Trinita & Andrew’s Wedding

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Trinita & Andrew were married a few weeks ago in Des Moines, Iowa, and I was honored to fly out and document the proceedings. Andrew is a talented photographer, and Trinita is a museum curator, so I certainly felt the pressure to do well on this wedding! I was joined by Chris Davis from Lucky Soda Photography, and was tremendously glad to have his help and perspective. Trinita & Andrew: thank you so much for being such gracious hosts and for having us participate in your wedding day!

image by Chris Davis

images by Chris Davis

Gesica & Dan’s Wedding

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

Gesica & Dan were married in Rochester, Michigan at the Oak Arbor Church, with a reception that followed at Cherry Creek Golf and Banquet Center.

The schedule for this wedding was a little different than the way most days run down here in Nashville: we started coverage at 7am, but the reception was over around 6… with all of the bridal party scheduled to remain after for an extensive portrait segment. As we moved through the afternoon reception, I noticed that the weather was looking highly questionable, so I pulled Gesica & Dan aside for some quick portraits out on the course. The end of the reception came, and we had just enough time to do some quick group shots before the sky opened up, and we all rushed back inside to the now abandoned reception hall.

There weren’t a ton of indoor settings that were speaking to me for the portraiture that we still needed, so we commandeered the projector screen that had been used for the slideshow, lowered it as close to the floor as it would go (held down with chairs), and set up a mini-studio. I feel that these images have a unique character and definitely show off the personalities of the bridal party.

Thank you to Andrew Welsh of Rochester, NY for providing your skill and perspective throughout the day.

If you would like to register to view the complete set of images when they are completely edited, please click here.

images by Andrew Welsh

image by Andrew Welsh

image by Andrew Welsh

image by Andrew Welsh

image by Andrew Welsh

image by Andrew Welsh

Amy & Scott’s Wedding

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Amy & Scott met a few years back while they were both attending The University of the South at Sewanee, and that is the beautiful location they chose for their wedding this past Saturday. Daniel and I provided coverage of both the rehearsal dinner and the wedding, and both since it was a really warm and heartfelt rehearsal dinner and because I don’t think I have any other rehearsal dinner shots on the site, I’ve chosen to include a few of those at the beginning of this set. Being there the night before also gave Daniel and I a chance to get some cool night shots of All Saints Chapel, where the wedding would be held the next day.

Alas, due to a history with obtrusive photographers, All Saints Chapel has been forced to be quite restrictive with regards to photography during the ceremony. But despite being confined to a seat in the back (which actually represented a concession from their normal policy of not allowing photographers inside the chapel at all), I was able to produce some strong images of the ceremony in this amazing venue.

I was warned about two things in advance of the reception: the band would be serious and that Scott can dance. Indeed, Burning Las Vegas was one of the best performing groups I’ve seen at a wedding: killer musical talent and a very polished dance presentation with light effects. And Scott truly had a penchant for spinning girls around the dance floor. Fast action like that required a slightly different approach from much of my normal reception work, and I was happy to have a variety of techniques at my disposal to capture such challenging subject matter.

Thank you to Amy and Scott for making Daniel and I a part of your day! If you would like to register to see a full gallery of this wedding and order prints when I have finished editing all the photos, please click here.

Rehearsal Dinner

image by Daniel Shaw

Wedding Day

phone call with Scott

image by Daniel Shaw

image by Daniel Shaw

Amy made a BIG deal that her dad not cry or get all mushy when he saw her for the first time. So Dad walks out, puts on his best smirk, and says: “you don’t look half as good as I thought you’d look.” (of course he and everyone else knew Amy looked gorgeous). This got a high-5 from Amy.

Amy’s dad and two sisters

Doug & Jackie’s Wedding

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Doug and Jackie are wonderful people and great photographers. I was thrilled and honored to be chosen to photograph their epic wedding on the shore of Lake Erie. I brought along my good friend Miami wedding photographer Tony Schreiber to tag-team this massive event. We shot for 15 hours. We shot on boats, in the water, in abandoned industrial facilities, and under fireworks.

Amanda and I have become good friends with Doug and Jackie over the course of their engagement, and we have a lot in common with them. I was surprised to find that by coincidence they had chosen the same blessing for their wedding as we chose for ours:

Apache Blessing:
Now you will feel no rain,
for each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there will be no loneliness,
for each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two persons,
but there is only one life before you.
May beauty surround you both in the
journey ahead and through all the years,
May happiness be your companion and
your days together be good and long upon the earth.

I cannot recall ever having so much fun at a wedding, although we were completely exhausted at the end of the day. Doug and Jackie: thank you for your hospitality, for sharing your warm and wonderful wedding with us, and most importantly for being great new friends.

image by Tony Schreiber

right image by Tony Schreiber

Jackie got her flower caught while putting on the dress, which had to be repaired…

…and resulted in this cool shot of her orchid being sewn back together. It reminded me a bit of our wedding, when my top button popped off my collar and had to be re-sewn.

image by Tony Schreiber

image by Tony Schreiber

After the portraits we all stopped off for some ice cream.

This picture amuses me to no end. I told Doug that I wanted him to give me his most effeminate expression. His and Jackie’s reactions are priceless.

image by Tony Schreiber

Jackie and her dad had a great dance. There is that one guest who is on the ground trying to get a picture of a kid in the middle of the dance, but I sort of look at him as comic relief.

The bride toss is tradition in Jackie’s family

left image by Tony Schreiber

“My p-p-p-p-p-p-p-poker face…”

On Transglutaminase, Sushi, and Photography

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

At the back of a chic restaurant in New York City called WD-50, Wylie Dufresne tinkers with food in a kitchen that includes apparatus that might make a chemist jealous. Chef Dufresne is a leading proponent of a culinary school known as molecular gastronomy*, in which rigorous scientific approaches are used to understand the fundamental qualities of food. Frequently, molecular gastronomists deconstruct ingredients and re-imagine them into fantastic new forms, attaching familiar flavors with novel textures, or creating purely aromatic experiences to facilitate degustation. One example of these dramatic recreations is Dufresne’s signature dish of of “shrimp noodles,” which are noodles created with shrimp meat bonded with the enzyme transglutaminase (meat glue).

Meanwhile, in a fish market in Tokyo, Chef Jiro Ono negotiates with vendors for the freshest and most perfect fish imaginable. Chef Ono has spent a significant portion of his eight decades on this earth learning how to identify the perfect fish, and how to prepare it in a fashion that brings out every nuance of its flavor and texture. Subtleties of knife technique that would humble a Samurai, exacting attention to details like minute variations in temperature, and the exquisite preparation of rice ensure that each mouthful is the most pure experience of that particular fish possible.

Both Chefs are luminaries in their respective fields, earning accolades from peers and countless publications including the prestigious Michelin Guide. However, if one were to expose the average layperson (particularly the average American) to the cuisines of both men, I have no doubt that such a person would identify Chef Dufresne as “more skilled.” It is clear to even the most casual observer that the remarkable transformation of food that occurs in Chef Dufresne’s kitchen is beyond the skill of any but a select cadre of culinary artists. Love the food or hate it, molecular gastronomy is a conspicuous achievement of technical wizardry. However, were you to suggest to Chef Ono that he had transformed a piece of Toro into something completely different, I suspect he might even be insulted. The subtlety of interpretation in Chef Ono’s art inherently limits its appreciation to those who already possess a firm grasp of what makes great sushi, and the layperson may have trouble differentiating Chef Ono’s peerless sushi from that of his merely competent peers.

Why am I babbling on about food on a photo blog? First, its a topic with which I am quite familiar thanks to the tutelage of my brilliant brother Andrew Zimmerman, Executive Chef at Sepia Restaurant in Chicago. Second, I find that food is an apt metaphor to illustrate what I mean by the concepts of interpretive and transformative art. Interpretive and transformative qualities are both present in most art forms, but frequently an artist or medium tends toward one approach or the other.

Transformative art is God-like. The transformative artist looks at the world before him as raw materials that may be mutable in countless variations, and produces miraculous re-envisionings of reality. A transformative photographer may take a scene before him and utilize some combination of perspective, camera technique, lighting effects, or post production to render it nearly unrecognizable from its original incarnation. A subject who has experienced transformative photography might exclaim: “That’s AMAZING! It looked nothing like that!” Transformative photography is the land of fantasy and archetypal beauty. For this reason, transformative photography is also inherently more marketable to the average consumer, as it will never be confused with a standard “snap shot” by even the most unlettered. Dave Hill would be an example of a photographer who is primarily known for his transformative work.

On the other hand, the interpretive artist does not seek to transmute the world into something different: he or she seeks to show it most exactly how it is. Anyone who has ever seen a portrait and exclaimed “that look is SO [name here]” has experienced the impact of interpretive art. I refer to this as interpretive art rather than something like “objective” art, because all art is informed by the perspective of the artist. We all inherently apply our own slant and interpretation on the world before us. The difference between the transformative artist and the interpretive is that the former seeks to conform reality to his vision, and the latter seeks to reflect in his vision a perspective of objective truth.** Robert Frank might be considered an example of a photographer who is primarily interpretive, as so might most of the great photojournalists. Much of Avedon’s portrait work might also be considered far more interpretive than transformative.

Interpretive art is innately more subtle, and will typically go unappreciated by those without the context to appreciate it. The impulse of interpretive art may also be felt as counter to the individualistic impulse that Americans are typically known for. Interpretive art requires a certain sublimation of the ego: resisting the impulse to alter the subject matter with an overt artistic imprint. I remember a good friend of mine telling me that he hates shooting natural light because he feels he hasn’t “done anything to [the picture].”

Both the transformative and interpretive approaches are valid, and indeed one might argue that both qualities are present to varying degrees in most photographs. However, I feel that within the commercial photography sector, the desire to differentiate one’s self with work that clearly stands out as “professional,” combined with our own inherent cultural prejudices, have placed an overwhelming emphasis on the transformative approach over the interpretive. This is particularly true for retail photographers (wedding, portrait). A photographer who deftly interprets interactions, gestures, and expressions to purely reflect his subjects may have a great value to his clients, but the fidelity of these interpretations may be lost on other potential clients who don’t know these subjects and therefore lack the context to appreciate this authenticity of vision.

My point, which is primarily directed towards the photographers who frequent my website, is that while transformative art is seductive and marketable, its pursuit may frequently lead one down a path that is largely stripped of authentic meaning to its consumers. I have eaten at Chef Dufresne’s restaurant, and sampled the work of a number of other notable chefs in that field, and I can tell you the best of them never forget that cuisine is supposed to taste good above all else. In some cases, its been clear that the Chef has become so enamored of his wizardry in transformation that concepts such as “flavor” were largely forgotten. Similarly, photography stripped of its interpretive qualities may be impressive, but it will seldom be meaningful.


*Many chefs consider the term “molecular gastronomy” to be awkward, uncool, or inaccurate to describe what they do. My apologies, but it is the most expedient manner to describe this general group of approaches to cuisine.
**I know some wannabe epistemologist is going to fuss with me about “objective truth.” You know what I mean. That’s a whole other argument.