When I began applying Visual Story-telling approach towards photographing people outside of traditional media assignments, I was very clear that I had to increasingly play the role of an embedded journalist. Years that I spent in mainstream media had convinced me that being a passive observer in the assignments did not help me to get down to the heart of the matter. I became an embedded documentary photographer in all my long-term projects and focused on bringing out the perspectives of the people whom I documented in my images. It was about establishing trust with the subjects so that they are comfortable with my presence ( and my camera) in their daily lives.
Indian weddings, traditionally have had a photographer who only arrives on the day of the wedding rituals and meets the couple for the first time while shooting their wedding. There was hardly any interaction between the photographer and the people who were being photographed. It was more like being a stranger seated along with a family around the dinner table.
How comfortable would this dinner be? Can this stranger understand the conversations around the table? Would he know the language? Would he know the relationships?
Perhaps, the answer for all the questions above would be towards the negative side.
In my honest opinion, wedding photography at its finest is a documentary photography project. Justice to this project needs an embedded journalist’s approach. One cannot be a complete stranger to the people being documented in images. This is where I took to embedded wedding photography. In every wedding that I have photographed, I’ve strived to capture intimacy in my images. The trust I build with my subjects gives me the freedom, space, and ‘the right,’ to capture their roller coaster emotional ride through wedding rituals.
Internet has been a great boon to wedding photographers to reach out to their market. Today, It is relatively easier for couples to find on Facebook, young wedding photographers offering various packages to suit everybody’s budget. I see a lot of young blood in the industry. Some are full-time into the business while some are doing to earn an extra income. Each photographer has an interesting portfolio.
The way they are positioning themselves to prospective clients is diverse. They call themselves with different titles – Contemporary Indian Wedding Photographer, Fine-art Indian Wedding Photographer, Candid Wedding Photographer and so on. The highlight in most of these portfolios is pre-wedding and post-wedding portraits of the couple. It seems to work well in marketing and acquiring clients. The couples seem to love this idea. Good for the business!
But, is wedding photography all about just portraits? Isn’t wedding an important event in one’s life? Isn’t it about an important day, or an entire week in one’s life? Isn’t there a story to be captured and told? Would a wedding be complete with just pre-wedding and post-wedding portrait shoots, but misses the joy, emotions, tears, laughter and all the celebration that take place during the wedding?
I guess not. I am a story-teller, I believe there is story to be told in every wedding. For me it is about making commitment to the task of documenting the wedding at its finest.
I always marketed myself as an Embedded Wedding Photographer, or as a Documentary photographer doing Embedded Wedding Photography. Amongst my peers, I saw very few photographers calling themselves as Documentary photographers and their work as embedded wedding photography.
So, did it mean I had to re-position my brand with what is popular in market?
No. It is not just a brand, but the complete philosophy behind the work I do. I could not have discarded it. I believed that it would eventually get its due.
And finally, it seems to be seeing the daylight.
PostNoon, a daily afternoon newspaper in Hyderabad city, India, has today (February 18th, 2012) carried a double spread article with photos on Embedded Wedding Photography. It has showcased my work along with the works of two other photographers – Aditya Mopur and Madhu Reddy. The image shared above is the tearsheet of the article. All the images on Page 16 (left side page) of the article are my works.
I am happy to see that ‘Embedded Wedding Photography‘ is doing the rounds in the mainstream media. I hope this will encourage more photographers who are story-tellers in the world of Wedding photography.