One from every wedding I have photographed : A decade of weddings : 2009

#1 – Petia & Chris

Short of any very last-minute Christmas period bookings, I recently photographed my final wedding of 2018, rounding off my 10th year in the field.

This is how it started, back in March 2009.

Chris worked at the same university that I was a lecturer at but in a different faculty to me; a face that I would recognise in passing but not someone that I knew. It transpired though that we had a friend in common, also working at the university, another Chris. When another Chris had a birthday dinner I brought along my camera and took some photographs – between courses and after the meal had been consumed – in the non-posed style that I favoured. Chris and Petia had been at the same dinner and having seen my photographs, Chris approached me to ask if I would photograph their forthcoming wedding.

The conversation went something like this.

“Will you photograph our wedding?”
“Sorry but no; I don’t photograph weddings.”
“Oh, why not?”
“To be honest, I couldn’t think of anything that I’d enjoy less than orchestrating processions of posed photographs.”
“That’s exactly what we don’t want, either. We want what you do.”
“Oh!” I was intrigued. I’d always assumed that wedding photography was about that process that I had little appetite for, photographically speaking. Then, “Still, no.”
“Oh, why not?” again.
“Well, if I made a mess of it, it’s not like I could offer to come back the following weekend to do it all again!”
“I understand, but it’s either you or table top disposable cameras.”

That was it. I had no choice really. I had to save them from that fate.

So I photographed Petia & Chris’s wedding and had fantastic fun in doing so. After their ceremony at Poole Guildhall, a small group of us travelled by yacht from Poole Quay to Studland where the two made a beach landing and I channeled Robert Capa (indeed a number of blurry images surrounded the one posted here!)

I’d considered the assignment as being very much a one off, though. Whilst enjoying the process enormously, I assumed that it had been an idiosyncratic request to have a wedding photographed in a documentary style; that otherwise the world of wedding photography was still about processions of controlled, staged photographs. Little did I know at the time! Things snowballed rapidly from this first wedding and for 10 years now I have enjoyed travelling to numerous places that I wouldn’t otherwise have seen and have met scores of great people that I wouldn’t otherwise have had the great pleasure of spending time with; indeed also quite a number that I already knew!

With the marker of a decade arrived at, I think I’ll allow myself the indulgence of looking back on every wedding I have photographed. This was number one. Petia & Chris.

#2 – Louise & Nick

Louise worked in the same faculty at the university as Chris, whose wedding I had recently photographed. Having seen my photographs from that occasion, she got in touch with me to ask if I would photograph her forthcoming wedding. A similar conversation ensued to that which I’d had with Chris. I stated that I didn’t photograph weddings. Louise – quite rightfully – pointed out that I had photographed Chris’s :~) (I still harboured the notion that his had been an idiosyncratic request and that any further requests would be for the type of photography that I associated with the world of weddings and really had no interest in producing.) A brief bit of back and fore though led to me once more agreeing to take on the assignment.

I’d been quite nervous about taking on my first wedding, that of Petia & Chris – what with the responsibility for getting things right – but had enjoyed the process thoroughly once everything was fully in motion. As I drove towards the centre of the town that I live in for Louise & Nick’s wedding ceremony – set to take place at Bournemouth Town Hall – I found myself consumed with terror. I imagined an escape from that terror in failing to stop at the town centre, continuing to drive until I reached the tip of Cornwall, holing up in a rented cottage for a few months then returning to Bournemouth under an adopted pseudonym. Maybe then I would get away with my failure to show.

I didn’t do that, of course (I really did want to, but I didn’t), and as soon as I was in place and lifted my camera to my eye, the adrenalin completely diverted itself from fuelling terror to fuelling what very much felt like creative focus. Once again, I enjoyed myself to the full.

The featured image proved to be the first of a great many such images that have frequently manifested themselves across ten years of weddings that I’ve photographed, ones that show the total befuddlement of male subjects as they encounter floral accoutrement (more often than not, for the very first time). Just before the ceremony is due to commence, Nick has his buttonhole applied by his soon to be sister-in-law.

Whilst my aim is to select just the one image from each wedding that I’ve photographed, in certain cases I’ll find myself selecting an image that only features one of the couple, or sometimes neither of them at all. In such cases I only feel it’s right to add an additional image that shows both parties to the marriage, so here are Louise & Nick together in the same frame and… it is this very image that pushed me over the edge and made me decide that this was something that I wanted to keep on doing. Having got to know the two of them a little in the lead up to their wedding then finding myself able to read their thoughts towards each other in a single image that I’d made had a profound impact on me and I wanted more of the same.


#3 – Lucy & Steve

Having become hooked on photographing weddings after my first two accidental forays into the field, I set up a blog to market my services, found and joined a wedding photography forum on Flickr (Starting a Wedding Photography Business; an utterly fantastic resource that sadly, much like video killed the radio star, waned as Facebook took over much of people’s use of online time) and set about looking for more weddings to immerse myself in. I was hungry, to say the least.

Quite a number of the American photographers in the SWPB community detailed how they had initially built up their portfolios through finding weddings to photograph on Craigslist. I was willing to go down pretty much any avenue to find more weddings to photograph so found myself on the UK equivalent, Gumtree, which was rich with photographers offering to photograph weddings for thruppence ha’penny and marrying couples looking to ‘hire’ photographers for even less again. For a while, I ran adverts there under the headline, ‘Gumtree’s Most Expensive Wedding Photographer?’ Whilst I was certain that it wouldn’t generate sales, I felt that it might do something for broader marketing!

One day I came across a post on Gumtree from Lucy. She was seeking advice on wedding venues of a certain nature in the areas around Poole and Purbeck so I replied with a link to my blog post on the first wedding I’d photographed, that of Petia & Chris, whose venue I thought was a good fit for what she was looking for. I was motivated first and foremost by a desire simply to be helpful; the notion of securing a booking was left hovering at the fringes of the interaction. Lucy got back to me to say that the venue was indeed just perfect but that it was already booked for the date that she was set on for her and Steve’s wedding and as it was the only place that I was able to recommend to her, I left things at that. Some time later though, she got back to me again to say that they had found a venue – Holton Lee – and asked if she and Steve might have a chat with me about my services. Thus my third wedding photography commission came about.

I’ve chosen the following image to mark the third entry in my tenth anniversary series as it ended up playing a key role in the growth of my business as a wedding photographer. I provided Holton Lee with a set of images from Lucy & Steve’s wedding and they had a large print made of this marquee photograph, accompanied by the URL for my blog. A groom-to-be, Dan, on visiting Holton Lee spotted the image and later told me that it was the preposterousness of my business moniker – Mister Phill – that had stuck in his head and resurfaced when months later he and his wife-to-be, Rommalee, had started to think about wedding photographers. Thus it led directly to my photographing their wedding, in Spain, which in turn led to a number of commissions around Europe and back in the UK (including one of my most recent weddings, back in the home locale) and along the way, Dan became my go-to designer, creating my business logo, the design of my Web site and pricing brochure, and of the packaging that I use to deliver the final product to my clients. I also ended up photographing the wedding of Holton Lee’s wedding coordinator at the time, Julia, and then that of her sister, Nicola. So this photograph of a marquee means a great deal to me! :~)

And certainly not forgetting Lucy & Steve whose wedding was an absolute blast to photograph…

#4 – Alison & Neville

Having set up a blog which featured my first three weddings and displayed a contact form for enquiries, I can’t begin to describe the level of excitement that I felt when I received my first enquiry email through that form – from Alison – on 12th July 2009, for a wedding set to take place just a month and a half later.

To this day I feel strongly that I struck it lucky in receiving this particular enquiry, and in photographing the wedding that it led me to. In common with something that I sense to be the case for most, if not indeed all of my commissions, I suspect that people attracted to my work are not just taken by any aesthetic and technical qualities inherent in the imagery on display but more than that again, by the manner in which my subjects manifest their personalities within the images that I make. I was lucky that my first three weddings were filled with effusive personalities having unbridled fun and I think this played a key role in prompting Alison’s enquiry.

Whilst she’s looking rather focussed in the image that I’ve chosen to feature here, Alison is one such highly effusive character, often-times brimming with laughter and joy and exactly the same could be said for a great many of the wedding party and guests at her wedding. Over the years I’ve gone on to photograph the weddings of a number of those people (and found myself nigh-on stomping on the floor with frustration when, in a couple of cases, existing bookings prevented me from being able to photograph theirs) and I’ve invariably loved spending time amongst this brilliant group of friends.

They all look after me really, really well and always feed my lens with a banquet of smiles, laughter and animated action.

And of course one above featuring both Alison and Neville – whom I equally enjoyed getting to know through his wedding and the ones that I’ve met him at subsequently – here contributing an image to my long term project detailing the tribulations of groomsmen and their floral decor…

I’m going to cheat a little here with the one from every wedding (plus one more if the first one doesn’t feature both of the couple) theme because you have to see something of the interior of the church that Alison & Neville married in; St. Peter’s Church in Parkstone


#5 – Gabrielle & Bradley

I realised that word of my photographic endeavours had made its way to the uppermost reaches of the university that I worked at when the PA to one of the pro-vice-chancellors emailed me with a request to contact her daughter, regarding her forthcoming wedding.

Thus it came to pass that I photographed Gabrielle & Bradley’s wedding.

I first met them over a lunch-time consultation and loved how much they were in to photography themselves and how much they valued the photographic image. I was that excited by the meeting that on my return to work, I attempted to open my office door with the electronic key-fob on my car key.

In the lead up to their wedding, I spent a day with them travelling all over Dorset on a pre-wedding shoot, with a bath tub and umpteen gallons of water in the back of a van. You’ll have to extrapolate a picture of what that was all about for yourself but we had an absolute blast on that day, as everyone did also across their wedding day.

Here we see Gabrielle, casting a look across the aisle towards Bradley during their marriage ceremony at the Bournemouth Oratory

And as we can’t see him clearly in that one, here’s one of Bradley getting ready prior to the ceremony. A real gent and a great pleasure to spend time with.


#6 – Emma & Ian

Had it been the case that I was standing up, I’m certain that I would have fallen over when I received the email, from Emma, asking if I would photograph her and Ian’s wedding. As it happens, I was sitting down on the sofa, so I simply slipped off that onto the floor instead.

When I decided to build a business around wedding photography, I put a great deal of research into what was already being offered in the market local to me. I found one Web site that I kept coming back to, back in what was mid-2009. Literally just the one, in fact, at that juncture; locally, amongst a sea of other offerings. Emma & Ian photographed weddings together. Their Web site was beautifully designed and a pleasure to navigate; the work on its pages of a standard that inspired me, that I aspired to. They were the best thing in sight, wedding photography wise, and on a par with the best that I had found nationwide and beyond through my research.

So I was floored when I was asked to photograph their wedding; the supreme validation of what I had chosen to do, I suppose. It was great fun too and both Emma and Ian have provided me with enormous amounts of help with my practice over the subsequent years.

They forewent the seeming tradition of performing a first dance on their wedding day and instead – Ian being a DJ – performed a… first set! :~)

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