One of the things that is slowly becoming evident to me is the judgement made by some people about me being in the “wedding industry.” I sometimes feel a little embarrassed telling people I’m a wedding photographer and I’ve spend some time trying to figure out why. I’m really happy doing what I do so I have to admit that it is a strange guilt that I feel. This is a complicated thought process I’ve been through to get to this point so I hope you can bear with me. If you can’t be bothered, just scroll to the bottom, there’s a picture of a cat. I’m a photographer so my experience is limited to that area, however I imagine my malaise extends to the full spectrum of industry vendors. Additionally, I know that there are numerous other vendors and businesses who share my views and they’re frequently featured on sites like Offbeat Bride (USA), Rock N’ Roll Bride (UK) and I Do Too (Australia) so I am confident that I’m not the only one that feels like this. But this is my website so I can say whatever I damn well please! :)
The thing is, I think a lot of us “new wave” wedding vendors ARE indeed embarrassed with the wedding industry. It has, rightfully or wrongfully, a reputation for overcharging, pressure selling and being cheesy. And many people now are no longer interested in the traditional model of a wedding; they don’t want 200 guests, a function room reception or a white dress. People are becoming more individual with their choices and personalising weddings to be unique and consistent with their lives, personalities and relationships. I married my wife Kristen because it was a symbol of our commitment to spend our lives together. We didn’t see how a first dance or a cake cutting fitted into our relationship so we decided to dispense with those elements. There were a lot of things we chose not to do, and a lot of other things that we did choose to do that would be considered non-traditional, but it remained consistent with us and what we loved and wanted. But in saying that, this doesn’t mean every single person will want this, some love the traditional approach and good luck to them, there’s no judgement from me.
One of the reasons I am writing this stems from an experience I had with an album company last week. I’ve been thinking about upgrading my albums to a different product for a while now so went to a showroom to speak to them and find out what their albums were like. First of all, I waited nearly 10 minutes in the foyer while staff walked around me completely ignoring me until eventually, someone utterly disinterestedly asked me how they could “help me”. I explained my situation and asked him about their products. Rather than being helpful in any way, the staff member patronised me and spoke to me like I wasn’t worthy of their services. Perhaps the fact I was wearing torn jeans and a band tshirt and rode there on my bicycle contributed to his response but there was no reason he couldn’t have been polite to me or been helpful. He made a judgement about me because I didn’t fit into his expectations and was unfair in the way he treated me because of this. As a result, I’ve decided that this company will not be receiving my patronage.
Another example of this comes from a story that one of my clients recently told me when she had been interested in purchasing a dress from a shop. The staff in the store made judgements about her from her appearance and spoke down to her and made her feel quite awful. She ended up leaving the store in tears. I have many other examples, but I’m not in the game of naming and shaming so I will not go further. But this kind of thing is rife and is simply not good enough; I am now feeling more conscious of my role in this. Am I participating in an inherently broken system or is this kind of stuff an exception? Is it a case of a few bad apples? To be honest, I have no idea, but what I am sure of is that I don’t want to be one of the bad apples. I want to stay true to myself and do what I do because it’s what I enjoy and love doing. The fact that we make a financial gain in return for our skills and time is something all us vendors should consider as a privilege, not a right. I believe we need to work together, share and be supportive of each other as much as we can. In the grand scheme of things, the wedding industry isn’t really something that impacts the world or our civilisation greatly, especially when there is so much sadness and misery around us. The only thing we can do is provide happiness for people so we better well do a damn good job of it. The customer needs to see value in what we do and as an industry, there are many reasons that have caused the customer to not see that value and that’s something we can change by firstly becoming better people. My life motto is “Treat people the way you want to be treated” and I think that’s a pretty good starting point.
I appreciate I run a business and I’ll alienate some potential clients by writing this. However, I feel comfortable with that as I know that nearly everyone I have worked for in the past appreciates and supports who I am, what I do and how I do it. The reason I enjoy doing what I do is because I’m involved in something I believe in AND that I’m committed to. If I treated a wedding as something to simply make money, I’m quite confident that my photography would be far less creative and I wouldn’t enjoy carrying around 15kg of gear for 12 hours at a time (not that I enjoy the shoulder pain, but you know what I mean!). People let me into their lives for one day, for many the most significant day in their lives thus far, and I need to make sure that I treat that honour with respect. I’m more than aware that I’m pretty fresh in the industry but I am happy making my own path and staying true to myself regardless of what the experts might have to say. Also, the new generation of people getting married who are after vendors who’s beliefs are aligned with their own are the kinds of people that will continue to hire me and ensure that I wake up each morning and look forward to what I have to do.
The rumour going around is that every op shop in a 25km radius of Melbourne is currently out of vintage plates. I blame Richard and Eleanor.
I try to steer clear of the typical wedding photographer blogging style of explaining the photos and details, etc. It gets pretty boring pretty quickly for you readers out there, but in this case, I simply have to tell you about parts of it, I’m not sure I’ll get to experience it again.
Richard’s parents own a 150 year old Heritage Listed house (on over 100 acres of fertile farming land) in the rural Victorian town of Colbinabbin, a little over 2 hours out of Melbourne. This house was just a ruin in the middle of the bush when they bought it 15 or so years ago. Over time, under the strictest of rules placed upon Heritage Listed properties, the house was returned to its original glory. And by glory, I mean, HOLY CRAP AMAZING GLORY. This house is absolutely mindblowing. High ceilings, beautiful period appropriate furniture and fittings and character in spades. I’ve never seen a house like this before and living in a country that’s a bit over 200 years old, we don’t have a lot like this. It was a complete privilege to be able to have access to it as a photographer.
A similar tale can be told of where Richard and Eleanor chose to have their reception, a small and intimate High Tea. Hennings Vineyard is owned by Richard’s sister and her husband (it’s been in his family for 4 generations). The unassuming “shed” in the middle of the vineyard where the High Tea was held had fallen into complete disrepair and is now classically refitted on the inside after having been painstakingly restored over the last few months. Again, this is all the hard work from the hands of family members. I always love that kind of thing, yet I imagine the ones doing the work don’t find as much pleasure in it as I do!
My entire process of interacting with Eleanor has been at a breakneck speed (and completely awesome!). From the time of her initial enquiry to booking, it was less than 30 minutes. Eleanor and I organised for us (including my wife, business manager and sometimes 2nd shooter Kristen) to catch up for a few beers a couple of weeks ago and Richard and Kristen hijacked our supposed wedding conversation with talk of their shared professional and social interests (Australia’s asylum seeker and refugee policies). In the end, we had about 5 minutes to talk about the wedding, which was more than enough. Getting to know Eleanor and Richard as people (and them getting to know me) was all I needed and I realised that these people I photograph are not just clients, but they’re my friends as well.
So here it is, the beautifully styled vintage wedding of two gentle and kind people, Eleanor and Richard.