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.
Category Archives: Full wedding
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.
I’m pretty sure this is the soonest after a wedding that I’ve ever blogged the images — chalk it up to a pre-WPPI convention burst of productivity. But also these make me excited for a number of reasons. First, Jenna and Aaron are awesome, hilarious, and brilliant. I really love how frequently the best man and maid of honor speeches mention how freaking smart my couples are, since if smart people hire you, maybe you’re doing something right. Aaron, after all, if the sort of fellow who had Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, a thoroughly impenetrable book, out as pleasure reading. Sadly there were more important things going on than for us to sit and share a dialectical chat.
But also this was my first wedding since being named of the top 10 wedding photographers in the world by American Photo magazine, and my first wedding since the Foundation Workshops. Contrary to what you might think, the former fact never entered my mind all day. But Foundation loomed large in my mind — I have spent my entire career working as hard as I can to show lasting moments, people’s personalities and how amazing they look at their wedding day, but the intensity of the Foundation Workshop made me work harder than ever at being a perfectionist along the way — stressing over every millimieter of what is and is not included in each frame. Of course, sometimes the moment is strong enough that you just go for it — the ring bearer kissing his brother was impossible to frame perfectly, but even just mentioning the existence of the photo made their mother break out in a huge grin.
Also, though for a mix of modesty and SEO purposes she doesn’t want me to mention her name, I was joined by the amazing T, and she KILLED it. Lots of great photos, and even when running the photobooth she managed to take a simple setup and create art! I’ve never been so tempted to put photobooth images in a blog post. Thanks, T!
I’m so excited for 2013, and this was a great way to kick off the main season!
Sara and Alex’s wedding at Bayard’s was all about family … really. They struggled with changed dates and planning to make sure that Sarah’s parents could be there from the Philippines, and even just weeks before they still weren’t sure that they could make it. Thankfully they made it for a beautiful-but-freezing winter wedding. St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral is a gorgeous place for a ceremony — and apparently completely unheated. But whether in the church or on an icy Wall Street walk, there was little but ecstasy in Sarah and Alex’s minds, and it was infectious despite a few blue fingers.
Some funny things happen when you shoot more than 300 weddings in an area as diverse and sometimes nuts as the New York area. I’ve seen so many different cultures, so many different styles, and had just about everything thrown into my path, which has guided me as a photographer through the years. But I never anticipated that I might have the opportunity to become an expert at weddings affected by Hurricanes. I’m up to seven or so now, so I’m getting there.
Luckily for Dana and Ben’s wedding at the Highlands Country Club, Sandy was still on its way. But with a gaggle of guests from NYC and talks of bridges closing, it took a moment for people to say “OK, we can do this … we can have a fantastic time.”
And they did. Celebrating amidst the autumn leaves that had only hours left to stay on the trees, cooking S’mores with loved ones who made it through the travel hazards to laugh and dance and celebrate together, and knowing that, even if everyone did get stuck there for the weekend, it would have only been a continued adventure … these just added to the joy and thrill of the day.
Thanks to Dave Paek for helping out and braving the storm with me, despite living in Zone A.
What do you need more than a gorgeous fall day, one of my favorite venues anywhere and a kind, beautiful couple? Well, a wild set of friends and family doesn’t hurt, and it’s always handy when the grandfather is a four-star general, because you never know what’s going to happen at a wedding, and logistics matter.
Thanks to Dave Paek for helping out and being awesome as always.