Category Archives: Personal

I often get the question if I have a favourite wedding and the honest answer is I don’t. Explaining why is always going to sound like a blurb, but it almost always comes down to how well I’ve connected with the couple, the families and the rest of the people attending. Some of the couples I’ve shot have become friends for life, others I have a deep connection with even though we rarely talk. But the connection is there, what we experienced will always link us together.

One of those couples are Rachel and Jeff.

I shot their wedding in August 2011 and everything about it was amazing. Their way of letting me into their lives, showing me who they are with all the vulnerability that involves will forever be an inspiration to me, both in my work, but also in life. The portrait of them together between those trees with the seagull above them is still the favourite portrait I’ve ever captured. After I sent the image to Rachel, she sent me this message back.

Jonas,

I want you to picture Jeff and I squeezed in to our round chair, we don’t really fit and our dogs have been asleep at our feet for hours. It is very chilly here and the leaves are falling but we are reluctant to put on our heat yet. I say to Jeff, “let’s check your unemployed wife’s email, maybe we are about to get wealthy.” When I saw “it’s up” I stopped breathing. You reminded me that all that matters  is squeezed in that chair next to me.

This is the moment I have been craving and dreading all at the same time. It feels like a final celebration in a way to me. Like our last chance for you, nirav and us to take what we created together, between all of our hearts, and say to the world this is love, this is what’s important, this is the power of photography.

I am sitting here with this feeling inside that I felt before. I felt it when we sent that email off into thin air hoping to create something with you. I felt this when Jeff and I woke up in the middle of the night on our honeymoon in our little cabin (Jeff would be the first to tell you if you didn’t already have your ticket back to Australia I would have brought you on our honeymoon too) but picture us there and we are on an island in the middle of the ocean in the rain in a little cabin and i press my iphone on and it reloads your website and “One” is there. Jeff and I held each other and cried and cried and cried. You have healed parts of me. If that is not the measure of your success, I don’t know what is.

I love you.

 

Over the last few years it’s like I’ve been overwhelmed by all the channels out there. All require a different voice, some louder and to the point, others more quiet. And none of them seem to fit how I think, how I write.

And I’ve been afraid to use this space for my thoughts. This is where i do business after all. But I’ve come to realise I need to invite you in again.

We have nothing but this moment, and by sharing where I am, how I feel in this instant, maybe we’ll connect somehow.

I’m sitting in the house of my friends Si and Sophie in Auckland, New Zealand, they’ve invited us in to do my workshop here tomorrow. Marissa Nadler is playing in the background, I’m sipping a cup of coffee and enjoying a quiet moment of really feeling present. I haven’t had a lot of that recently, My thoughts have either been in the past or the future, never really appreciating where I am. We’re moving to Byron Bay in a few months and I have a crazy year of travel ahead of me yet again and I’ve honestly been a little afraid of what’s to come.

But with the music playing and the coffee pumping in my veins, I finally land.

I can do this.

We can do this.

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moment

I woke up at 3.43am and couldn’t go back to sleep. In the deep of the night I felt I had to write something. The last time this happened I wrote a manifesto that had nothing to do with mason jars. The question on my mind this time is different.

Why do I do this?

I’ve thought about it a lot lately, going through some personal things myself, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and re-evaluating.

Why do I do this?

Why do I spend my time traveling the world shooting weddings for people I hardly know? Why do I spend time documenting other people’s stories? What kind of stories are important to me? Deep down I know, but sometimes it’s hard to express. But then this morning when I couldn’t sleep I read a post on a wedding photography group on facebook. The question was about what we wedding photographers find the most boring to shoot. Someone argued for the family formals, other about capturing the cocktail hour, but what surprised me the most was that most photographers answered they think the speeches are the most boring part of the day.

I couldn’t disagree more.

I love capturing the speeches.

And I realised it’s part of why I do this.

During the speeches everyone is equal, that’s when I see the vulnerability and commonality. It doesn’t matter whether I’m shooting lawyers or hairdressers, celebrities or carpenters, during the speeches I see the real people shine through the facades they spend years to build up. An investment banker from Hong Kong becomes a son chasing through the backyard at home, a surgeon becomes a childhood friend to the butcher’s boy. There and then they all become the same, the same blood, the same tears. And I love capturing that.

We’re all human.

And those are the stories I have to tell. I spend my time trying to pry my way in to people’s stories, I observe and I capture what they want me to see and sometimes when I get lucky, things they didn’t want me to see.

The vulnerability of being human.

A groom with tribal tattoos having to sit down, holding on to the ground, ugly crying when his girl is walking down the aisle. A bride with three diplomas and experience from the most cutthroat law firms on Manhattan tearing up when her father kisses her mother on the dance floor. Another bride in a perfect dress looking out the window on the happiest day of her life, for a moment I see the sorrow from not being able to share it with her twin brother who passed away at birth.

The vulnerability of being human.

And that’s why I keep doing this. Some of the locations I get to travel to are amazing, but I’ve seen magic happen in the most boring places. In community halls with horrible lighting I have seen the things that bring us all together. I see the fear mongers and conservatives of the world argue for higher walls and larger gaps between people and I wish they could come with me for a year. For the cop I overheard saying how he hates jews to come with me to experience a hora at a Jewish wedding. For the anarchist cursing the wealthy to come with me and hear the speeches of people with power. To hear that the person she hates grew up climbing trees and fishing in ponds just like her. That he cries just like her when his father says he loves him.

The vulnerability of being human.

I am convinced we need to share more, not less. And the more we share, the more we’ll realise we’re all the same. You can’t hate your neighbour when you’ve shared a meal with him, when you’ve seen he hesitates to ask someone to dance the same way you do.

And that’s why I keep doing this.

Because we’re all human.

The Wind is ghosting around the house tonight
and as I lean against the door of sleep
I begin to think about the first person to dream,
how quiet he must have seemed the next morning

as the others stood around the fire
draped in the skins of animals
talking to each other only in vowels,
for this was long before the invention of consonants.

He might have gone off by himself to sit
on a rock and look into the mist of a lake
as he tried to tell himself what had happened,
how he had gone somewhere without going,

how he had put his arms around the neck
of a beast that the others could touch
only after they had killed it with stones,
how he felt its breath on his bare neck.

Then again, the first dream could have come
to a woman, though she would behave,
I suppose, much the same way,
moving off by herself to be alone near water,

except that the curve of her young shoulders
and the tilt of her downcast head
would make her appear to be terribly alone,
and if you were there to notice this,

you might have gone down as the first person
to ever fall in love with the sadness of another.

Billy Collins