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 »