For the last 18 months I’ve been on an transformational journey…and I’m still on it.
A few years back, I noticed that photographing same-sex couples and same-sex weddings sometimes required a different approach than straight weddings. I was intrigued that despite the wealth of continuing education for photographers, there wasn’t a single resource for photographers on working with same-sex couples. So I did some research, looking for the most prominent authority of same-sex weddings and I ended up on the phone with Kathryn Hamm, president of GayWeddings.com. I told her my thoughts and experience and she said, “ If there isn’t a resource, well then, we have to make one.”
Eighteen months later, Kathryn and I have written the that resource… twice. The first book, Capturing Love: The Art of Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography we self-published in Jan. of 2013. Five short months after the book was released, we got a deal with a division of Random House to expand the book, double the content and re-release under the title: The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography (Amphoto Books, 2014).
A photographer becoming an author is a journey in and of itself…but the real journey for me has been as an artist who wants to be the best possible photographer for all of my clients.
My artwork is informed by, and a reaction to, my understanding of the world around me. Well it turns out my understanding of the world has been through a heteronormative filter and I didn’t know that. To remove (or at least diffuse) that filter has been a process of identifying assumptions and conversations about differences. Many times I have found myself outside of my comfort zone and outside of my realm of expertise. But something amazing has come from this hard journey: in trying to better understand same-sex couples so I can better photograph them, I have begun to re-think my process for better serving all couples.
My couples portraits in the past have operated under the assumption of a “binary and uncomplicated sense of identity” (Amy Ryken). This is why, when I photographed same-sex couples I could see something “off” in the photos but I didn’t know what or why. My experience and world-view was suddenly highlighted. Thanks to thought leaders, like Kathryn Hamm, Amy Ryken and others, now I can use this more complex understanding of identity to better understand all of my clients and capture more authentic and meaningful portraits.