Many photographers focus only on the happy moments of a wedding day: the smiles, the laughter, all the things we expect when we hear the word "wedding".
But as a documentary wedding storyteller, I'm interested in capturing the full range of emotion beyond just the "happy": what about nervousness, melancholy, poignant moments, or even reverent silence?
In the photo above, no one is smiling. No one is doing anything for the benefit of the camera; indeed, this seems to be one of those rare and precious images where the photographer (ie: me) "disappears". We can almost imagine that this family doesn't even know they are being photographed.
When you look at this image, you're not 100% sure what the groom is feeling, nor what his parents are feeling. Your eyes move around the photograph again and again, studying the subjects' expressions for clues: the groom's relaxed posture belies the nervousness in his downcast gaze. Maybe he's overwhelmed by the big day ahead? Maybe he's mentally rehearsing his vows, or wondering what the bride's dress will look like.
Our eyes move across the frame to his father, who is looking at his son with...empathy? Remembering his own wedding day? We're not sure.
And mom: she's looking out the window. is the contemplating how her life will change now that her son will have a family of his own, a home outside of the house she raised him in? Or maybe she's just watching the sky for errant drops of rain.
This photograph has staying power; a legacy.
The more you look at it, the less you know for certain. Most importantly, when the groom and his parents look at this image, they will remember a real moment, and recall their inner thoughts and feelings on the morning of the wedding day.
What they WON'T remember is some goofy gimmick that the photographer made them do, like standing together giving a thumbs-up, or shaking hands like they are at a business meeting, or any other staged artifice.
Lastly, consider the composition:
Each person has their own "place" in this photograph: dad and mom are in little "boxes" of sort, each feeling something different, apart from but still connected to their son. And look at the beautiful fall off of light on the groom's face, and behind him on the wall.