Yesterday I shot my first wedding in 159 days, and holy shit it felt good.
I’ve missed what I do so incredibly much. To go from documenting weekly celebrations of love to over five months of introspection, refocusing, quarantining and waiting has absolutely sucked. I thrive on a dance floor, boogie-ing as I make my way through the crowd to catch guests and newlyweds cutting a rug. I live for connecting with others, from initial meetings over margaritas to get to know folks so they’re comfortable before they step in front of my camera, to coaxing out real belly laughs on the wedding day. As I witness a couple’s chosen family surround them with joy, I’m always honored to be temporarily invited into a community built over a lifetime.
But the global pandemic has led every one of my couples since March to postpone their large wedding celebrations: some to next year, some to 2022, some indefinitely. COVID-19 has torn apart everyone’s lives, and left an irreplaceable hole in the lives of tens of thousands of families across the country. I’m very fortunate that the only loss I’ve felt has been a blow to my work and passion.
Last night I got a glimpse of the world embracing a new normal and finding ways to celebrate love and togetherness: photographing a microwedding — from six feet apart. Jennifer and Michael planned an intimate and delightful celebration of their love in Central Park just a few blocks from their home. With five friends and a rabbi attending — and their parents FaceTimed in — they exchanged their vows at the Dene Summer House on the park’s east side.
Before their guests arrived for the microwedding, I had the chance to take some photos of just the Jennifer and Michael around the park. Although we hadn’t had the chance to get to know each other very well before we met up, I was excited that some silly prompts I love to use got the soonly-weds to feel more comfortable in front of the camera almost immediately. I actually find that folks who feel uncomfortable in front of the camera often gravitate to me, and I am always proud when I can get them out of their shell a little bit so they’re genuinely laughing and focused more on each other than my shutter clicking.
In one of their first messages to me they said over the course of their nearly decade together ”we can never take good pictures together,” so I wanted to make sure that they not only felt good during the process, but also had stunning memories to look back on. When I get excited behind the lens I usually just start blurting out excited compliments while I do a little shimmy between shots. Last night I couldn’t help shouting “Goddamn your calves are so incredible!” and “What a JAWLIIIIINE” for the entire Upper East Side to hear. Clients always feel good in the moment, but it’s not until they get to see the images that they know what I’m squeeing about. When I sent over a dozen teasers this morning and got back a text exclaiming “Wow these are amazing!” I felt so great that they got some great photos of them both looking like fucking supermodels.
Jennifer had also emphasized that she wanted candid photos, which is always one of my favorite ways to document a wedding day. By just having these two cuddle like they normally would on the couch at home or walk around the park and get engrossed in each other, I was able to find authentic moments of them expressing love and affection their own way.
Even though managing and documenting chaos is usually one of my favorite parts of wedding photography, I was very impressed that the self-described “thrown together DIY” microwedding went off pretty much without a hitch — well, besides them getting hitched (excuse the horrendous pun, I’ve been stuck inside for months). With the help of their friends, they added some electric candles and string lights to the gazebo to punch up the romantic ambiance. When Zoom failed to work out during the ketubah signing, one of their witnesses doubled as an extra phone tripod so their parents could watch from afar. The best man even helped when a possum tried to scurry off with one of their bags. And after the first kiss, everyone was ready to pop bottles of champagne — and hand sanitizer — before having a little bit of cake to celebrate. Even though there were only five guests, the feeling of community support was as strong as if they had a ballroom packed with scores of family and friends.
During that forced sabbatical, I found myself listening to Joni Mitchell a lot, and not just because that one scene in Love Actually with Emma Thompson listening to “Both Sides, Now” is perfect. I found myself stuck on the ‘Big Yellow Taxi” lyrics “Don’t it always seem to go / That you don’t know what you’ve got / Till its gone.” I realized how I had taken for granted the ability to do what I love for a living, and only when it became physically impossible how passionate I was about it.
All during the microwedding, I kept fluctuating between being extraordinarily present and feeling like I was having an out of body experience. I’d missed so much the creativity, joy and spontaneity of my work that I hadn’t experienced for months. Having that experience again was all consuming, yet I simultaneously found myself consciously trying to remember that sensation and how it makes all my senses feel alive.
Even though I don’t have any large celebrations on my calendar for another 8 months, I am so excited for the handful of microweddings, engagement sessions, headshots, and family portraits I have coming just around the bend. I am so excited to dive back in head-first to photographing people in love again with a huge smile on my face — only it’ll be behind two masks and a face shield. And if you’re planning a little celebration of love, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here!