Saying “I do” might be a traditional rite of passage, but Tara and Travis’s wedding was anything but. Held amid the vast nothingness of sandscapes at Burning Man, my fellow photographer Tara Arrowood said an emphatic “I do” to her cowboy, Travis Pynn. And I was there to capture it all – their joining of hands under the 40-feet-tall Bliss Dance, a 7,000-pound translucent steel sculpture of a meshed-skin female dancer; the colorful guests clad in a mix of bohemian, hippy and cowboy chic outfits. Jonathan and Linnae Asiel’s inventive artistry created an edgy yet consummate reception crafted with blossoming succulents of dark and pale colors, old-world snuff bottles, ragged ropes with an air of European sensuality meshed with cowboy punk.
As a Burning Man veteran and a photographer, I had a great time documenting the desert celebration. Every shot was bursting with eclectic details and a depth of emotions enhanced by the vintage/retro theme. Burning Man is all about living life the way you want to and affirming your identity through art, expression and authenticity, and I couldn’t think of a better way for two dynamic spirits such as Tara and Travis to begin their lifelong journey together than on the playa with the citizens of Black Rock City as their witnesses. Tara and Travis, thank you for inviting me to be a crucial part of your love. I am honored to share my images of their extraordinary celebration here and in the pages of Today’s Bride.
This might seem a little off-topic, but did you know there are 39 trillion gallons of water in Lake Tahoe? That’s enough water to soak the entire state of California to a depth of 14.5 inches. I found out about this fun little fact through Tahoe Unveiled, a wonderful online resource for brides and grooms who want to have a dreamy wedding around the beautiful Lake Tahoe. I’m so fortunate to be one of few vendors for the blog and regularly provide unique tips to brides. Here, I give a few pointers on what you can do to ensure great wedding photographs. Thanks to the sweet Stephanie Anderson for calling me “Photographer Extraordinaire”!
I just had to share the delicious Real Weddings spread in the Special 2011 issue of Destination Weddings & Honeymoons with my brides. Six pages of gorgeous snapshots of Fun-Loving Friends letting loose, sweethearts sharing a loving kiss in Magical Moments, creative reception themes in Stunning Soirees, delectable yet artistic designer Couture Cakes on real wedding days. Of course, my favorite has to be the Fabulous Flowers, because it features my photography! Hint: There’s a touch of fruity!
When I first forayed into wedding photography, one name kept popping up over and over again in industry circles. Grace Ormonde. The exotic name conjured up the image of a glamorous filmstar of yonder such as Hedy Lamarr or Marlene Dietrich, and although I knew that Grace Ormonde Wedding Style is one of the top wedding magazines worldwide, I didn’t realize at the time that Grace Ormonde is a real person!
Earlier in my career, as a fresh face in the already crowded industry, I knew I had to learn the ropes, the ins and outs, and get my work to the right people. Being selected for publication by Grace Ormonde, Editor-in-Chief of Wedding Style magazine, was a dream come true for me. I photographed an engagement session in New York in the style of the 1940s and the final product was amazing. So I sent a package of the engagement session prints to Grace and waited eagerly for a reply. Not only did I get a reply, I was blown away when I heard that my images inspired a special feature on engagement sessions. That first piece of success led to even more of my work being published in the magazine over the years.
Last year, after countless faceless exchanges with Grace, I finally put a face – and a handshake – to the name. For those who have never met her, you might think someone of her stature and position might be a diva. In an earlier blogpost, I affirmed that Grace Ormonde is not a diva. In fact, she is the complete opposite – she is truly kind, engaging, down-to-earth and sincere. No airs.
I’ve been so fortunate to have Grace as a supporter of my work. Case in point: her recent publication of my wonderful story of my generous gift (an exquisite Vera Wang gown) from client Alyssa Fanelli-Benza as well as countless selections in WeddingStylemagazine.com‘s Inspirational Galleries.
Thank you, my friend. I thank you personally for contributing to the success of my studio and the recognition of my work.
Read my wonderful story of how I received a Vera Wang gown from a gracious and generous client here or in the text below.
Many of you may know Catherine Hall: the New York transplant photographer now living in San Francisco, but most of you don’t know what she hanging in her closet.
This self-proclaimed geek, whom I consider to have a very endearing personality and incredible eye, first came to my attention in 2007 when she submitted an engagement shoot evocative of the 1940s that was so compelling it inspired a story in the 2008 issue of Wedding Style New England. Over time she has sent me countless submissions that have resulted in miscellaneous picks of my favorite images in random nooks of the magazine, as well as selections featured in our inspiration galleries (which we are in the process of launching new sections daily).
Most recently, after meeting Catherine in person at WPPI last year, she sent me an oversized package complete with 11×13 prints (yes, real hard copy photos) and a letter that made me want to share her story about Manhattan bride Alyssa Fanelli and her Vera Wang wedding gown.
And here is Catherine’s story:
Alyssa is a bright-eyed Italian with effortless elegance and formidable intelligence. She planned a sumptuous outdoor ceremony in Yountville, located in California’s wine country–a town so quaint there’s not even a gas sation. I attended Alyssa throughout the morning of her wedding day, capturing images in the dressing chamber of Groezinger Estate. Then, the moment arrived that the bride made her final preparations to walk down the aisle.
I was right beside her, offering encouraging words and gushing about just how breathtaking she was in her Vera Wang wedding gown. Just as Alyssa was about to process toward Brett–her handsome groom, who similarly works on Wall Street–she turned to me and smiled, “The wedding gown, it’s yours. I want you to have it after today.”
While Alyssa’s generous impulse was lovely, I knew to take it with a grain of salt–any bride on her wedding day is in a flurry of emotions. The following Monday, we spoke to one another by phone, recapping highlights from her celebration. “I still want you to have my wedding gown,” she said, going on to explain that she considers her gown fine art and has absolutely no interest in storing it in the recesses of her closet for the next 20 years.
“I’ll have to get back to you,” I said. After all, I’m not even engaged! Her generosity was almost too much, but after sleeping on the offer, I realized I would be crazy not to accept.
Thank you so much Alyssa and Catherine for sharing this story. It epitomizes what our celebration of “love month” is all about and I look forward to the moment when Catherine gets engaged and sends us pictures from her wedding in this gorgeous gown. xoxo
It has been some time since my trip to Appalachia, but I have always appreciated how it showed me an unseen glimpse of American life. An interview with Paul Hagey of Streetwater, an exploratory crew of photojournalists who travel to exotic locations to capture amazing images, helped me revisit Appalachia and reflect on my interaction with a particular warm family. This pair of father and daughter taught me to never judge a book by its cover. Looking at the photograph again after some time, I can’t help but feel a little pride as an artist and a photographer. Because I tried to do them justice through my lens – and the entire experience taught me a little bit more about the world, the U.S. and more importantly, myself.
Read the full interview at Streetwater. The full text is also included below.
Streetwater interview with me on Jan. 28, 2011 What were the circumstances of that photograph?
I had done a lot of traveling and I felt like I had examined a myriad of countries and cultures, but I hadn’t really explored the U.S. What intrigued me about Appalachia is it feels so different, but at the same time, it’s in our country. I wanted to document an unseen glimpse of American life, and specifically, the struggle and hardship of the Appalachians. I was fortunate enough to receive a Julia Dean scholarship, which gave me the opportunity to explore this part of the United States through photography.
How’d you meet the father and daughter?When I got to Appalachia, I rented a beat-up Subaru and started exploring without much of a plan. The house was so eclectic and unique that I told myself, ‘I have to go in there and meet these people.’ So I got out of my car, walked up to the front porch and knocked on the door. I’m so grateful that the father and his daughter trusted me enough to let me into the house and photograph them. When I was leaving, the daughter told me, “I want you to have my stuffed animal.” It wasn’t like she had a lot, so I was really thankful for the gesture. The house itself was a physical display of their hardship.
Any cool aspects of the scene or experience?What really interested me about Appalachia were the opportunities for capturing the fullness of each character. There has been intense media obsession over Appalachia and the people here were not always portrayed in a positive light. So it was particularly challenging to get them to warm up and trust me to do them justice. Naturally, as they have been depicted as outcasts or as different from mainstream America, they were a little skeptical. However, we got to talking and I found that they were just genuine, normal folks who are trying to get by with everyday life — struggles, problems, happiness, boredom — just like the rest of us. And they were so nice and warm to me when they saw I was genuinely interested! As an artist, I learned how important intention was because you can’t really get anything authentic if your subject doesn’t trust you. You have to be culturally sensitive and try to break down those trust barriers.
Anything else you care to add…Don’t judge a book by its cover! Most of the shots I’ve loved and treasured have started with an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach, like before I walked up to the door of the Appalachian house. It was uncomfortable. When you are in the vicinity of the house, you can be totally overwhelmed by the crowdedness of the place. There were farm animals everywhere, dogs, ‘Beware’ ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs, and plus, the imposing natural surroundings — all of a sudden, you are smothered under a heap of things. Yet, when I sat down and talked to these people, I started to relax as they were so kind and warm even though I’m an outsider; the daughter even gave me her only stuffed toy. Keep pushing your limits and get out of your comfort zone. It definitely broadened my point of view and as an artist, that’s how I improve and keep learning about the world.