When I was younger, I had thought that eloping was something you did when your parents didn’t want you to get married (quite common in the part of the world I grew up in [the parents not wanting you to get married bit]). But as I grew older, I realised at the core of it, it’s essentially what every single wedding is, stripped down to the purest essence. There’s two people who make a commitment to each other and declare their intent to be together forever. It removes the need for all of the other things that people often get distracted by when organising a wedding, there’s no decorations to worry about, no problems with who to invite and not to invite, and there’s very little chance of hearing Gangnam Style on the reception dancefloor (unless the couple of course likes our Korean friend).
Pitinada is a wedding photographer herself and we actually sometimes professionally compete for the same offbeat/alternative/vintage wedding crowd in Melbourne! Unusually, I wasn’t nervous about photographing another photographers wedding; there was something that was very comforting being around Sonny and Pitinada, they were relaxed and very considerate and caring, of me and each other. Their grace and ease outwardly reflected their inwardly contentment at what they were about to undertake and the emotional connection they had was visible for everyone (me + our wonderfully quirky celebrant) to see.
From the moment that I arrived, I knew that their celebration would be beautiful, elegant and a complete reflection of their personalities. Elopements might be missing a whole bunch of traditional wedding “stuff” but not one iota less a wonderful experience to be part of.
When I discovered that Scott and Tammy went to The Espy in St Kilda on their first date to check out one of my favourite bands Baroness, a little bit of me died inside. I’d been wanting to see Baroness for a few years but never able to and incidentally, they were involved in a really awful bus accident while touring recently, so I’m unlikely to see them for a while. Anyways, what an awesome first outing together.
I don’t shoot many engagement sessions these days so it was nice when Scott and Tammy suggested we go to where they had their first date, their first kiss and also where Scott designed a ring and proposed to Tammy a few years later. Piece of cake.
I honestly don’t know where to start with this wedding. It’s not enough talking just about the wedding itself, there’s so much more to it.
There’s a website that most photographers have used or are at least aware of called flickr. Shirley and I met on there about 6 years ago and we just seemed to respect each other’s work and personalities. She lived in the UK and was mainly a wedding photographer and I was always in Australia and had just photographed my first wedding. Whenever we uploaded new work to flickr, there would always be mutual appreciation and we’d comment and interact. The Internet is a pretty wonderful place for building these connections. But alas, we slowly fell out of touch. I stopped using flickr as much and we hadn’t spoken since 2008. However, in May, I received an unexpected message from Shirley starting with “It’s been a while…” She told me about what had been happening in her life, and the most exciting part was that she’d met a lovely Aussie boy called Warren, was moving to Australia and getting married. She also wanted to know was there any chance I would be interested in photographing it. My immediate though was, I don’t care where or when this is, I have to somehow do it. Thankfully, it was during the Aussie winter which is generally a quiet time for weddings and our schedules matched. Come 3 months later, Kristen and I are in Deniliquin, nearly 4 hours drive from Melbourne, on the edge of a river photographing for these two wonderful people in the beautiful winter sun. Life was pretty good.
But it got better. The photo I took of Shirley and Warren later in the evening with the Milky Way in the background went viral. It was all over the internet on countless websites, Facebook Pages, Tumblrs, Pinterests and newspapers around the world. The Daily Mail in the UK asked whether it was the “best wedding photo ever.” I was getting emails/messages from everywhere and my website was literally under attack from the web traffic. I felt as if the Universe had offered itself to me; firstly, it allowed me to photograph it in its glory and since then a bunch of other things have fallen into place as a result of that photo; I guess the stars were aligning. I guess when you’re a photographer that’s been at it full time for less than 6 months, it’s a pretty awesome feeling seeing your work out there like that. I’m not a superstitious or religious man at all so I know it takes a lot of hard work to be successful, but then again, without a little luck and good people believing in you, you’re nothing.
Shirley and Warren are exceptional people that appreciate the nature of the world and want to do something about it. I’m very much a fortunate person to have met them. We’ve shared in something pretty amazing already and it’s the kind of thing that means you’ll never fall out of touch ever again.