I’ve been fortunate to have had a fairly long and successful career in my 30 years as a photographer. Recently I received some news that truly caught me off guard and has prompted me to dust off my blog and update it finally, after more than a year’s hiatus.
I am honored to have been selected as one of the Top Ten Wedding Photographers for 2011 by American Photo Magazine. The article will be in the May/June issue of the magazine which will hit the news stands on Tuesday May 10th. The downloadable version was released on Zinio last weekend, so the news has been slowly trickling out. We were first notified about a month ago and it’s been a hard secret to keep all this time!
I have always been very proud of twice being a member of Pulitzer Prize winning teams during my career as a photojournalist, but I have to say this particular honor has very special meaning for me. While my Pulitzers are shared awards, this American Photo recognition is something I can say that I have finally earned on my own.
It is very humbling to be included in such a fantastic group of photographers. It is even more gratifying to be able to share this distinction with two of my closest and very best friends, Marcus Bell and Parker Pfister – in addition to Yervant Zanazanian whom I have long admired, respected and loved, as well as Dina Douglass, another great friend.
If you had asked me ten years ago if I would ever be a wedding photographer, I would have laughed at you. Back then most photographers looked at wedding photography as the lowest rung on the career ladder. My how times have changed.
Many people mistakenly think of wedding photography as trite, clichéd and meaningless images. One thing I have learned in the past eight years is that as a wedding photographer, I can have a tremendous impact on the lives of my clients. While we may not bring about mass social change, stop wars, or put an end to starvation in Africa, wedding photography can have the same kind of impact on a smaller scale within a family just as those types of images impact society.
As a documentary photographer, I am trying to provide my clients with more than just pretty pictures. I am trying to provide them with a legacy and heirloom that will outlast their lives here and can be passed down through their family for generations. If you’ve ever received a call or note from a former client telling you how much comfort your images provided during a time of need, or following the loss of a loved one, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
I am reminded of a passage in the book “PHOTOSYNTHESIS” by Bryan Moss:[caption id="attachment_2100" align="alignleft" width="349" caption="John & Edna Smith - Photograph by Bryan Moss"][/caption]
My grandfather was an ordinary man with an ordinary name: John Smith.
He was a carpenter who built plain, solid houses for plain, solid people like himself.
When he put away his tools at age 87, he said it was the hardest thing he ever had to do. “I did it for her”, he told me, speaking of Edna, his wife of more than 60 years. “She needs me here.”
My grandfather’s hands were work-roughened and hard, but his manner was tender. I never heard him raise his voice to anyone.
He was 95 when he died quietly in his sleep, of nothing in particular, in a hospital bed in the little Indiana town he was born in.
You won’t discover any newspaper stories about John Smith…because he never did anything remotely newsworthy. He loved his wife and family, worked hard, kept the Sabbath.
There’s almost nothing left of him now. Just memories. And photographs.
These photographs are memories made visible. And tangible. I have one that I keep in a frame – of John and Edna, standing on their porch, watching us pull away in our car. They always stood there, steadying themselves on the porch railing, until we were out of sight, as if cherishing every moment spent with us.”
Perhaps this old Kodak commercial sums it up better than words:
What a privilege it is that week in, week out people that I don’t even know very well invite me into their homes and lives to share with me some of the most intense and personal moments they may ever experience. What power we have as photographers to be able to provide them with this lasting legacy of themselves, their family and these very meaningful few moments of their lives.
Thanks so much to all of my wonderful clients for the opportunities you have provided me. As my friend Cliff Mautner says, we are only as good as our clients allow us to be. That is so very true.
I also want to recognize and thank my best buddy Matt Mendelsohn. Matt is the person who encouraged me to become a wedding photographer back in 2002 when I was at a career crossroads and a low point in my life. Matt showed me the beautiful wedding work he had been producing, convinced me it was a good fit for my skill set, and nurtured me with leads and business as I was trying to get my foot in the door. Some days I want to punch him for doing that, but most days I just want to thank him profusely for being my best friend.
I certainly have to say thanks to my beautiful wife Patti who is the real backbone of our business. She takes care of our clients, gets all the behind the scenes work done, and supports me in so many ways. On July 19, we’ll celebrate our own 25th wedding anniversary!
Lastly I want to say thanks to all of those who have been a part of the GGP team over the past few years. Our production staffer Kristi Sherk makes us look good all the time by doing a fantastic job retouching our images. Kurstin Roe did a great job in that position prior to Kristi. Thanks also to my superb team of second shooters and assistants like Charlie Archambault, Benjamin Myers, Kurstin, Cliff Owen, Madeline Marshall, Maggie Starbard, Ned Bonzi, Veronica Lukasova and others who have helped out along the way. The strength of your work allows me so much room for creative freedom and I love working with you all.
This is actually the fourth time American Photo has published a Top Ten list. As you’ll read on the Editor’s page below, you can only appear in the list once. I guess perhaps this really maybe puts me in the Top 40, but truthfully I’m beyond humbled to even be in that rarified company.
Now, I just have to deal with even more constant pressure to update my blog more than once every 18 months. Okay, I’ll try!
So with that, here is the complete list of American Photo’s Top Ten Photographers for 2011 in alphabetical order:
Camille & Chadwick Bensler – Jonetsu Photography – Vancouver, BC
Dina Douglass – Andrena Photography – Los Angeles, CA
Greg Gibson – Greg Gibson Photography – Washington, DC
Jesse & Whitney Chamberlin – Our Labor of Love – Atlanta, GA
Jonas Peterson – Jonas Peterson - Brisbane, Australia
Marcus Bell – Studio Impressions, Brisbane, Australia
Jaclyn & Nate Kaiser – The Image is Found – San Diego, CA
Parker Pfister – Parker J. Pfister - Asheville, NC
Rocco Ancora – Rocco Ancora – Melbourne, Australia
Yervant Zanazanian – Yervant – Melbourne, Austrailia
Below is the cover of the magazine, the letter from the Editor page explaining the selection process and advisory panel, along with my featured pages in the article.
[caption id="attachment_2149" align="aligncenter" width="900" caption="Opening Spread Photograph by Marcus Bell"][/caption]