To me, photography is a process of self discovery. If there is a skill involved, that is the skill of how to reveal our inner self, accept it and then present that through the use of the medium, which in our case are those images that we create. The hardest thing I found is how to maintain a truthful awareness and be honest to ourselves. There is always a continuous battle between who we are and what other people want us to be. The biggest enemy here is the expectation. It makes us fear, vulnerable and feeling distrust, ultimately it destroys creativity.
Unfortunately no one is immune from this. We are living in an era that it rates prosperity above humanity there are way too many people out there trying their best to tell us what we don’t have instead of reminding us what we already possess and make useful of them. Taking advantage of people’s vulnerability has become the most effective selling tool – not surprisingly, wedding industry excel at this. A symbolic celebration of two loving people making their commitment to each other has often being promoted into a glamorous event where the importance of material overrides the truth meaning of the occasion. All of sudden everyone want to become a celebrity of some kinds. For those who do not want to follow, there seems to be no other choices but surrender.
This saddens me.
So I decided I want to get in touch with the real people, and make a truthful record of the celebration of humanity. This has become the driving force behind my approach towards wedding photography. I considered every assignment as an individual documentary project so each of them begins with a research process. When I meet up with the couple we often sit together for hours, we talk about life, work, relationship, food, arts, and politics, anything but photography.
It is through this process of sharing I managed to gain their trust and get invited into their world – and I don’t see there is another way to get so close both physically and emotionally to my subject and that is essentially what attracts me into wedding photography. It is an express train ticket for me to get to the intimate territories of the others where I can witness and investigate the subtle human behavior and their relationship in a very celebrated occasion.
Sometimes just to hear people telling their personal stories can be a very humbling experience.
I once met with a lovely Vietnamese couple. Early on from our conversation we both realise my service will not be suitable for them but we kept on talking and talking for hours simply because I was being drawn into her experience of leaving her home country and coming to Australia being a refugee some 20 years ago.
Also I remember there was a bride to be told me that she was not sure about their relationship and she was hoping the wedding would help them to strengthen it. The wedding was almost being called off but they pressed on. I could still vividly remember the sadness carried on her face at her wedding as if she was questioning the whole reason of the proceeding but it was too late. Almost immediate after the wedding she left the country as she tried to hide from everyone including herself.
There was another couple told me that his parents did not approve of their relationship and they have been so struggled throughout their time being together. As we spoke she even burst into tear right in front of me
I hope you don’t get me wrong here. I do not set out to make people cry or feeling sad, but it is essential for me to have that level of emotional connection with my subject in order to allow me to look beyond the usual wedding glamour and be able touch people’s heart by making a real record of their life.
Nowadays with the help of the advance technology, everyone have a camera in their hand can be a photographer, but not every photographer can be an artist. It takes certain personalities for being one, here to name a few: stubborn, naive, rebellion, arrogant, sensitive, temperamental, idealistic.. etc. No wonder there is an age-old view of there being a fine line between creativity and mental illness. If you think you are one of the unlucky one to have inherited such characters, I want to congratulate you. Because you also have the ability to embrace life with a different dimension in which to create something unique and beautiful for your own and nourish others.
I want to finish off with a quote from Paul Strand:
“If you can find out something about the laws of your own growth and vision as well as those of photography you may be able to relate the two, create an object that has a life of its own, which transcends craftsmanship.
That is a long road, and because it must be your own road nobody can teach it to you or find it for you.
There are no shortcuts, no rules.
Good luck with your journey.
The above text were originally created for a photography seminar held at the University of Sydney in 2009 (Blowfish Diary, NSWAIPP). It was then re-presented at a few other occasions, including one in Chinese at Canon Hong Kong for the fellow wedding photographers (WPHK).