Friday, 1 June 2012

So just what is reportage wedding photography?!

And, is there a place for documentary art in wedding photography?

Storytelling, documentary, photo-journalistic, reportage, candid, unobtrusive, fly-on-the-wall.....

This week has seen a bit of a furore over an image chosen by Emma Case, of a flight of stairs which she felt was representative of her style of wedding photography.  It depicts a very ordinary flight of stairs with the sort of carpet you only ever find in old folks' homes.  The idea behind the photo was that the staircase and carpet had seen a lot of family life over the years and should therefore be included in the wedding day photos.  The resulting discussions were actually pretty interesting and really got me thinking about what it is to be a documentary photographer of weddings.  After seeing the full series of images which accompany the stair carpet image, I kind of understood what Case had been trying to achieve.  In my very humble opinion though, it was an odd image to choose as a stand-alone example.

Story-telling wedding photography by Jamie Emerson
The last few days have had me firing up ancient neural pathways to try and remember where I've seen similar work before and it finally came to me this morning.  Way back in 2005, I made a trip through to the Baltic Mill in Gateshead to see Julian Germain's exhibition which concerned itself with an old chap called Charlie and the minutiae of his life.  

Like Case's photos, there were lots of images which when viewed alone would make little sense, but when seen as a body of work, began telling a story.  There are loads of similar photographic documentaries out there - one of my tutors at uni did this sort of thing very well; Marjolaine Ryley, documentary photographer.

After revisiting some of this true documentary photography, I have to say that really, it's an entirely different genre and for me, has no place in the world of wedding photography.  Yes, it's all about memories, but trying to imagine what another person's experience of a place might be, and then imposing ones' own interpretation on it seems a little odd.  We, as documentary wedding photographers, are there to document the forming of new memories, not get all slushy about what may or may not have gone before, or pretend to understand every detail of our clients' past lives.  For all we know, that stair carpet might only be thought of as an embarrassing eyesore which will be replaced as soon as the money becomes available...

1 comment:

Emma Case Photography said...

But I had a very close relationship with the Bride and knew that, like me, she would see what I saw.. that's exactly why she booked me.. we'd actually talked about the carpet and the importance of her getting ready in the house.. to be honest.. I kind of feel that it shouldn't matter whether it works as a stand alone image for anyone else but the couple. I wasn't asked for an image that I thought represented wedding photography.. I was asked for an image I liked.. and I really do like this image..