The good folks at PDN have published my work and interviewed me again with a nice update about the business side of gay marriage. I should have mentioned that I’m in Manhattan proper these days, not Westchester, and that I don’t know whether or not my phone has been ringing with gay-wedding inquiries because during peak season my assistant handles most of the initial inquiry e-mails, but it’s a great piece and I’m always happy to be featured there.
I try to maintain a “dinner-table atmosphere” in my public dealings these days. Growing up in an Irish family where no one was shy about voicing their opinion, you soon learned that there was lots of stuff you could talk about and have a grand ol’ time, even in your disagreements. Then there were things that would lead to anger and hurt feelings … and then there were things that would lead to conversational Armageddon (like making fun of the Jets). I have friends, family, and fantastic clients along all points of the political spectrum, and have always sought meaningful conversations instead of point-scoring, because let’s face it — talk to anyone long enough, and eventually they will say something that you think is downright looney-tunes. But I have never been shy about my belief that gay people should have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else.
Or, in other words: Dear awesome gay couples. There is only one NYC photographer who has been featured for gay marriage in PDN and the American, international, and Japanese editions of Newsweek. Let me document your awesomeness.
Anyway, even though I tend to avoid controversial subjects, this is something that is not only near and dear to my heart, but central to what I do as a documentarian of people and relationships. While it doesn’t take the same sort of courage to be pro-gay marriage when you’re running a business out of Manhattan as it does in, say, Alabama, we are at a strange point where self-publishing photographers are minor-but-international public figures. Google Analytics tells me that one of my biggest fan bases is in Malaysia, for example, and one of my previous gay-marriage postings was viciously attacked by a government official from the Sudan.
When I first shot a gay wedding, I expected the experience to be similar to any other great wedding. There are slight differences in what sort of poses will look good, but that’s true from couple to couple as well. But there was an extra intensity to the emotion throughout the room, and I think I know why. I always try to let people’s history inform the shots I take. I fight for that perfect mother-son dance shot even if I’ve taken 200 before, because I know that she has spent decades thinking about just this moment. Well, for a while at least, when you shoot a gay wedding you are photographing people who grew up thinking that this whole wedding thing could never happen for them. That all the connection, the public displays, the meaningful vows, the celebrations, everything I adore about weddings — that these things could only happen to other people.
And then, finally, the doors opened to them.
That is what makes me an ardent supporter. That is why I’ve made sure to have a gay-wedding photo in my front-page portfolio ever since — because I’ve talked to gay couples about their shame and anger when they meet a photographer who photographs gay weddings but won’t display them proudly out of fear. Sometimes things are worth a little courage.
I was shooting a wedding when New York passed the gay marriage law. My fantastic (and gay) assistant Erica had been following the news closely, but while the state Senate was in deliberations, the reception was hopping like you’ve never seen, so we lost track. I mean, we’re talking three inches of wine sloshing on the floor and no one cared — I can’t wait to show it to you. When we got a quick break, I pulled her aside and said “Hey, what happened with the bill?”
She pulled out her Blackberry. “It passed. IT PASSED!” High fives and hugs. Thank God for autofocus, because her eyes filled with tears.
She tapped a gay couple on the shoulder. “It happened. Gay marriage is legal.”
They stared, “What … just now?” More celebration.
I mentioned it to another guest whose wedding I had photographed, and we high-fived. It spread like a ripple of excitement in an already raucous reception.
I don’t care about the politics. I don’t care about trying to score points and argue with someone who believes differently from me — my grandfather is one of my greatest role models and favorite people, and let’s just say he felt differently about the issue. What I care about is that feeling, that joy, that incredible connection. That is what I seek to capture and I’m so glad that so many more people can experience it now.