Stowford Manor Farm Wedding Photography : Abi & Matt

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I would always say that it’s all about the people for me, people far more above place, before things. I will enjoy the places that people choose to celebrate their marriages. I’ll take pleasure in seeing the things they make and bring to bear in the decor that permeates the day. This enjoyment though will always stem from the fact that choice of place and space, choices to do with decorative touches, all provide further clues as to the nature and personalities of the people at the heart of it all. It’s all about the people.

I might find myself, of a weekend, in a space that I thoroughly enjoy just for what it is. I’ll be with people that I enjoy being with though regardless of where and what the space might be and the following weekend, often-times even the day before, or the day after, or even on a number of the surrounding days there will be other people bringing their minds and spirits to bear on the utilisation of that space and I’d have no idea who those other people were. They might be entirely different sorts. The space might become a very different thing, whilst still materially being the same. In a retrospective sense, this could be one of the key reasons behind the fact that I latch on to mindsets, not on to places. It’s not something that I apply reasoned analysis to though. It’s a simple enough thing to me.

There are some places though, some places and spaces that one might look at and find oneself thinking, “There’s not many people that would buy in to this. It would take a certain type,” and, “I like this place, this space; I’d want to come and play here even if on my own.”

Abi & Matt first came across my work when they were searching online for images of weddings that had taken place at Stowford Manor Farm in the Frome Valley, Wiltshire. They were looking for somewhere genuinely laid back, as far as might be reasonable unfettered by restrictions; when people could turn up, when they had to leave, who they were allowed to use to provision their wedding and so on; questions that my clients do tend to ask when planning their weddings. They felt strongly drawn to Stowford Manor Farm but weren’t sure that they would be able to make the key space at the venue work for their celebrations, a large stone barn where wedding breakfasts and evening parties tend to be set when the farm is booked out for a wedding. You see, it’s not your upgraded, somewhat modernised, rustically re-plastered and perfectly comfortably weather sealed kind of a barn; it’s a barn, good and proper. Mice roam through it at night when all the humans have departed. It isn’t scrubbed to the pores to say the least. One might easily imagine it having been populated by over-wintering livestock (though it is much cleaner than that :~) or having been used to store farm equipment. Come Spring and Summer, swallows nest in its nooks and crannies. I downright love the place. I hope it never gets a major makeover.

So Abi & Matt were deeply drawn to this space but wanted to see how it might work when populated by a host of wedding guests in wedding day finery and they searched for images of previous weddings at the farm, came across some of the photographs that I’d taken of Tory & Jon’s wedding that I had photographed there the year before, became convinced from those that the space would work just perfectly for them and I was really, truly, very very happy that they also became convinced that I was the right photographer to document what they themselves would do with it all.

And this is what they did… View full post »

Bournemouth Wedding Photography : Harrison & Maria

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Myriad are the ways in which people meet and get to know each other. Over the years I’ve photographed the weddings of couples that have known each other since school days, couples that were introduced by friends they shared in common, couples that worked together, all manner of ways in which two people’s lives somehow orbited each other then were drawn together that much more closely again. At least twenty-five per cent of my clients found their match online; most probably more as that’s a statistic I’ve accumulated through anecdote, not interview. Then there are those meetings of minds, of spirit, that leave you wondering was it blessed coincidence, serendipity, something you’d like to feel was destined to happen whether it was at the actual point in time that it did or at some later point in time if not, or was it just the universe casting its lot and that was your one chance of ever meeting? When I think about the story of how Harrison & Maria met, I find myself breathing a sigh of pleased relief.

Maria is from Bournemouth, Harrison from London; both big places, the latter far more so than the former of course but the former’s a big place none-the-less where one might never knowingly see the same person twice. Harrison had come to Bournemouth to study for his degree and Maria was completing her A’ levels. Both happened to be passionate fans of live music so there was certainly something in place that would serve as common interest should they ever meet, which of course they did. One night, both attended a gig at the Bournemouth International Centre; by virtue of the nature of the venue these tend to be large scale events. Both happened to find themselves in the same spot in a very large and broad queue outside the centre and they got to talking about the band they were about to see, and thus this shared journey began. I’m thankful there hadn’t been another few metres in that relative positioning, deep within a queue. For them I’ve no doubt that the sentiment is immeasurably so.

I have an inkling that I’d also once met Harrison whilst he was a student, up a tree on the university campus, retrieving a football. More precisely, he was up the tree – though I may of course be entirely incorrect about who it was as I didn’t meet, in far more cogent a manner at that, with him and Maria until some years later – and I was down on the ground. That’s going to sound rather an abstract anecdote if my memory is being wayward. It’ll likely sound abstract an anecdote to most everyone else, regardless :~)

Harrison & Maria married at St. Mark’s Church in the Talbot Village district of Bournemouth and celebrated at the Ocean View Hotel, atop cliffs over the sea in the south of the town. Which is where the sea lays. All of the day’s locations were within fifteen minutes drive of my own home, which was a fairly novel experience for me. I thoroughly enjoyed photographing their wedding, getting to know them before the day and throughout; a really lovely couple sharing a creative, caring and diligently thoughtful nature. This is the story of their wedding day… View full post »

Sopley Mill Wedding Photography : Nicola & Simon

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One might say that I’ve been photographing Nicola & Simon since 2010, albeit with an interval of some years between encounters. Back in that year I was commissioned by Nicola’s sister, Julia, to photograph a multi-generational birthday party starring three members of Nicola’s family and an effusive supporting cast, sixteen people in total plus one family dog so by a whisker slightly smaller in population than even the smallest wedding I’ve photographed thus far. It wasn’t a wedding then, of course, but I went about my work in exactly the same manner since I photograph weddings as though they are family gatherings, just more often than not particularly big ones. What had struck me most about that occasion (other than the fact that it was laden with exuberance and provided me with constant opportunity to make photographs of people at the height of happiness, because it was full of people at the height of happiness; it’s a simple equation :~)… what had struck me most about the occasion was the potency with which the positive strength of family manifested itself amongst this group and in addition to that, how they all might equally have just been the very best of friends.

So come the time for me to photograph Nicola & Simon’s wedding, whereas normally I would only know the couple at the centre of events before actually arriving for the event itself, I was very much looking forward to experiencing the interplay of this family once more and indeed it made for an enriching celebration to participate in all over again by virtue of that family dynamic. Unsurprisingly, the broader array of guests in attendance added to the tone of the day in a similar vein, a host of animated and happy folk that were a pleasure to spend time amongst. Come December of this year I’ll be photographing the wedding of Nicola’s sister, Julia, too so I’ll look forward to more of the same then.

I particularly enjoyed getting to know Nicola & Simon all the more through their wedding day, an erudite and warm hearted couple that took great care of all that joined them in celebrating their marriage. Their natural efforts in this respect were repaid in full by those that joined them on this day; a couple clearly respected, loved and valued by their friends and families. They married at Christchurch Priory in Dorset, a place that Nicola enjoyed childhood connections with, and celebrated at Sopley Mill just across the county border into Hampshire. This is the story of Nicola & Simon’s wedding day… View full post »

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… View full post »

Lake District Wedding Photography : Stuart & Bekki

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There is the notion that photographing the wedding of another wedding photographer might make for a somewhat fraught, nerve-wracking experience. I do find the notion a perfectly valid one but for myself have never found it, in practice, to be the case. When I say ‘never’, I should add that I’ve only found myself in such a position twice, the first time back in 2009 with the wedding of Emma & Ian and in this instance with the wedding of Stuart & Bekki (interestingly enough all five of us have found ourselves sat around the same pub table, on occasion, despite living in far flung places). I must say that on balance, I do particularly well in terms of finding myself in a place where there’s a strong correlation between what my clients are looking for and what I would tend to do instinctively; in these instances the correlation seemed one of a mirror image. I sing a certain type of song with a certain accent but if I’m asked to sing La Marseillaise with a North-Eastern Dutch accent then it’s liable to be, I don’t know, a little tricky? That made perfect sense as an analogy, of course. (I won’t actually sing at your wedding, by the way. Count yourself lucky!)

Alors… Stuart is an excellent wedding photographer who rubs shoulders with a good number of top practitioners in the field so I was particularly humbled and, well, chuffed – for want of a more elegant expression – when he asked if I would photograph his and Bekki’s wedding. Maybe all the others were booked already :~) If there was any resultant trepidation on my behalf, it centred around wondering what those others might think of any results that they saw, more so again what Stuart’s dad, Les, might think. Les is the only wedding photographer I’ve met that is approaching retirement age. Decades of experience under his belt, he’s seen more and knows more about the practice than I could yet scratch the surface of and he produces imagery as fresh as any adept relative newcomer to the field on top of significant foundations that many might never match. Down to earth and unflinchingly friendly, meeting Les was a particular additional pleasure in what made for a truly fantastic experience beginning to end, and my offer still stands to carry his kit and a water bottle for him if he ever finds himself shooting in my neck of the woods.

Back to Stuart & Bekki. Professional connection and respect aside, it was a great pleasure to work for Stuart, a caring and constantly thoughtful character, and for Bekki – the fact of her being a school teacher instantly casts her amongst one set of career heroes of mine – her seemingly unflappable enthusiasm and positivity made her a joy to photograph and just, simply, to be in the company of. Their wedding spanned two days. On the first they brought around thirty of their nearest and dearest with them up to Ambleside in the Lake District, an area that they have a long standing love for. On the second they returned south to Staffordshire for an evening party with yet more friends again. This is the story of their wedding… weekend… View full post »