell ym couples that cold is romantic — it makes you want to be closer together — but I didn’t realize how broadly this can be applied.
Thanks to Braham Rhodes for helping out!
It’s not often that I have a wedding date marked off on my calendar six months before the bride does. But Marcus and Kathy’s story is not your average wedding.
Marcus and Kathy are from Germany, and Marcus is a fan of my work, so he said “Hey, you know what would be fun? Let’s go to New York City! And while we’re there, Ryan can take some portraits of us.” Kathy loved New York and was working on improving her English, so it sounded good to her.
But Marcus had much deeper plans. He wanted to propose. So we planned together where the perfect spot would be, somewhere beautiful and as secluded as you can get in Manhattan. I would lead them in, taking portraits along the way and getting them comfortable. And then, when I said “Oh, look at this, this is the perfect spot!” Marcus would pretend to tie his shoe, kneel down to tie it, and pull out the ring.
Everything was working great. It was a beautiful day, as perfect as you could want. The park was green and lush, but not packed with people. I took them on a meandering path as we took photos, and came to a beautiful, secluded glade.
“Wow,” I said. “This is the perfect spot.”
“Yeah, it’s great!”
I waited. Nothing. “Ok, let’s take some photos here, and then I know an even better spot down the path a bit!”
“Well, look at this, what a spot! This spot is just perfect!”
Now I was getting a little nervous. Was the plan worked out well enough? I know that even the most enthusiastic proposal is such a huge leap, there’s always a moment like before you’re going to jump into cold water on a hot day. There’s nothing you want more, but you pause. I know this, so we continue walking. Last year I’d taught a workshop in this area, and some of the students said they found an amazing glen with a waterfall, stonework, all sorts of things you don’t expect to find in Manhattan. But I was busy and never saw it.
We kept walking, and there it was. The perfect spot. I set them up and said “Ok, guys, I want to to give a big hug.” And they did, and it was beautiful because they’re so in love. But really I wanted them to hug so Kathy couldn’t see me as I wandered behind. I signaled Marcus wordlessly.
Yeah, I got this.
He got down to his knees and said … well, it was all German, but it sounded very romantic. Tears, instantly. Joy, laughter, disbelief. Even bigger hugs. I absolutely love photographing surprise engagements just to be a part of this crucial moment.
But Marcus’s plan went deeper. He gave it a while, let the whole “I’m marrying this guy!” thing set in, and then he asked the real question: “Will you marry me … Wednesday? Here? In New York?”
She considered it, “Marcus, I’d love to, but I can’t get married without my parents here, they’re so important to me. And your brother, he’s traveling in Spain, it would kill him to miss it.”
He smiled. “Yes, we should ask my parents. We’re in luck! They’re here. And my brother? He’s not in Spain. He’s here.”
Woah. Marcus had planned it all out. He’d actually hired me six months earlier not just for the portraits, not just to capture the proposal, but for the wedding as well. It was all set … it just needed a bride.
She agreed. And that set about a whirlwind of emotion and shoes and dresses and more emotion, going through the entire process a bride usually goes through in six to 12 months in just a few days. So when we met on another glorious Central Park day, all of it was raw and powerful and beautiful.
It was an honor to tell this story and a pleasure to spend this time with Marcus, Kathy, and their families. And thankfully for the wedding day I brought along my own German, Stefy Hilmer, to help shoot and translate. I think I may need some more of this Germany experience, but more on that later.
I love a good party, and it seems like weddings at The Foundry are always fantastic parties. There must be some sort of neural connection between the preferences that make people love the dark brick and ironwork of the space and of a propensity to do the chicken wing on the dance floor. I don’t have to tell you that Annie and Bill were extremely fun; you’ll see that below. But they were also laid-back in a way that we forget New Yorkers can be, focused on just a great time with each other and their loved ones. In fact, family was so close that Bill’s sister served as Best Woman, complete with a tux just for the ceremony. Whether it was searching for the right-fitting female tux, a giant pile of cheese instead of wedding cake, or the beautiful hanging lights, they made sure that this day was their own, and I was happy to record it. Thanks to the fantastic Dave Paek for doing another great job as assistant.
We’ve been having some pretty terrible weather in New York this year, but the grey, cold skies opened up for Anna and Steven’s wedding at Steiner Studios, giving us some time to traipse about Brooklyn. I love doing Russian weddings, even though it always reminds me how rusty my Russian has gotten since college (these days I am pretty much limited to being able to ask where the post office is.) There is so much focus on family, and it is always a great party, especially when Anna and Steven’s friends give a surprise (and surprisingly great) Russian pop performance at the reception. Thanks to Dave Paek for assisting!
Great friends, great food, laughter that wracks through your whole body, work friends showing surprisingly awesome dance moves, cheeky grandparents, two kind and soulful binding their friendship and partnership … and SNOW! I love this job, I love Tappan Hill, and I love these people. And thanks to Kacy Jahanbini for fantastic assistance.