Be sure to check out John and Holger’s new blog, “Tableshots”.
A Bryan Photo: You are both constantly pushing to keep yourselves from avoiding “the
wedding vortex”. How do you define this “Vortex”?
John Dolan: The vortex is the expected, the picture you have seen 1000 times. You see it through your lens, you recognize it immediately, and you have to choose, “Do I settle for this easy shot, or do I try to see it a new way?” When you settle for the expected, you have slipped down into The Vortex of Mediocre Wedding Photography.
ABP: Can you give us an example of when you pushed the envelope and you
were pleasantly surprised by the outcome?
JD: I tend to get swept away by certain weddings. This one, fairly early in my career, took me on a great ride. The bride and groom both worked for magazines and they let me shoot as freely as I liked. The wedding was tender and honest and joyful and the photographs felt as if they made themselves. I pushed the envelope by being loose all night:
ABP: Talk a bit about the importance of carrying the weight of a couple’s family history.
JD: It is simply this. I try to imagine that in 30 years, the daughter of that bride I shot last Saturday will be dying to know what life was like on the day their parents got married, perhaps because she will be getting married that day. The box of photographs is a form of marital DNA. It contains little slips of evidence of an ancestor.
ABP: Many modern wedding photographers wear themselves out on wedding days, often shooting 7,000+ digital images. You take a counterintuitive approach. Explain the idea behind “the less hard I work, the better.”
JD: Quality not quantity. If you aim for 12 great photographs, hopefully you will make 88 good, solid images, and 12 greats. If you try to cover everything and hustle and sweat, you will make 3000 images that we have all seen before. Aim high and if you miss you still wont shoot yourself in the foot.
ABP: Say I’m a beginning wedding photographer. What are the three things you would want to make sure I know before starting out in this industry?
JD: 1. Batteries die when brides walk down the aisle. (It’s physics.)
2. You can’t pretend to like weddings. Either you do or you don’t.
3. The wedding photographer is part of the wedding party. Act like it.
ABP: What inspires you?
JD: Watching people perform under pressure, with grace. A rookie’s first major league at-bat. 7th graders in a Shakespeare play. A groom who can actually dance. A father of the bride who actually says what he has wanted to say for 27 years to his daughter.
ABP: What are your three favorite wedding images you have ever taken and why?
JD: I have only one. A portrait of my wife from the back, taken on our honeymoon, in her wedding dress. I finally got my turn:
ABP: What is your opinion of wedding photojournalism?
JD: Weddings train you better for photojournalism than the other way around. I think a core element to a good wedding image is sensuality. I want images that will make me hear and smell and taste the day. It seems to me many photojournalists are trained into objectivity and that is the last thing I want from a wedding photograph.
ABP: Most photographers dread the “family formal” time but this is one of your favorite times of the day. Why? What perspective did you both adopt to get excited about doing them?
JD: First, you can kill a lot of birds with just a few stones. You can very quickly please the mother of the bride (crucial), make historical groupings of generations, document the true nature of a family (stiff, wild, dysfunctional.) Also, little things happen. It is part of the ritual…the welcoming of the groom into the bride’s family, the blending of the two families. It can be wonderfully chaotic:
Thanks John! Feel free to leave a question in a comment if you want to ask him something else.