Time is a theme in every photograph. A photograph freezes time, it preserves it, it even allows us to rewind it. This is why we photograph our most precious life events, so we can hang onto those moments. I recently received a call from a client, Shawn, whose wedding I photographed back in 2012. I could tell by his voice, something was wrong. He told me his wife of less than 3 years was terminally ill and she had two weeks to live. I remember Shawn and Karen’s wedding day very clearly. It was a perfect summer day, hot, blue sky and great people. It was a second marriage, they were kind, affectionate and so happy. It was a wedding for all the right reasons, celebrating family and life. Shawn told me that during the last days of Karen’s life they spent time looking through their wedding album and reliving that day. It breaks my heart to think of Karen’s death and Shawn’s sadness.
Recently, I learned of the sudden and unexpected death of someone special to me, Michael Stone. The first thing I wanted to do was find a picture of him. I just wanted to see him again. The photo I had was from his youngest son (one of my best friend’s) wedding in 2006. He is smiling, next to his wonderful wife, so strong, vibrant and proud. The photo transports me back to this moment. I can smell the grass, I can hear the applause. It feels good to see Michael in this photo...and sad.
I have taken many photographs of people who are no longer alive and all of those photos I’ve taken at weddings.
At many times I find myself at odds with the wedding industry. I believe the industry can be an envy machine that drives up perceived needs for often very unnecessary things. The wedding industry can be shameless in it’s manipulation: You’ve waited your whole life for this day. That phrase makes me want to scream, because the essence of it is true: your wedding day (as a couple) only happens once. It is only once in your life that you will plan an entire day to celebrate with the people most important to you. Your details, your venue, etc., although nice, trust me I love to photograph them, just pale in comparison to what is really important: the people you chose to spend this day with.
You may have heard the cynical phrase: weddings aren’t about the couple getting married. Well, yes of course they are, but they are also about time, friendship and family for everyone who attends. Weddings are about our mortality and about setting the intention for how we wish to live our life. Weddings are beautiful when we remember what they are about: life.
The Buddhists say we are all just one breath away from death. I am so grateful for the life I am living and the time I get to freeze for people to rewind and visit those they love even after they pass.