I had a great time shooting Coco and John’s wedding at Hammond Castle in Gloucester, last month. Many of my favorite venues are ones with old architecture, but this one provided quite a unique ambiance. Located on Boston’s North Shore, the castle is perched on the rocky cliff overlooking Gloucester harbor. It was built between 1926 and 1929 by John Hammond, an inventor with over 400 patents. Hammond used the castle as his home and laboratory. Now a museum, his collection of Roman, Medieval and Renaissance artifacts are still on display.
A number of elements are required at any event to have a really great shoot. For MJ and Shuai’s wedding ceremony, the situation was about as good as it gets. The setting, pastoral and lovely, was on the grounds of The Connors Center in Dover, Massachusetts. (Oddly, though I’ve photographed almost 500 weddings, it was my first time working there.) The afternoon ceremony occurred under a full canopy of cloud cover that created a nice soft, even light (preventing harsh shadows, especially on faces), plus providing rich, bold colors (no glare on surfaces, due to the sunlight. Think polarized sun glasses). Two other very basic elements helped the situation, as well….time and mobility. The ceremony was about an hour long (outdoor weddings, typically, only run about 20 minutes), so I had time to really capture the event from many different angles and, most importantly, to search out small details and storylines. Unlike, for example, a church wedding, the more casual outdoor setting gave me the freedom to shoot from wherever I wished, thus obtaining different perspectives in the images. Several out-of-the-ordinary events, like the guests throwing paper planes at the ceremony’s conclusion, added unique features. Finally, a wonderful collection of adorable and playful children topped everything off beautifully. It was like a photographer’s perfect storm.
One aspect of wedding ceremonies you often see is the symbolic unity of the bride and groom through their marriage. One way of doing this that I love is the unity sand ceremony, where the bride and groom alternately pour sand of different colors into a beautiful piece of glassware. The patterns of the different colored sand can be quite striking, as well as symbolic. This ritual started as an alternative to the unity candle when it was too windy at outdoor ceremonies. MJ and Shuai had a gorgeous vase inscribed that they’ll be able to proudly display for many years to come.
I’ve shot nearly 500 weddings, but last week I photographed my first wedding proposal. Dave and Alexandra are from Toronto and were going to be in Boston for Marathon weekend…..a trip she presented him to celebrate his 30th birthday. However, Alexandra didn’t know that Dave had plans to make the weekend much more meaningful. The day before heading to Boston, Dave contacted me to inquire about me photographing the proposal. Never having met and without the ability to rendezvous beforehand, we exchanged pictures of each other, indicated clothing we’d be wearing and even had a James Bond-like signal to, upon first sight, confirm who we were. The plan was to make the proposal in front of the Boston Public Library after they attended a Red Sox-Blue Jays game at Fenway. I waited patiently in the general area trying to blend in with people who were walking by. When I saw a familiar face about 50 feet away, I flashed the designated signal. When he replied in kind, I knew I had my man. Having two cameras with flashes around my neck, I lingered a safe distance away so as not to raise any suspicions on Alexandra’s part. When I saw Dave drop to his knee, I rushed up the library steps to capture what would unfold. It was a complete success (Alexandra did say ‘Yes!’) The love gods must have been looking down on us because two minutes after the proposal a library security guard opened the door to let an employee leave. We informed the guard what had just occurred then asked him if we could come inside to take a few pictures, though the building had been closed hours earlier. To our surprise, he said yes and we had the library’s gorgeous interior to ourselves for about ten minutes. I walk past the library frequently and will always remember those moments when I do so in the future. Dave and Alexandra plan a 2018 wedding. Congratulations!!
Recently, I received a very moving email from Courtney….one of my brides from several years ago. In reading it, I was reminded how these pictures I take can have such a strong impact on peoples’ lives. Here are Courtney’s words.
“Hi Jim…..I can’t believe it’s been more than three years since Andrew and I got married. A lot has happened since then. While I was incredibly fortunate to have three of my grandparents in attendance at our wedding, in the last two years, two of them have passed away. Most recently, we lost my Nana who was the heart and soul of my family. In preparing for services, we started going through pictures so we could make some nice collages to display during visiting hours at the wake. I, of course, started looking through wedding photos. There are so many photos you captured that I am eternally grateful for….moments I forgot happened until I saw the pictures, again.”
“Nana was suffering from Alzheimer’s. It was incredibly important to me for her to be at my wedding. She helped raise me. Recently, she would always ask me when I was getting married. When I told her I was married, she would ask why she wasn’t invited. It broke my heart….not just that she didn’t remember the wedding, but that she would think she wasn’t invited. I made her a wedding album so she could look through it every time she forgot. I printed and framed an 8×10 of this photo and left it on her night stand at her nursing home.”
“The other photo is also a great memory. After seeing that photo, I knew exactly what was happening there. I walked out of the elevator in my wedding dress and Nana said to me “Why are your wearing a white dress?!” My cousin, Rachel, is laughing hysterically in the background. Thanks, again, for doing a phenomenal job, that day, and for creating memories that last a lifetime!……..Sincerely, Courtney”
Experiences like this is why I love what I do.
Every wedding day needs a small crisis so that, after the wedding, you can look back and laugh at it. My bride, Janna, had instructed her dad to remain downstairs until he was called up to see her in her gown. When he suddenly appeared in the forbidden zone, Janna’s bridesmaids rallied into action and successfully obstructed the hanging gown from Dad’s sight.