Why I do what I do.
Often, when meeting with new or prospective clients, they’ll ask me – “Why did you decide to be a wedding photographer?”
I didn’t wake up one morning and decide that I wanted to photograph weddings. In fact, the thought never really crossed my mind.
When I was a kid I spent a lot of weekends and a lot of my time in the summer at my grandparents house. My uncle, Paul, an amazing photographer, was there much of the time. Around the time I was 8 or 9 years old he handed me a Nikon FM, a Sunpack flash, a bag full of lenses, a stack of photography books, and a few dozen rolls of film. He taught me. I read the books from cover to cover more times than I could count. He gave me assignments, showed me to understand Depth of Field, F-stops, metering, types of film, ISO, you name it – he taught me. Every single thing about that camera was completely manual. It took time, patience, and lots of messing up to learn it. I spent hours upon hours photographing my grandparents yard, fences, trees, barns before moving on to neighborhood kids, taking my camera to school, then clients and, eventually, my own kids… I loved it, soaked it up, cherished every moment I spent with a camera in my hands. I feel forever grateful and fortunate to have had such an amazing teacher at such a young age.
The day that I photographed my first wedding it was because, tragically, the person who was supposed to do it died. I was the backup plan. I took a crash course in wedding photography from my other uncle, Benny, who’d spent many years photographing weddings. I borrowed a backup camera, bought about 30 rolls of film and more batteries than I could count, and in I dove…
I fell in love with it. I studied under other photographers for quite a long time. Some were amazing artists, others were more the “crank it out to get a paycheck” type. I fell in love with the chaos, the emotion, the whirlwind. I fell in love with being able to capture the way people felt instead of just the way that they looked. I fell in love with the people, all of the amazingly wonderful incredible people. I fell in love with the excitement, the rush of picking up my film from the lab.
I didn’t become a wedding photographer intentionally but I stayed one because I love it. Every couple I’ve met, every family I’ve had in front of my lens has taught me something, made me feel something amazing, incredible, and different. Photographing weddings, capturing that love, has given me an incredible gift. I have the most amazing memories and could tell the most wonderful love stories for hours on end. I’ve seen the pain the sadness and the loss of loved ones who couldn’t be there. I’ve seen silent tears roll down the cheeks of brides and grooms who were so overcome with happiness and joy that they couldn’t contain it. I’ve seen families come together and celebrate life, love, happiness. I’ve later photographed babies, so many babies, that were born from these most beautiful relationships. I’ve learned more about people and relationships than I ever imagined.
In a small way I get to live your love story. I get to be a part of your family. I get to experience the joy of your new baby. I get to document your life as your family grows. I get to live a little piece of your life. I get to see things that even your closest friends may never get to see, that most people don’t notice.
Sometimes, as I sit here in my messy house, in the middle of another 80 hour work week, knee deep in paperwork, dozens and dozens of blog posts behind, with 200 things on my to do list with no end to it in sight – I am overwhelmed. Running your own business, being responsible for everything from marketing to editing is an overwhelmingly complex beast that can definitely take its toll on you.
I may never have a to-do list with nothing on it. I may never have a perfectly clean house. I know I’ll never be rich and I don’t want to be famous. I may spend most of every off-season worrying about being able to pay school tuition for my kids. But I’ll always have this passion, this fire, the memories in my head and my heart of the most wonderful moments of your lives and no amount of paperwork can steal that from me. I don’t use film anymore but I stay up until 4 or 5am after most weddings downloading the images, backing them up (twice), and when I go through them I still have that rush, that amazing feeling when I look through those photos and see that I was able to capture how you felt, how your mother felt, the tear on your fathers cheek. I get the most amazing emails, thank-you cards, even text messages from clients on their anniversary. I get to see the look on your face when you hold your wedding album in your hands for the first time and flip through the pages. Those make every bit of website design, every quarterly sales tax report, every bit of paperwork worth it. Those moments are the reason that I do what I do and the reason that I wouldn’t trade my job for any other job in the world.
The photos in this post are of me, my childhood, how I spent my summers… I can feel a breeze blowing through the tall grass in the field, the texture of the wood on the fence, I can remember picking up walnuts off the ground for hours and I can almost smell their woody, musky smell, I can hear my Grandaddy laughing and calling me “Mellie”. Thanks to my Uncle Paul for documenting my life that day – so I can take a peek at it sometimes and not just remember, but feel it again, and again, and again.
What a thought invoking post Melody! I really enjoyed reading it, and getting to know you a little better!!!
I got goosebumps reading this post Melody! This is what makes you different from the run-of-the-mill photographer. This is why the professional photographer will prevail through the influx of “I’ve got a nice dslr camera, I can shoot a wedding!” mentality. Thanks so much for sharing.
You should also be a writer. Your words and photos always bring tears to my eyes goosebumps on my skin. You are absolutely amazing and I’m so glad I found you!