Summer means wedding season, and for many couples, photographing the groom lifting the bride, or the bride looking off wistfully into the distance is an essential. But what if the happy couple is a bride and a bride, or a groom and a groom?
That's where Kathryn Hamm, president of GayWeddings.com, and Thea Dodds, a professional photographer, come in. They co-authored the new book Capturing Love: The Art of Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. The book offers tips for shooting same-sex weddings and suggests that those tips might freshen up the portfolios of mixed gender weddings, too.
Hamm and Dodds spoke with Tell Me More host Michel Martin about the book and their experiences.
On Dodds' first time photographing a gay wedding in 2005
Dodds: "There were certain things that occurred at their wedding I had never seen at a straight wedding before, the first being that there was no wedding gown. Usually the wedding gown is a big centerpiece of the day. There was also no groom. The first time they kissed was the first time they had kissed before their parents and their extended family, and they had a lot of anxiety about that moment."
Hamm: "Thea had had this experience and recognized something really important, which is that weddings are changing, and photography education needs to change, too; that all of these pose books, which had been written for opposite-sex couples, recognizing that there needed to be a resource for same-sex couples. And there was nothing out there."
On concerns about safety when photographing same-sex couples in public places
Hamm: "There is a couple that came up from North Carolina because they couldn't legally marry there, so they wanted to come to a city nearby where they could marry legally. That would be Washington, D.C. Marriage equality is recognized. And the couple was doing a session out on a street, and a man walked by and harassed the couple, and threatened the photographer to break her stuff — her camera equipment. I have never heard an example of this for a straight couple. And this would be something that most photographers — it wouldn't occur to them to think that making the simple request of asking a couple to cuddle even, but a same-sex couple to cuddle in a public place could be a problem that would engender negative reaction from people walking by ...
"If you ask a same-sex couple — and in particular we see this with two grooms who may be a bit older, they came out long ago — it is a much more awkward proposition to be affectionate in public, because they came up in a time when they were much more marginalized."
On their favorite photographs from Capturing Love
Dodds: "It's this beautiful silhouette of two men holding hands on a hillside. And it's very dramatic at sunset in the desert — amazing pinks and purples in the sky. When I saw this photo, it was a light bulb moment for me. Because it's two men, they're connected, they both look very strong, they look very masculine. Often, I end up feminizing one person and masculinizing the other. And not intentionally; it's just because that's my background. So it's fascinating to see that photo — light bulb moment — this is what I wanna go after."
Hamm: "It has a picture of two grooms facing each other, but all you see are their shoes. They have pants that are different colored but complimentary in tone. They each have polka dots on their socks. What's really neat about this image beyond that the framing is just absolutely gorgeous is that one of the gentlemen is standing tippy-toe. I love this because it's telling the traditional story of romance, and it plays on some of the heterosexual storylines. But this is very clearly, in my mind, essentially two men having a kiss just off-screen. Very arresting."
On the biggest lesson from photographing same-sex weddings
Dodds: "The biggest thing is just trying to meet a couple where they are; trying to figure out what is the dynamic of their relationship and how can I photograph them in a way that will represent that. Because in the end, I want to hand over wedding artwork, not just wedding photography. In this day and age, anybody can pick up a camera and take a picture. I want to give somebody something that goes above and beyond that."
On asking a friend to photograph your big day
Hamm: "Be careful before you ask any friend to photograph your big day, because photographing weddings is not easy work. And as Thea likes to say, the wedding is not a time to practice this. Because it is really hard work, and it's important work. So I would encourage couples to think about what takeaways they wanna have from their big days. And if they do imagine having some really special photography or a special gallery of images, they need to think about that in the planning process."