THE UNENGAGEMENT PHOTO PROJECT
Most of the time, I photograph people at their best. They look happy, they sound happy, and they surround themselves with those that love them the most. Despite the stress, weddings are essentially stories of joy.
But what about marriages? Now that could be a different story. In that spirit, I present here the first installment of The UnEngagement Photo Project: tales of romantic alienation and glamourless love. Before you get too far, I mean for these to be funny.
Now, I love a perfectly-framed-sunset-love-smooching engagement photo as much as the next guy, but as a photojournalist, I’m naturally predisposed to capture reality as best I can. Over the past few years, I’ve become increasingly frustrated with Pinterest culture and the market in perfect imagery it represents. On one hand, with so many photographs of high quality on the internet, clients can ask for, and reasonably expect, great images. I believe that the rising tide, in this instance, raises all boats. However, the trading of images online has a homogenizing effect. People begin to want the same thing: a sunset here, a kiss just like this, a certain kind of visually represented grandeur, etc. When this happens, the break between reality and its representation in photographs grows.
Nowhere is this more evident then in photographs of wedding details: the flowers, cufflinks, table settings, and all of the physical objects that communicate something about the wedding. Physical objects provide clues about their owners and creators. Photographing detail shots is very important, and I often find it artful. Nonetheless, I often dislike detail shots because of what happens to them after I make them. They become commodities online, objects of desire instead of evidence of desire. Magazines want them often, it feels, than photographs of real people; they mirror the ads on the facing pages. Furthermore, when wedding photos become linked and gathered into websites like Pinterest, they become part of trends, fashions, and fads that form an increasingly narrow band of visual language. They take over the wedding imagination.
To be clear, as wedding and engagement photos become more alike, they become less like the people in the photographs.
I want my photos to accurately represent the people I photograph.
I want to see through the visual distraction of a million generic images. Nothing provides clarity of perspective better than fun and humor. To stay connected with joy, I’ll start by making photos that profess the opposite of perfect love, great sex, boundless patience, and realized dreams. These images form my prequel to a noir movie, just before things get truly lurid.
Finally, thanks go to my collaborators, a very happy, but somewhat twisted couple, Kim and Todd, whose wedding I had the honor of photographing a year-and-a-half ago.