This is a guest post by Dom & Liam Shaw of York Place Studios
It’s Time To Stop Saying Cheese
As kids we’re all taught that when someone has a camera we should stop what we’re doing and smile sweetly into the lens. It’s an approach that’s really helpful for group shots but outside of that more formal setting having photographs of people sharing the same fixed smile tells us nothing about who they were or what was really happening.
We all have albums full of friends and family pulling that same pose through the landmark trips and occasions of our lives and we love them: they remind us of happy times and the places we’ve been and show the ways that we and the world around us have changed over time. The thing is though that a photograph has the potential to be so much more powerful than that.
For us a wedding isn’t really about tradition, elaborate settings or decoration (although all those things are wonderful additions!), it’s about sharing something very special with all the people you know and love from all the different phases of your lives so far. In fact it’s probably the only time all of these people will be in the same room at the same time, brought together from all walks of life by one common denominator: their affection for you.
So when we look at a photograph we don’t just want to see practiced smiles and unnatural poses, we want to see the gestures, expressions, private jokes and little personality quirks that remind you who all of these people really were, the dynamic of your relationship with them and what they meant to you.
So How Do You Go About Trying To Photograph Someone’s Personality?
We’ve been photographing weddings for over 12 years now (in fact I photographed my first professional wedding at the tender age of 21!) and from the start we adopted a documentary approach – never asking moving people to move around, never instructing our brides and grooms to do something again or pose for the camera, in short just capturing the day completely naturally.
That documentary approach allowed us to showcase everything that happened through the course of the day – highlighting the story through a series of photographs and capturing people in more of a relaxed way, enjoying the wedding the way it really happened.
We love the documentary art form and that approach is still central to what we do today, but we’d always felt that whilst it was great looking back and seeing all the little stories that occurred and what the guests got up to we were still really only seeing individual scenes of what happened. Aside from the odd occasion when someone would reveal their soul to our cameras almost by accident, in the relatively formal setting of a wedding we still weren’t really seeing the true personalities of the people around us in our photographs. So how did we address that? Well, we decided it was time to go back to our roots.
What Is Street Photography?
When we first started out as photographers the images that inspired us were largely those of street photographers. For those unfamiliar with the art form, the idea of street photography is largely as it sounds – going out into the streets and trying to create interesting, unposed photographs of people going about their lives. There’s no set structure, no key moments that you have to photograph, you just have to find and portray the story you decide to tell purely from what you find in front of you.
The key thing about street photography is that, unlike at a wedding, the person viewing the final image has, in most cases, no direct relationship with the people in the frame – they’re not family members, they’re not friends or neighbours, they could be anyone and anywhere in the world. It’s the street photographer’s job to give you, the viewer, a reason to connect with them – to find that common thread that means that we understand both the people and the story the photographer has chosen to relate.
So, in our mission to find great stories through every single part of a wedding day and find those little connections between people that would be universally recognisable we followed our passions and started to shoot street photography alongside our wedding work.
How Does Street Photography Fit Into Weddings?
Street photography has taken us all over the world, from New York to Havana to Rome, Tokyo, Sri Lanka, and Amsterdam, to name but a few, and the more street scenes we photographed the more we started to find similar scenes at weddings.
Gradually the lessons we learnt from street photography started to seep into our wedding work (and vice versa). Lessons like creating truly exciting compositions, finding humour in scenes where, on the face of it, not all that much appears to be happening, and of course that all important lesson of bringing out more personality in each frame.
It taught us how to tell more than one story in a single photograph to give a real understanding of the full scene at the wedding – something we use often to show the different dynamics and relationships between the guests.
Perhaps most importantly, it taught us the value of each individual photograph. On the street you don’t have anyone’s express permission to take their photograph, so every single image you take has to count.
For us as wedding photographers that discipline meant getting not just one or two ‘hero’ shots but to try to get dynamic imagery that would be genuinely interesting to someone who wasn’t even at the wedding, throughout every single stage of the day – not just in the big moments but in the small, spontaneous interactions that take place in the less choreographed parts of a wedding. After all, it’s those moments more than any where your guests tend to let down their guard and show us who they really are.
Jewish weddings in particular are so full of spontaneity, so family-focused and often filled with so many different characters (not to mention the coolest brides and grooms) that they naturally lend themselves to a street-documentary style. Watching three or four different generations going crazy on the dance floor or joining in with the benchers creates so many brilliant juxtapositions and comedy moments that they’re the street photographer’s dream!
Is Docu-Street Wedding Photography For You?
Street photography isn’t just a series of photographic techniques, it has its own style and mindset. Bringing that different approach into the world of weddings has helped us to change our documentary wedding photography into something a little different, something that’s focused closer than ever on all of the people at a wedding, not just the bride and groom. Something that’s designed to take you to that moment in time and understand the relationships even if you weren’t even there to begin with. Something with a different edge to classic documentary wedding photography.
At its core this new docu-street style is a true celebration of you as a couple and the relationships between you and your friends and family on the most incredible day of your lives. It’s a style that celebrates the small moments, interactions, jokes and personality quirks that so often forge the most meaningful of memories, even when logic tells us it’s the big stuff that we should remember most clearly. It’s a style full of creative storytelling, full of humour and full of personality.
If, like us, the most important thing to you on a wedding day isn’t the details, portraits or setting but just on having the time of your lives with everyone you love in the same place at the same time, then it might just be the style for you.
About the Authors
Docustreet wedding photographers Dom & Liam Shaw of York Place Studios are the brother and sister team behind bringing street photography to weddings. Working alongside wedding videographers York Place Films the family team travel the world finding big stories in the smallest of moments in their trademark documentary style.
Winner of the 2018 “Best Reportage Photographer Award” in the international ‘This Is Reportage” awards, Liam and Dom adore Jewish weddings and love nothing more than using their vast experience to capture some explosive, spontaneous photographs in the fast paced action of the Israeli dance floor!
You can get in touch with them at +44 (0)1723 377790 or firstname.lastname@example.org
And don’t forget, York Place Studios offers members of our Brides Club a 10% discount on any package!