Somerset Wedding Photography : Ashley & Jack

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Once upon a time, aged three and a half years old, my daughter came shuffling into the living room dragging my camera tripod behind her. She placed it in the middle of the floor then declared, emphatically and without pause for breath, “When I grow up Daddy I want to learn how to use a camera and a computer and go to weddings and take photographs and get paid with sweets and cakes and sticks of rock like you do!” I was bowled over and amused no end by what she had said, and the inherent notion as to how I derived my income. On occasion, clients that had sweet counters at their weddings had told me to take a bag home for my daughter, ones that had cupcakes in place of traditional wedding cakes offered some for me to take home for her likewise – a memory springs vividly to mind of one of the very last photographs I took at Emily & Eammon’s wedding; Emily proffering a cupcake in each hand, one for me, one for my daughter whom she’d met just the day before. It was at Gabby & Gareth’s wedding that sticks of rock had been used as place names at the wedding breakfast, each bearing the name of a guest on its label. Two days prior to her declaration, my daughter had been eyeing with clear intent my Mister Phill stick of rock; she’d asked precise questions about how it had come into my possession (and what I intended to do with it). It amazed me to think how the concept of choosing a career path had formulated in her mind over that two day period; the theatre she had brought to bear in announcing her decision an additional delight.

Within a year she had graduated from nursery and moved on to school, a new world of experience, new ways of thinking. One day, I asked her if she still wanted to photograph weddings. Her response came, “No Daddy, only boys can be good at photography.”

Time pauses a moment.

Picture my face.

Had she sprung upon this notion herself (not just in relation to photography but the broader notion that gender should make for a barrier to a path in life)? Did it come from the boys on the playground? Was it broader group-think at work? I whipped open the laptop, loaded a Web browser and started showing her the work of female photographers, female wedding photographers whose ethos and imagery I have admired enormously since embarking on a journey in the field myself; outside of the world of wedding photography female photographers that have earned historical stature in working the medium, that have inspired me, my practice, through all that they created. This had been the first shot in a battle – I’m aware of the age old and ongoing war this battle was born of, but this battle had broken out as close to home as it could possibly get – but thankfully one that settled down quickly, for the time being, on the home front as she absorbed what I had shown her, accepted fully that it wasn’t just a discipline for boys and (I hope) subsequently paid heed to my assertions that there’s nothing that a girl might not rightfully choose to do in life that a boy might choose to do freely. She recently turned ten years old and I can’t recall a single repeat of that response that had stopped me in my tracks all those years back but I remain armed and vigilant and I have a duty to prepare her for the shots she’ll no doubt have fired across her bow by the ill of logic of others in years to come.

So what does this all have to do with Ashley & Jack’s wedding? :~)

Ashley delivered the opening speech on her and Jack’s wedding day and stated that doing so, delivering a speech, was her way of making a contribution to bringing down the patriarchy. Her opening words made for a well received quip with serious intent, born of a feminist perspective, but no intention of some form of blood-letting (I’ve frequently encountered a distorted picture of what feminism is, a form of misunderstanding often fuelled at one end by sections of a patriarchal media with a vested interest in keeping people thinking back to front about, well, pretty much everything and finding significant ready tinder amongst post-pubescent boys suffering from an incomplete sense of self). Her speech was brilliant – she celebrated her new husband, celebrated the most important men in her life, the most important women in her life – and was followed by a suite of speeches, all brilliant in turn, that happened to be delivered by men but the tone set was that this was no traditional case of men talking whilst women listened.

Women delivered speeches at just over half (by a margin of one) of the weddings that I photographed during 2015 and I’d rather I lived in a world where I didn’t find significance in the fact but it is significant and it relates in however small or large a way to how I want things to be for my child as she grows up. As I observed, listened to and photographed Ashley delivering her speech, specific memory of that day my daughter dragged my tripod into the living room somehow sprang forth clearly from the hinterlands of my memory, and that is what my story has to do with Ashley & Jack’s wedding. I found myself listening to a woman that takes on life in a way that I hope my daughter will in turn learn to do so for herself.

I’d celebrate such an outcome and now I’ll celebrate Ashley & Jack’s wedding day…

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I knew from the off that this would be a day to deliver plenty in the way of what I most love to relate in my images (can’t beat a bit of animated happiness!)…

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Ashley’s new niece, shortly to play her role as the youngest flower girl ever* (*out of all the weddings I’ve been to)…

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I almost found myself asking Amy for her autograph. “I’ve seen your wedding on the Internet!” I declared. Apparently Amy gets this a lot. Ashley had been a bridesmaid at Amy’s wedding and I’d seen a link to a blog post on that wedding, that Ashley had tweeted; an event brimful with exuberant celebration, with a splendid tone that was to be echoed fully throughout this particular day. Both Ashley and Amy are prolific food bloggers and collaborate from time to time on projects. As it happens, I’m not sure I’ve been to a wedding where so many of those in attendance have their own Web sites…

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Why wait for the evening party? Dancing is appropriate at any time of day :~)…

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Ashley & Jack married at Priston Mill, out in the Bath countryside. I found me a tractor to add to my collection…

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Ashley & Jack’s photo display was a pleasure to encounter. Quite naturally, it always makes me happy to see people place such value in photographs…

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I found myself curious as to the ancestral links to agriculture…

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In particular, I was intrigued by this beautiful photograph of a bride from years past. Whilst editing the image set from the wedding day, I emailed Ashley to ask her about its context…

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Whereupon it was mentioned that these photographs just happened to be a display added to the walls by the venue. In retrospect, indeed, I could see clearly that they were affixed to the wall with screws. My, what observational acuity I have! :~)

I was certain though that this was directly connected to the day’s events…

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I’d been following Ashley on Twitter since she and Jack had first booked me for their wedding. Many of her tweets across subsequent months, particularly those touching upon the socio-psychological landscape of the world of weddings, had left me with ribs near bruised :~) She and Jack had first met in conversation on Twitter, a fact celebrated in their delightful cake topper…

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Never have I taken so many photographs of a groom waiting at the head of an aisle. It was a process that I valued, having time to observe and build a picture of Jack’s happy anticipation (usually, I just have time to frame a couple of images between seeing a bride arrive for the ceremony and her arrival up the aisle)…

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I believe that Jack must have caught sight of me quickly raising my camera at this juncture; often indeed a sign that it’s all systems go :~)…

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I always find it profound to witness that peak moment of gathering of thought…

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I’ve not seen a couple enjoy their ceremony more.

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Time to test out the twirler…

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It’s never a surprise but always a delight to find that a couple’s families and friends are as enjoyable to be amongst as the couple are to be with and I experienced no surprises and plenty in the way of delight in going about my role amongst Ashley & Jack’s nearest and dearest.

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Reception reception…

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My thanks to Ashley & Jack for seating me as a guest for dinner; engaging company at the table to boot. The food at Priston Mill is just delicious (and photogenic, too!)…

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Two first dances, in effect. First first-dance danced, the evening’s entertainment was further opened with a ceilidh…

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Ceilidhing below the radar…

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“Please don’t be hurt, please don’t be hurt, please don’t be hurt!” The mantra ricocheted around my mind as I continued to press the shutter button (I know!) and… completely unhurt she was, landing on a blanket of her own laughter :~)

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It had been a pleasure meeting and chatting with Jo a little earlier in the evening. She had been the photographer at Amy’s wedding, at which Ashley had in turn been a bridesmaid. Jo certainly didn’t let the side down in the provision of energetic dance-floor moments stakes :~)…

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I felt it my responsibility to try one of each across the evening if only so I would be able to report from experience that they were at least as delicious as they looked…

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Congratulations Ashley & Jack and thank you for having me along and allowing me to immerse myself so deeply in your abundantly energetic and positive wedding day. It truly was a fantastic pleasure, both getting to know the two of you along the way and in experiencing the wealth of care and happiness that your friends and family brought to bear in celebrating it all with you.

~

Ashley has penned and published a blog post on her Web site reflecting on the process of planning and bringing together a wedding. If you’re planning a wedding yourself or if you’ve married already and would simply be interested in comparing notes, I think you’ll find it makes for good reading. 162 weddings in, having immersed myself in each of those weddings and taken in a great deal of the psychological interplay of the day, I found myself concurring with every single point that she makes (though I’ll admit having no experience with dress shopping but have absolutely no doubt that that section is absolutely spot on too :~).

Contact Somerset Wedding Photographer Phillip Allen : phill@misterphill.com : 07870 696248