Towards the end of 2013, Professional Photographer (PP) Magazine asked me whether I’d be interested in writing a monthly column for their magazine covering the way that Kristen and I run our business. Now if you know me in person, you’ll know that I love a good rant – anything that I’m passionate and informed about, I’ll have some thoughts on! So this seemed to be the perfect soapbox to talk about the stuff that I really care about as a photographer – equality, opportunity and the concept of being nice. It was a way to share our alternative ways of doing things with a wider audience and for that, I’m extremely grateful to PP.
With PP’s permission, I’m going to be publishing my columns on my blog too, albeit a few months after they’ve appeared in print. If you’d prefer not to wait, check out PP’s website on ways to subscribe either with real life magazines appearing at your doorstep or digital downloads on your smartphones and tablets.
I’m going to punctuate these giant walls of text with some pretty pictures – this set being taken by the unendingly talented Kristen.
When I first became a full time wedding photographer in March 2012, I spent about 6 months being a little embarrassed to tell people what I did. I had a PhD in Medical Physics and worked in cancer research and I’d always been proud of myself for how I was contributing to the world. But now, I couldn’t figure it out – I had assumed working for myself and creating little pieces of art would be great but that didn’t seem to be the case. Slowly a realisation came to me – I felt weird because of how I thought people would perceive me as a result of my career choice. Trust me, it wasn’t just in my mind, the reality of being judged for my job did indeed happen a few times and it left me feeling hollow. It seemed that I might as well have been robbing old ladies, being a wedding photographer wasn’t seen in a particularly positive light! Some of us wedding photographers had been known for over-charging, pressure selling and taking months and years to deliver photos and albums and people seemed to be quite wary of us and what we do. Being someone that had always prided myself on being a good person, these ideas of how people perceived me were quite uncomfortable. It was at that moment that I realised that whatever I did, it needed to be done in a way that was consistent with who I was and what my values were. Even if other people judged me, I never wanted to be in a position where I’d have to judge myself and feel disappointed.
My partner Kristen and I talked a lot about how we wanted to do things – basically, we wanted to create a small bubble of awesomeness for ourselves where we worked with easy going couples who made their wedding about them and who they were and didn’t just conform to having a ceremony the same as everyone else because that is what they thought a wedding should be. We also wanted to be honest and transparent with everyone that we dealt with, share information and ideas with other photographers and most importantly, we wanted to be representative of all people, not just the attractive white heterosexual people that all of the big wedding blogs and magazines would have you believe are the only people who ever get married (not that we’d ever begrudge those people either because like us, they were born into their skin). Basically, we wanted to leave the industry and also society in a better place than when we entered it and we wanted our personal beliefs of an inclusive and fair society to drive everything that we did as photographers.
So we went about trying to do that and I must admit, it’s going pretty well. Kristen and I are fortunate enough to run a really successful small business and this monthly column will be all about presenting some different ideas about how to do things. Our path was a simple and honest path and it has led to some wonderful outcomes for the two of us. We get to travel the world, meet lots of amazing and interesting people, run workshops on how to build up ethical and sustainable businesses, have stuff appear on websites and magazines which we believe help redefine the direction of the industry to make it a “nicer” one, and of course, our lives are rich and fulfilled with a sense of love and contentment at our place in the world.
We feel like the direction that we have taken is defined by the very simple concept of being good to people and the world around us. Photographers have so much power to change the world if we all keep in mind things like gender equality, environmental sustainability, social responsibility and an ability to always recognise the needs of the people you photograph for.
Each month I’ll talk about some of the things we do a little differently and why we believe it’s not a bad way to do things. At the crux of it, we reckon that if you put profits second, then great things can happen.
Amber and Ishaan live in London but they grew up in Melbourne. And they have a little soft spot for Lake House in Daylesford, about 100km to the north of Melbourne. When they first met nearly 10 years ago, they were both poor University students. To celebrate their 6 month anniversary, they decided to spoil themselves and visit the beautiful (and somewhat fancy) restaurant at Lake House, still planning to have a reasonably affordable dinner. The maître d’ at the restaurant got to know that they were on a date to celebrate their anniversary and were on a little bit of a budget so decided he was going to make it a really special evening for them by figuring out a way to give them all sorts of fancy food and wine for not much money. What an amazing gesture on his behalf. I guess when you’ve been treated in such a generous way, you’re going to have some pretty special memories of it. I think going back to Lake House for their wedding made perfect sense for Amber and Ishaan.
It was wonderful to see that both of their families were able to keep elements of their cultures within the wedding – Ishaan’s family having a Sangeet and Mehndi the evening before and a Ganesh Puja on the morning of the wedding while Amber’s family were able to have a traditional Chinese Tea Ceremony. And seeing each of the families participating in the others’ ceremony was quite a beautiful thing to see. We do indeed live in a rich and multicultural society.
I think a true testament to how loved people are is the way that their friends and family treat them. People flew in from all corners of the earth to be at their wedding – from far reaching places like the UK, Canada, the Middle East, Malaysia and all over Australia they came. What it showed to me, was that Amber and Ishaan are two people that are very much loved by the people around them.