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.)