Never expecting it would lead us to photographing a wedding in Minneapolis, two years ago we were on a rooftop in Tulum, Mexico photographing a destination wedding. Confetti fluttered through the air while we took pictures of a couple dancing during the wedding reception. An energy and spark between these two was obvious- they were the most sensual and playful couple on the dance floor. Greg and I both remarked on how much fun and chemistry this special couple had together. When we reviewed, we realized we had a ton of great photographs of the two of them. Most were high energy. Eyes locked, hair flowing, with beads of sweat on their faces and bodies and a true connection between the two of them.
When we received an email from them letting us know that they were engaged and interested in us photographing their wedding in Minneapolis, we were beyond excited to work with and connect with Beth and Ralph. Attached to their email was a photo we took of them from the wedding in Mexico, and we immediately recognized them. Our first phone call felt so natural and easy. We explained our creative process, how we like to work on wedding day, as well as our desire to build a relationship with them.
Capturing human beauty for me is about the full range of human experience.
When I am photographing someone, I want to be aware of their whole being. I want to be photographing them in a way that isn’t just skin deep. When you know what makes up a person, you can look for those moments and qualities when pressing the shutter. Capturing beauty for me is about the full range of human experience. Laughter, smiles, and sometimes pain that is just beneath the surface. As an artist, I am drawn to dimensionality and complexity. We have recently started putting more energy towards exploring different ways of getting to know our clients in an effort to be inspired by their stories and personality on wedding day.
Getting to know clients as part of a creative process.
We use questionnaires, multiple phone calls, video chats, or in person meetings. It’s not easy to know what questions to ask or what conversation topics to focus on in order to get below a superficial understanding of someone. This can sometimes be even trickier within the context of a client/artist relationship. I usually find myself wanting to ask personal questions, but at the same time not wanting to pry too deep. We are running a business, but we are first and foremost creating art, and I want the art we create to be meaningful and real.
For the first time, we decided to ask our couple what they thought the best way for us to get to know them would be. Beth and Ralph suggested that they write their own story. Each one explaining their lives and how they arrived at this point together. That sounded great, although in the moment I was unsure if this was something that they would actually feel good about doing, and not something that would end up feeling like work. Ultimately, given their incredibly well thought out responses, this process was one that required energy on their part and didn’t come lightly. We think that the idea of pushing through an uncomfortable/difficult/trying moment results in strength and yields positivity, and we are happy we had the opportunity to share this experience with Beth and Ralph.
The two of them are obviously soulmates and the way their stories came together really felt like destiny.
When we received their separate life stories I was floored by the amount of time and effort they each put into writing them. They were beautiful and honest. These documents are private, so I won’t share the details here, but what I will say is that they each shared not only the events that took place in their lives, but also the emotions they felt along the way. Through their writing they shared how their experiences had shaped them. Both times of joy and dark moments were all laid out in black and white. After reading through their stories, felt giddy. These two are obviously soulmates and how their stories came together felt like destiny.
Valuable things in life come from making yourself vulnerable.
We set up a Skype call to talk about their bios. I was a little nervous and I could tell that maybe they were too. It reminded me of a mix between the feeling I had after first telling someone I loved them, but also the feeling of telling my family something which I wasn’t sure would be well received. A combination of fear and relief. Valuable things in life come from making yourself vulnerable. We had an amazing conversation and afterwards we felt closer.
We weren’t talking about table decorations and bouquets.
We cannot thank Ralph and Beth enough for trusting our creative process, and trusting us with their most personal thoughts and feelings. Our conversations had moments that felt challenging, but this stemmed from talking about issues of the heart, real and personal discussion. We weren’t talking about table decorations and bouquets. We got through it, we did the work and it was so worth it. Putting yourself out there can be uncomfortable and it isn’t easy. Not everyone has the capacity or the desire to be open and honest, to truly reveal themselves in front of someone else. Ralph and Beth have nothing to hide, they own themselves and their relationship fully. Reading their stories inspired me to take a closer, more honest look at my own life and the experiences that make up who I am.
Their stories were now a part of the art just as much as the light and shadow
As the date of the wedding grew closer I reread their bios. I wasn’t sure how to implement all this information. I needed to do their stories justice through their wedding photographs. I wanted bits and pieces of their truth to tumble out of them and into my camera. Opening myself up to the process of learning about Beth and Ralph, their wedding had taken on an extra importance to me. To be honest, I started to doubt myself as a photographer and to doubt the process. I wasn’t sure if feeling so close or having so much personal information would in fact be helpful. Would it get in the way of my creativity or block my ability to focus on the technical aspects of photography? However, by the end Beth and Ralph became more than just clients to me. Their stories were as much a part of the art as the light, shadow, and color of the frame.
Ralph and Beth invited us over to their home for breakfast when we arrived to Minneapolis. They cooked us eggs and bacon and we talked about their wedding plans. Since the wedding reception was going to be in their home, we got the full tour. We saw all of their wall collections of family photographs and even a few that we took of them in Mexico on display. As a photographer, it is a truly uplifting feeling to see your work framed and hanging in someone’s home. We strive to create works of art which are meant to be displayed and a part of our clients daily lives.
Great photographs are more than just beautiful shapes and colors, they convey honest emotions.
Certain people really stand out on camera, and it is about more than how they look. Great photographs are more than just beautiful shapes and colors, they convey honest emotions. Emotion shows in the face, the hands, it is in the eyes when two people are looking at each other. Ralph and Beth are so comfortable in their own skin and in their relationship with each other, and by wedding day, they were also comfortable with us.
Many people say that they don’t feel comfortable on camera or they don’t know what to do when they are having their picture taken. Advice I often hear is “Just be yourself.” But what if you don’t know who you are? I think many people struggle with this dilemma. To be truly comfortable in your own skin you have to make peace with your past and with who you are today. Perhaps wedding photography can be about more than just creating photographs. Maybe the process can also be one of self discovery and acceptance. I don’t know exactly what this path will look like moving forward, but Beth and Ralph have given us a good staring point.
We felt free to create and they felt free to express themselves.
I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen when we started this process with Ralph and Beth, but it worked out. Getting to know them on a deeper level didn’t just give us one thing, it gave us many. It gave us insight to make suggestions for locations for portraits, an understanding of the interactions that were happening between family and friends, and more. Most of all, it built trust between the four of us. We felt free to create, and they felt free to express themselves.
Ralph and Beth: thank you both so much for trusting us with capturing not just your wedding day, but also this beautiful moment in your lives. Thank you for flying us to Minneapolis and for making us feel like family. What we created with the two of you has become a landmark in our creative journey. Our experience with you has allowed us to grow as artists and people. We look forward to keeping in touch and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for the two of you.