I was inspired.
I sat down at my computer one day this weekend to drool over the Leica M9 - a rangefinder digital camera that I'm in love with. By drool I mean research. Nerd alert. I was looking for user reviews and pictures taken with the M9 and ended up on Otto Shulze's blog. This guys is incredible. He is a documentary photographer out of New York City but he has documented all over the world and the images are stunning. In one of the first blog posts I read he quoted Henri Cartier-Bresson, a french photographer considered to be the father of modern photojournalism…and the man who has inspired so many of us to spend our lives trying to capture the "decisive moment." I continued to scroll down and I came across an entry discussing fine art and wedding photography. I could tell right away that Shulze was at one time skeptical of the collision of those two terms and I must confess that I have spent way too many hours wondering if I am giving art a bad name by categorizing wedding photography underneath it. Shulze's words gave me some long-awaited clarity on the subject…
"However as I continued reading and thought about it I realized that if art is merely individual expression (and that in its varied forms) of how we see, experience, and the express life and the world around us then certainly wedding photography had the potential to be ‘fine art’. Not that ‘qualifying’ for the term ‘fine art’ in itself means anything. It means nothing! But what I mean is that an artist could walk into that space of a wedding day and proceed to see, feel, experience, and then express their view of that wedding day through the lens. Instead of showing up at the wedding with a list of pre conceived poses and ideas, and simply drop the couple into that ‘mold’, rather as an artist REACT to their unique wedding day as it unfolds like any other day."
His words and the words of so many other artists before him, give us the freedom to create through the lens. That 'mold' he speaks of is the antithesis of all things fine art. Each photo shoot with its unique personality is, in my opinion, a chance to stomp on that mold. I think Otto is right that fine art wedding photography is not one specific thing. It is an approach. A way of recording who people are instead of making them who you want them to be.
I hope you already headed over to his blog to check out his thoughts on the subject but if you haven't you'll miss this incredible quote and then I wouldn't be able to sleep tonight. This is a famous quote from authors Francois Rene Auguste Chateaubriand and Baba Ram:
“A master in the art of living,” said Chateaubriand, “draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play. He simply pursues his vision of excellence, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.” But, explained Baba Ram Dass, “It is important to expect nothing, to take every experience, including the negative ones, as merely steps on the path, and proceed.”
Otto, thanks for the inspiration. Francois and Baba, thanks for the permission to play. Kevin, thanks for frolicking in the field with me.