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?
The wedding industry found me! I have a friend who was very laid back about her wedding and didn't have a photographer. I asked her if I could just document her day with my camera and she said yes! Then about a year later I offered to do engagement photos for another friend and she then hired me to do her wedding in Kandern, Germany. It was such a thrill to be asked! From there I posted the photos online and started booking gigs through social media and various connections.
What is the most rewarding element of your work?
Capturing authentic wedding moments, like the look on my clients' faces when they see each other for the first time, or an embrace between mother and bride, feels the most rewarding. My goal is to really dig into the vibe of the day and to document what was truly going on behind the scenes, or with the wedding couple, etc. At the end of the day I want my clients to look at their photos and feel what they were feeling the day of their wedding.
What challenges do you face in the industry?
I was hesitant to get into the industry because it felt like I would have to compromise on my aesthetic. So much of wedding photography feels the same: bright, airy, white, clean, almost like stock photography with different faces pasted onto the happy couple. I am sooo not about that. I tell my clients up front that they're signing up for some truly unique, different, honest photography that will not look like anyone else's wedding photos. I like to experiment, I like to follow my gut. I like soft focuses and grainy, film-inspired looks. And at the end of the day, I'm following my intuition on how to best represent the nature of my clients' day and also who they are as they step into the next chapter of their lives together.
What changes do you want to see in the wedding industry?
I want to see more couples follow their own style guide. There's so much pressure that your wedding should look a certain way. It's exhausting! It gives me visual fatigue to see so many cookie-cutter weddings because we think that's how it's "supposed" to be. I want to see more folks get quiet with themselves and listen to their own voices. In life I think it's so important to honor the shadow and the light. With weddings it often feels like there is no room for shadow, everything must be LIGHT and PERFECT. It's too much pressure! You're marriage will not be all light and perfection, so let your wedding have some shadow and mystery. That's truly where the magic happens.
What do you feel you bring to the industry that wasn't there when you started?
Visually, I bring a funky, grainy, real vibe that I wasn't seeing much of in the industry. I believe in finding perfection in the flaws.
I like to think that I have the power to help the happy couple carve out some moments alone and also be a point of contact and a resource for both people in the couple. There's a big difference from your best friend rushing to you on your wedding day asking you how you feel versus an outsider, a member of the hired help for the day, genuinely, softly, asking you how you're doing, for real. You can tell the outsider that you're stressed or that you're sad that your dad isn't here whereas you might not be able to tell your best friend because the expectation is that you're going to have the highest high all day long and anything else is a real bummer. But that's just not reality, even on your wedding day. We are complex humans who can hold all the joy and all the grief in our hearts at the same time.
What do you think is still missing from the industry?
More downtime for the couple! It's so much rushing around and so much activity! I am one of the rare people on a wedding day that has the couple alone for their photos. I often will turn to them and say, "hey, take a moment. I'm going to leave you alone for 15 minutes. Get your bearings. Breathe. Forget about what's next, just be in the moment right now so that you can remember it for the rest of your lives".
What marriage tradition are you sick of?
The removing of garter belts with one's teeth in a public display of.... sex? Affection? *shivers at the thought*
What inspires you in the industry?
So many things! I'm incredibly inspired by couples who choose to support hyper-local businesses. I'm inspired by couples who challenge gender norms and relationship norms. I love a good, authentic, modern day love story and meeting couples who work at their relationships and aren't afraid to get a little messy, those are the love stories that give me hope for real, vulnerable, honest photography.
Are you using your platform to give back or impact a larger community?
If I could only shoot same-sex/gender non-conforming couples, I would be thrilled. Sadly, I would also be broke forever because we just don't make up that much of the marrying population. However, in shooting with gender non-conforming folks and plastering them up all over my social media, I feel like I'm doing my small part to normalize queerness. My overarching goal is for people to look at my photos and see a personality, a feeling, the humanity in the subject so that it may act as a mirror back to themselves. I want my subject to feel seen and heard and well-represented, but I also want their images to be a beacon of light for society to look upon and recognize their shared humanity.
Who is your role model?
This is a question we ask children a lot and my answer was always Abraham Lincoln because he was honest and he helped free the slaves (in my very simple elementary school-aged mind, it was as simple as that.)
Ask me now and it takes me a long time to answer. My role models are living friends of mine. I have a handful of womxn and non-binary friends that are living such deeply authentic, spiritual lives and serve as a constant source of inspiration to me.
My friend, Maria Philips is a metalsmith, artist, and a mom in Seattle (we met because I was her nanny for a number of years starting when I was 18 years old) and she showed me that it's possible to be a creative in the "real world" and also to have children and to maintain friendships with younger people. She asks a lot of questions and I find it refreshing that someone in her late 40's/early 50's would take interest in me and also ask my opinion on world/personal topics.
Another soul-friend, Panda Landa, is a free-spirit artist who has lived all over the country and currently resides in Joshua Tree. They taught me that it's okay to feel all my feelings, to make room for myself and by doing so I would be creating room for others. They taught me that I should trust my intuition and my ability to tap into the deeper current that runs underneath and between and around all of us.
These two are truly constant sources of love and spirituality and serve as a reminder to get quiet, listen to my voice, listen to people around me, be present, and hold space for everyone I interact with, especially those I create art with.
What is a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career?
The best is yet to come. This is all still relatively new to me and makes my head spin to even think about all of the glorious people I've worked with thus far. I'd have to say my favorite wedding I've shot so far was for a couple that got married at the Brooklyn (Borough Hall) courthouse with just their immediate families and me. It was halfway between an elopement and a small, intimate wedding. I felt so honored to be there and to chat with their families and to chat with the bride and groom and share advice (only because I was asked!) on what the first year of marriage might bring. It felt like I was in on a secret, a really big, really special secret for them and their new step in life together.