Detailing Our Reportage Photographic Approach
What is it that sets our reportage style apart from other photography and even
from the ‘classic’ documentary wedding photographer?
THE YORK PLACE APPROACH AS REPORTAGE WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS
What is it that differentiates our unposed, candid reportage style from other wedding photographers?
1. We love colour. Even though black and white is seen as the more classic and perhaps more emotional choice for the documentary or reportage wedding photographer, we find colour brings out a humour and emotive imagery that we truly adore. Black and white of course has its place and can in some circumstances help to make an image even more provocative but we find that colour brings out an energy, light, excitement and truth to a moment that we love to explore.
2. We like to layer our photographs. This means that we try to give a lot of depth to our images and tell a story from background through to foreground often with many elements in between. We wedding photographers (and reportage wedding photographers in particular) often talk about capturing ‘moments’ but at a wedding, surrounded by guests, each moment is experienced differently by many different pairs of eyes. By focussing not just on the obvious central characters but also on the reactions to what is happening, or in some cases the many simultaneous yet individual interactions around us we can tell multiple stories in one single image. We try to lead the viewer through the image from edge to edge and create almost a series of images within one frame.
3. We don’t use flash. Ironically this is actually firmly rooted in the traditional mantra of a reportage wedding photographer but over the years photographers have been reaching more and more for the flash-guns, in part to assist with darker and fast-moving scenarios and in part as an aesthetic choice. For us though to use a flash is to alter the true conditions and to take the subject out of the moment almost as much as if we were to have physically moved them into ‘better’ ambient light. We want to capture the real feel of the wedding day and lighting is hugely important to that, even if most of us don’t necessarily realise the part it’s playing.
4. We communicate through light and shadow. As we’ve established we believe that lighting is very important, but equally as significant is the absence of light. We choose to embrace the darkness and use shadows to help accent the depth of an image and highlight the areas we want the viewer to focus on. By allowing the shadows to fall where they may and then incorporating that into the composition we can create a more dynamic and visually exciting image with far more depth than the flat, even light that the more portrait-orientated or in many cases even the fellow documentary / reportage wedding photographer might seek to find or create.
5. We don’t just focus on the big moments. A wedding day is often defined by those big traditional set pieces – the entrance of the bride, the rings, the first kiss, the cutting of the cake – these are the foundation of the day for the reportage wedding photographer. But whilst these are all of course important photographs for us and any other wedding photographer to capture they are merely the baseline of what we’re looking for. After all, however tasty a loaf you’ve baked it’s what you put between the slices that makes things interesting. We love to get under the skin of a wedding and take what might easily be dismissed as a ‘nothing’ moment and find a ‘hero’ shot within it – taking everyday interactions and finding the personalities behind them. Ansel Adams once said “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” The big moments are there for the taking, but it’s the shots we make that truly excite us.
6. All about the People. Whilst we’re privileged to work in all kinds of incredible settings and with couples who often put so much thought and effort into making their venue spectacular for their guests, for us as photographers where we shoot is almost irrelevant. Whilst we will always photograph the venue and details as part of the record of the day, by focussing primarily on the people in attendance (and that means ALL the people, not just the bride and groom) we try to create photographs that could exist in any space and are equally powerful wherever they are taken. Sometimes venues, locations and decorations can become additional characters of a wedding but, as part of our mandate as reportage wedding photographers, our aim is to use them as a context to or reflection of what the couple and their friends and family did or who they are as people, not as the centrepiece of the wedding. It’s our belief that as a documentary wedding photographer no two weddings should ever look the same in the photographs and by focussing on people and personalities, not venues or poses, we can ensure that in our photography every wedding is completely unique to the couple.
7. It’s about creating a piece of art. One reason why the term Reportage wedding photography is often used in place of the word documentary is that ‘Documentary’ can be a misleading title – if you were to watch a documentary on TV in most cases you’d probably be expecting to simply watch a factual record of someone or something that has happened, whereas watching a movie with carefully directed actors you’d probably expect something a little more imaginative and creative. Whilst in our definition of the documentary wedding photographer role we indeed seek a truthful representation of an event based on real people rather than actors, we also want to capture images that stand out every bit as much as a directed portrait and photographed with just as much flair and creativity. Though we’re lucky enough to be able to call it a full time job, our wedding photography is a creative pursuit, not simply a financial one.
In our spare time we travel the cities of the world pursuing our love of street photography – an environment where, unlike weddings, no-one has asked you to be there and there is absolutely no guideline or timetable as to what’s about to happen. We try to incorporate the lessons we learn from street photography into our wedding work and this has contributed to the layered ‘streety’ style of our work and helped us to focus on the art of what we do and not just on capturing what’s expected of a reportage wedding photographer.
Beyond this though we strive to take photographs that are not just interesting to those directly involved in the wedding or even to those with a general interest in wedding photography; we want our photographs to be exciting and dynamic enough that even a passing stranger could see and connect with the images. We want to be great photographers, not just great wedding photographers and create original, character driven photographs that escape the classic wedding clichés and offer a fresh perspective.
At the end of the day the most important thing to us is that a couple truly live, love and feel every moment of their wedding day without interruption from us and that they come away with a record that truthfully captures the way that special day felt, not just the way it looked. We want them to experience some of the moments they couldn’t on their big day, see all their friends’ little quirks coming out in the pictures and remember the real experiences, not things we asked them to pretend to do. We want to create photographs that are timeless and unique and that challenge us artistically. In wedding photography there’s no right or wrong way to do things, but for us personally documentary / reportage wedding photography is the only way that sets our souls on fire.
So now you understand a little more about our ideas on what the reportage wedding photographer should be focussed on, here are a couple more examples of what we think it should look like. Don’t forget to turn the volume up!
So those are a few of our views on reportage photography. Click the button to find out a little more about Alex & Matt’s approach as documentary wedding videographers!