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Wedding Photography Today

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Documentary Wedding Photography  A Few Thoughts

I’ve been a photographer for many years now, my practice influenced by my strong admiration for the works of well and lesser  known street,documentary, architectural and landscape photographers whilst also admiring fashion and product photographers . Until I was formally asked to, I hadn’t really paid much thought to wedding photography  : like many, I’d mostly come across very posed photos of couples and groups on the steps of town halls and churches; lovely mementos but obviously not the complete story of the day.

My heart would delight when I stumbled upon rare street wedding photos by the likes of Robert Doisneau,that were in my view, so much more meaningful than formal photos could ever hope to be. But who would want such photos of their big day? The poets of the little and big  moments of daily life ? Dreamers who take little stock in formalities even as they undertake one of society’s most important ceremonies ? Artists maybe ?  Not many people I thought and I was right :for years most couples were content with those few formal or staged photos. Slowly, word did start getting around that there were photographers out there who could with brio, create an intimate , humane and natural photographic account of a wedding, just as they would of any event they were asked to document;slowly because in the pre-web age, you couldn’t browse  thousands of portfolios from the comfort of your home and innovative work wasn’t delivered to your social media accounts on a daily basis:to see something different, you had to go look for it or stumble upon it or invent it. Nevertheless, word did get around, interest grew fuelling demand to the point that today, the exception is now the norm:every couple wants there to be at least an element of a documentary photography in their wedding album.

Photo of cover of the book Le Mariage of Paul and Odette by Robert Doisneau

Robert Doisneau, Le Mariage de Paul et Odette. You can still find copies for sale.

More than any technological revolution, it is the spirit of documentary approach that has forever changed the way photographers and clients alike approach wedding photography. Clearly not every wedding photographer out there is a documentary photographer heart and soul, but every photographer out there is influenced by the works of exceptional documentary wedding photographers that have changed the game forever.

The photos below illustrate nicely that shift, not irreconcilable by the way, between a non documentary and a documentary approach to wedding photography, one “staged” photo in the Gardens of Doxford Hall and another, of the same wedding, of  the Best Man’s speech  coming to a close.

Doxford Hall husband wife posing in the garden

Doxford Hall Gardens, a classic posed photograph.

Doxford Hall Best Man's Speech

Doxford Hall, the best man’s speech: capturing the moment.