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Tone Dale House Somerset Wedding Photography : Nic & Curt

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I first encountered Nic – I was going to say met rather than encountered but one doesn’t ‘meet,’ for example, the aurora borealis; a fitting metaphor, I believe, in this case… I suppose one doesn’t ‘encounter’ it either, the aurora borealis… I first met Nic……. Let’s try… I first witnessed Nic in celestial action, like an effervescent shooting star, whilst I was huddled down amidst a sitting circle of bridesmaids and a bride, Sarah, on a wedding day morning in Somerset some two years ago. As Sarah opened one of a number of gifts from her groom, Jon, my camera raised to my eye to frame that fleeting but highly significant narrative vignette in the day’s broader story, Nic’s beaming face made a comet-like arc into my field of vision, all unfettered enthusiasm and happiness in response to the gift that Sarah had just unwrapped and held up to show her friends, the making of just the type of image that I’d most want to present to my clients. Happiness. Energy. The love of loved ones.

I first met Curt… I say met rather than encountered or witnessed, not to diminish by comparison Curt’s capacity for making an immediate and highly positive impression upon people but simply as I was introduced to him, by Nic, thus I met him, some way into the night on that same wedding day and I immediately embarrassed myself. “This is my boyfriend, Curt,” Nic said. I shook Curt’s right hand with my right hand whilst without conscious forethought my left hand retrieved a business card from the breast pocket of my suit jacket before slipping it into the breast pocket of his suit jacket. “This might come in useful one day,” I said. I’d never done such a thing before. I’ve not done so since. It just felt to be the right thing to do before I’d had time even to register let alone consider a sense of rightness or wrongness in the act and once I had time to register and consider what I had done, all of a second later, I thought to myself, “That was a tad presumptuous!” or words to some such effect.

And now that I’ve recollected and coalesced my memory, in words, of that, yes, encounter, I realise that… I feel that I realise that… well I do realise something but it’s perhaps more a realisation of something that I am interpreting in a certain way……. Now that I look back on that brief meeting, I think that I realise that Nic knew what she was doing when she introduced me to Curt and it wasn’t calculated, it was natural and spontaneous but she was telling me that I needed to know this person because I’d be meeting him again one day. And that’s just my interpretation, a sense that I have, and I could be entirely wrong but I like to think of it that way now :~)

A year and a handful of months later, I received an email from Nic:

My fiancé and I recently got engaged and we would really love for you to be our photographer! You were the photographer for Sarah and Jon’s wedding and slipped your business card into my then boyfriend’s suit pocket.

“Yay!” I thought to myself immediately, almost as though I’d been waiting for this, patiently; then, “How embarrassing! I did that? I did do that!”

I responded to Nic’s email:

I do remember clearly placing my business card in your (then) boyfriend’s pocket. It was a brazen act of a sort that I very rarely engage in. It was very much a signal that I actively wanted to photograph your wedding as and when the day came. I should of course have given the card to you, but pockets tend to be immediately easier to come by on suits than on bridesmaids’ dresses.

When I dig myself into a hole, I like to mould some of the loosened soil into a functioning comfy sofa down there because, as we all know from experience, trying to dig your way out just takes you down deeper :~)

Nic & Curt married at Tone Dale House on the outskirts of the small town of Wellington in Somerset. I had an utterly fantastic time of it all. Everyone had an utterly fantastic time of it all. This is the story of their utterly fantastic wedding day…

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Curt and his groomsmen spent the morning clay pigeon shooting at Bardon Manor. I arrived to news that Curt had hit all of his targets, five times in a row already. Their instructor, Matthew Nimmo, made for a highly personable, informative and helpful host. Whilst orchestrating a laid back and enjoyable event, I will also mention that Matthew conducts everything with a constant and precise eye for safety. I do like my photographs to present things as they really happen, free of any hint of staging, but I’ll happily reveal that there were no cartridges loaded into the chambers when it came to creating a front on portrait of Curt in action. In fact, the triple pronged safety check beforehand made for a fascinating (and reassuring!) process in its own right.

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So, Nic & Curt, some time between booking me and their wedding day itself, travelled down to Dorset to meet with me, to talk through their plans for the wedding day and for a pre-wedding test shoot. I felt a little bashful at the prospect of meeting Curt again, properly, having been so audacious, so presumptuous on our first having briefly met but he was instantly disarming, a very open and inclusive character; someone to enjoy and appreciate spending time with and to be left feeling that your company has been enjoyed and appreciated in turn. Come the wedding day itself, at some juncture in the day, maybe into the evening, or maybe it was during the following morning when I dropped by to bid my goodbyes (and to collect my car, which is another story, in part) I found myself in conversation with his mother and somehow, in what might be a digressive manner that I might or might not be prone to but as I was saying… what was I saying? In conversation with Curt’s mother I mentioned the notion of given names and how at times they might seem almost to influence the moulding of a person’s character. She mentioned in response the notion of the name Curt being the audible root of the term courteous, and that he had grown to be a courteous person, and that I very much agreed with. Reverting to that meeting in Dorset – reverting somehow seems more appropriate than regressing, more elegant grammatical counterfoil to digressing that that may be, but I… yes, you get it :~). Returning… yes, returning! Returning to that meeting in Dorset, I’d felt no trepidation at meeting Nic again; after all, this was the bridesmaid that I’d met or encountered or witnessed or whatever it was, the one that was unabashed in her exuberant enthusiasm in the presence of a camera, the one that would just make the images appear as they should in front of me. “Of course, you have no problem with the camera,” I told Nic as we sat and discussed the nature of people being photographed. It’s very rare that I tell someone such a thing; more’s the case I ask; I ask how a person feels about being photographed, then I see to it that those feelings are dispelled, assuming the feelings are ones of – which is quite typically the case – discomfort. I assumed the opposite to be the case, in Nic’s case; assumed in the full. She modestly contradicted (her sisters laughed, as they read this; we’re on a temporal trampoline here!); I diplomatically insisted. I reminded her of the photographs I had taken of her on that wedding day morning all that time back, how unabashed she had been in the presence of the camera. She told me that she simply hadn’t been aware that I was there taking photographs.

So…

:~)

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I loved Tone Dale House. This wasn’t Tone Dale House by the way; this was the view over one boundary hedgerow and I loved that view too…

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And I loved what was to be found the garden…

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And I loved the eclecticism of what was to be found within (within the house as well as within the shed :~)…

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Hello to Nic’s mum, Judith, whom it was a great pleasure to meet and to converse with :~) Indeed the whole day was as socially enriching for me as it was professionally fulfilling; a host of the very best types of people I could wish to find myself amongst and I felt really very well looked after to boot…

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Nic was not unaware that I was there taking photographs on her wedding day (and as it turned out, I liked the extra ingredient that added to the… what metaphor to cap ‘ingredient’ with? Soup? Surely not soup? I might return to it later. I might… not. I feel that I should, but…)…

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Nic’s sisters, who were just great, like Nic…

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Curt and I share an understanding of the significance of this moment :~)…

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And hello to Hana; hello almost as though I were saying hello directly to her. In fact, not almost as though. I am saying hello to you, Hana. Hana is sat image left, by the way, for the benefit of anyone listening in on my saying hello to her. Hana was a bridesmaid with Nic at that same wedding that I first met/encountered/witnessed Nic at, and Hana shows my work to her friends, and it makes my heart twinkle like a star in the sky. And I’m very grateful. And hello Sarah (sat image right). And I’m ever grateful to Sarah too; the self-same Sarah that Hana and Nic were bridesmaids for. I’ve now photographed two weddings of her very good friends’ this year alone and, you know, the experiences have been just such potent emotional-battery chargers…

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And it’s as though we all became complicit in a Newton’s cradle of awareness of being observed :~)…

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Nic & Curt made their preparations in the same building and I had a throughly enjoyable time of it not just observing those preparations but in making my way back and fore through the eclectic warren of passageways and staircases of Tone Dale House…

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Not Curt’s feet…

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Practice run (or… how to sit for dinner elegantly when ensconced in a wedding dress :~)…

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So bear this photograph in mind…

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… and try to keep it in mind as I relate this story, because one of us needs to remember that it was being made reference to and that may not be me (though I will remember, quite soon too, but perhaps not soon enough to not find myself suddenly referencing it again at a completely unintended point in the contextual flow of… things).

I asked Nic and her sisters if they could stand, together, in front of me. I suppose they assumed that I intended to take a photograph of them, together, and a perfectly reasonable assumption that would have been (even were it not necessarily the case!) After a second or two of glancing between them, from one to the other, assembled there, these three sisters together in front of me it struck me that it was going to appear very odd indeed if I didn’t take a photograph of them so I did. I raised my camera and took a photograph of them. I’m really glad that I did because I think that the image is a lovely one and the making of it made sure that the scenario didn’t then appear abundantly odd and it also allows for the question I’d had in my head that had led me to ask them to stand there to be… answered, or at least to be addressed because it may well not have been answered, per se…

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And yes, now I need to explain what the question was. Time to furnish another functional comfy sofa from the loose soil at the bottom of the hole that I seem to have been digging myself into :~)

I’d been struck by the impression that Nic and her sisters were very much in possession of their own characters, distinctly different people, showing care for and attention to each other in a manner that could as much have been taken as signalling bonds of strong friendship as those of sororal connection. Despite this impression though I also constantly had the impression that they very much were sisters, that they very much were cut of the same cloth and I was curious to know what was signalling this overarching impression so I asked them if they’d stand together so I could see how alike they looked, then I realised how odd it would be if I just scrutinised them, stood there, so I took a photograph instead which was, fundamentally, what I was there to do after all.

The answer didn’t come in this photograph though. It did emerge however in the one taken just shortly beforehand. It was all in the mannerisms, fleeting gestures, physical postures.

I’m Desmond Morris, me.

Sometimes I might feel that when I’m writing a blog post, I’m like Jackson Pollock engaged in the creation of an action painting, throwing words across a canvas and the inter-twining and collisions between those words might reveal or simply resonate some deeper truth and meaning. Often-times I take a step back and re-read what I’ve written and I feel as though I’ve cobbled together an unfinished set of scrawls and scribbles in crayon. Anyway, on with the story :~)

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And hello to Ben-not-Adam (with my sieve-like memory when it comes to retention of names – and do not take this as evidence, Hana, that I’d forgotten your name; it’s just that twelve hours into shooting I might not have sufficient epiglottal energy to enunciate my aitches – I have over the years developed a sure-fire method for fixing names in my head; I get the name wrong, just the once, when addressing a person and the resultant embarrassment sears that name onto the surface of my mind) who might have ever so briefly seen through my cloak of invisibility (it’s never been the same since I sent it in for dry-cleaning)…

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Nic & Curt’s exchange of vows was officiated over by the Reverend Andy Marshall. Andy is, in a manner of speaking, Curt’s family pastor and has known Curt since the latter was twelve years old. The connection made for a highly personalised ceremony.

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And hello to Emily :~), one of Nic’s fellow bridesmaids from that legendary wedding of yore (albeit just two years a-yore)…

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My apologies to anyone whose toes might have been trod upon as I suddenly realised that Nic & Curt had exited the house to an organically distributed spontaneously self-defining corridor of confetti throwers whilst I was focusing on something that wasn’t an organically distributed spontaneously self-defining corridor of confetti throwers. Spontaneity = life in the fast lane, overtaking without recourse to one’s wing mirrors. I’ll check that my indicator lights are working in future :~)…

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And hello to Doug, image left, top left, whom I’ve not met/encountered/witnessed at a previous wedding but I enjoyed our conversation later that night. Doug has an understanding of what I do, perhaps more cogent than the understanding that I myself have :~)…

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This is how it came out of the camera. I’ve no idea what happened there. I must have stumbled :~)…

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Easily rectified though. Nobody’d ever know!…

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And hello to Jon and the little un (that’ll be diptych right :~) Conscious and verbalised note made to actually photograph them at this juncture as I found myself thinking, “Already got a photograph of them two.” Of course, that was at the last wedding :~)…

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By request, Curt wanted a portrait of he and Nic with his favourite South African sausages. The barbecue photobombed the shot though…

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Lovely touches of wedding-branded design brought to fruition by Sarah, in consultation with Nic…

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“Not quick enough!” Camera says differently ;~)…

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I felt certain that it would help Daniel – assigned carver at my table – to focus precisely on his carving duties if I got right in where the action was taking place (and my thanks to Nic & Curt for seating me as a guest to enjoy the fine fare on offer, and great company at the table, too :~)…

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Everywhere I looked it was a food shareygoround. I love the elevated sense of community that stems from food being apportioned in this manner…

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Because I always make a point of photographing the food when I’ve been included in the enjoying of it, and furthermore in this case because I simply don’t have the plate dressing talent required to do justice to it all myself, I quickly scoured the surrounding tables for a completed plate that shone. Best in show, one might say…

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And the winner… Hello Hana :~)…

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Having witnessed his carving implement display skills just minutes earlier, I left a little distance this time :~)…

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:~)…

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I felt as though I were at a wedding in Lothlórien…

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Playing chambermaid, one might say, to one’s former bridesmaid; an ever so important wedding day role…

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Whilst he humbly claimed that it was but a few scribbled notes on a page, the speech delivered by Nic’s dad, Neil, was to me an oratorical flamenco.

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And I think the pictures speak for themselves when it comes to a summation of how well Curt delivers a speech.

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Curt’s brother, Corbin, offers words of encouragement to his other brother, Darryn, just before the latter delivers his best man’s speech (I say words of encouragement though I couldn’t hear what was being said amidst the applause and the expression on Corbin’s face might suggest a bit of a ribbing was taking place but… well… :~)…

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Darryn had been somewhat… I’d not wish to embarrass him so I’ll simply say that in six years of photographing weddings, I’ve only encountered a handful of best men at most that weren’t sitting somewhere on a scale ranging from palpable trepidation to utter terror at the prospect of delivering their speech, but…

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BUT… I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves again. Perfect delivery. Every target hit :~)…

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Introducing The Jets. Truly, they rocked. They delivered five encores at the end of the night, too. I think it was five encores anyway. If it wasn’t five, it was definitely more than four. Genuinely nice guys too. Totally rock and roll on stage (with a selection of indie, Britpop and latest chart hits thrown in for good measure), I chatted with them in the kitchen between sets and found that they were the kind of guys you could take home to your parents for a cup of tea without fear of them trashing the living room. They shared a Werther’s Original with me – when I say shared, I mean that they gave me my own – and offered to take the wrapper from me to pass it in a short relay-line to the bin, which was on the other side of the table from me. I’ve trashed their rock and roll image now. Sorry. They were brilliant though. Book them…

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You can hire bands and DJ’s in the hope of filling dance floors and keeping them moving all night. I’m sure there’s scope for adding hireable dancing guests to the mix, too. I have photographs of Alex throwing shapes throughout the night all the way from A to Z with a full range of punctuation marks for good measure, before he moved on to a series of non-Latin based alphabets…

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I suspect that Jon is ever so mildly perturbed when I tell him that he makes for a great beer bottle model but I swear it’s all about his imperturbable sartorial cut and nothing to do with statistical correlation…

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And hello to Danny & Amy, sat there; finders of rainbows and double rainbows and photographers :~)…

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Curt, ever so thoughtful of the welfare of others, quickly checked the fire-detection system to ensure it was working as it should…

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Alex had progressed onto the Cyrillic alphabet…

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And what a joyful, exuberant, uplifting day it had been :~)

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And it didn’t end there, either. I was invited to stop for a glass of wine (just a small one, I insisted) and to sample some fantastic cheese brought over from France by Nic’s dad. Then seeing my glass empty, one of Nic’s sisters kindly filled it and the glass was one with more than enough room in it :~) Some three hours later I set off for my guest house (rather luckily – as small rural town taxi drivers go to bed at civilised o’ clock – just a twenty minute walk up the road) replete with fine wine, fine cheese, fine wedding cake and the lingering glow of the finest of company and conversation. I really felt rather privileged, endeared of and grateful for the experience.

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And all of this has been a big hello to Nic, and a big hello to Curt, and thank you, both, so much.

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If you could bottle happiness then, well, there just wouldn’t be a bottle big enough and happiness isn’t for bottling anyway, it’s for releasing into the world.

Congratulations Nic & Curt and my bottomless unbottleable thanks for having me there to experience it all and for drawing me so deeply into the fabric of your wedding day, and to your ever so special families and friends for being just downright fantastic to spend time amongst and with :~).

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

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