Welcome to Changing the Game, a Modern Rebel blog series where we talk with professionals in the wedding industry who are using their platform to diversify the industry’s image, give back to their community, and challenge the idea of what a wedding “should” be.
What brought you into the wedding industry?
I arrived at the wedding industry through my own non-traditional wedding experience. My husband and I got engaged in August 2011, and married in March 2012. We knew we wanted our wedding to be a celebration of our actual commitment to each other, rather than some dull, glassy-eyed, sugar-frosted version. We wanted our community to get together and truly enjoy themselves, and we wanted to enjoy ourselves, too. It’s frustrating to consider how radical this felt in 2011/2012— and that to a certain extent, it still feels radical today! We ended up buying out a restaurant in Manhattan for a Saturday brunch ceremony + reception, and then having an after party that night at a cute bar in Park Slope.
My experience that day with our photographer was totally life-changing. I did not anticipate how much this stranger would be involved in such an intimate, wild, gut wrenching, fantastic, monumental day of my life. He seemed to be able to pop up and be present whenever we needed him, and then to disappear into the ether otherwise, never once disrupting my discrete experience of the day, which was super important to me. When we got back our photos, I was so immensely grateful to him for both the experience of working with him on the day, as well as the amazing moments he captured for us. Six years later, I look at those images and love that I am able to see my husband and I and our community suspended in that day; I marvel at the ways in which new friendships formed among our friends, and I get emotional seeing loved ones who are no longer with us. Photographs can really be a form of emotional time travel, and my experience with my own wedding got me thinking that I could do for other couples what my photographer did for us. About a year later, I began working as a second photographer and then in 2014, City Love Photography was born.
What is the most rewarding element of your work?
Two aspects come to mind: being able to support my clients and their decisions around their wedding during the planning process, and then my art becoming the visual preservation of their day.
I like to be really collaborative and communicative with my couples in the time leading up to their weddings, and nothing makes me happier than being asked “What do you think about [insert tradition/bullshit cost/thing that they don’t really want but someone has told them they need]?” and getting to tell them “You know, you don’t have to do that if you don’t want to.” Wedding planning is complete overload in so. many. ways. I really find it rewarding to provide for my couples that space to consider, “Hey, do we actually need or want to do X? Can we nix it and make our experience a lot happier?” Everybody needs support, and planning can get so stressful with all of the different voices and priorities involved, and I always want my couples to know that I’m there for them as someone who has a lot of experience with weddings (including my own!) and that delicate balancing act of crafting such an emotional event that has so many expectations bound up with it.
And then of course, there’s the photos themselves. I love that I don’t really get to know the impact my art will have on my clients’ and their community: today, tomorrow, in the future. My presence and attention and ability to create a photograph from one moment on a September afternoon in Brooklyn might translate in 45 years to be a child’s favorite memory of their grandparents that they treasure and remember their whole lives. My mind is consistently blown by that, and I keep that thought with me at every wedding: the photos become the memories, not just for the couple, but for everyone who sees the images, including people who don’t even exist yet! Absolutely awe-inspiring, totally humbling, and one of my absolute favorite and most rewarding elements of my work.
Who inspires you in the industry?
Wedding industry people in the feminist/inclusive space are the best people: empathic, attentive, outspoken, loving. My colleagues consistently inspire me with their drive to make an impact in the lives of their clients, as well as the industry and world as a whole. This of course includes the absolutely awesome + game-changing work that you all do here at Modern Rebel; as well as so many others, including Catalyst Wedding Co. and Dancing with Her.
What do you think is still missing from the industry?
I want our feminist/inclusive space of the wedding industry to be louder. I want our message of authenticity + representation to be amplified. I want people who get engaged in the future to be excited to plan their weddings because instead of thinking about the wedding industry as an overwhelming, price-gouging, bottom-line-oriented tradition-replicating machine, these couples will view their weddings, the planning process, and the industry itself as being aligned with genuine values, inclusive of every type of person and commitment, and a creative, dare I say, even an enjoyable experience before, during, and after.
What marriage tradition are you sick of?
I love a slick piece of jewelry, and I am not anti-diamond, provided they’re ethically sourced, but for a long time I have been questioning only one person in the couple wearing an engagement ring. This feels like a big tradition we should be examining more deeply.
If you could have dinner with a famous female-identified badass, who would it be?
Virginia Woolf. Her prose and movement of mind are electrifying examples of what females can accomplish and express when they have opportunity to do what they do best.
Alexis Buryk is a photographer based in NYC. If you’d like to get in touch with her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.