I can no longer stay silent in the debate on religious freedom. We are at a critical moment in history when some would seek to squash our rights. The State of Indiana is currently hashing out its position on the extent to which business owners can be forced to cater to individuals whose lifestyles clash with their personal religious views. Dozens of other states have religious freedom laws on the books which are also now under scrutiny with the potential of being dismantled.
The time has come to make a stand; to speak out. I have deeply held spiritual commitments and religious feelings on the sanctity of marriage. I know I may come under fire by some, but I want it known that I am part of the fight; that I am on the right side of history. And as a small business owner and wedding photographer, I feel I must now make my position known.
MY SMALL, FAMILY-OWNED PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SERVE HUMAN BEINGS.
There. I said it. And I feel so much better.
In case I need to be more clear … I get to make my living photographing the most joyful of human celebrations. Weddings, births, adoptions, birthdays, anniversaries- that’s what I do. Even annual school pictures and team photos and family portraits are a celebration of the passage of time.
I cannot imagine withholding my services from anyone based on what a person looks like or who a person has chosen to make a life with. I look to the man known as Jesus Christ, every day, to guide my decisions. And the Bible tells me that JC did not withhold his kindnesses and services from those in need. In fact, he SOUGHT OUT those most scorned.
I'm going to stay away from righteous platitudes and speeches, and Bible verses about the compassion of Christ. You can get that all over the internet. I'll just leave it at this ... Who am I judge a person’s love or lifestyle or family? I have witnessed more than 20 weddings each year for 12 years. They are all different. And they're all the same. And I have learned this: God is Love. Love is divine. Who am I to judge God?
I will photograph my first “gay wedding” this fall. I expect it will be like any other wedding I’ve been a part of. It will be a celebration of a friendship, a romance and a deep-seeded love that is supported by a hundred friends and family members. If this divine Love and commitment can be nurtured and supported by all these people in this young couple’s life, who am I, AS A VENDOR, to question it? Do my views even matter? I ask, what right do I have to stand in the way of God and Love? I repeat, God IS Love. God is commitment and unity and compassion. It is The Devil who makes hate and division.
I make these statements because I want all to know the kinds of principles my small business is based on. I don’t want any couple or family or person to wonder if my business will be supportive of their needs. I don’t want anyone to feel awkward or shy to approach my business. No one who is embarking on this journey so full of hope and plans and dreams should have to start off with those kinds of worries. Let them worry about how they are going afford this snowball celebration, and whether or not to get raspberry filling in their wedding cake (just don’t … trust me) and what kind of flowers are going to be perfect … not about whether a vendor is going to take their money based on how they love.
I love watching my families grow.
After I spend a whole year planning with a couple and then guide them through their wedding day, it's hard not to feel like a part of the family. And when they return to me for milestone events, I begin to feel like an elder aunt, beaming with pride as they advance through life, building their own family under my watchful eye.
This is how I felt when Carla and Brian returned to me at Esperanza Mansion in Branchport, NY from their home in Long Island last month. One year ago I photographed their beautiful Esperanza wedding, and the couple returned to celebrate their one year anniversary. Bryan contacted me for a session as an anniversary gift for seven-months-pregnant Carla.
What a great time! Carla is as radiant in pregnancy as she was as a bride. It's good to see couples just as much in love a year later. I had so much fun putting the pair in the same settings we photographed them in on their wedding day, not something I get to do very often. Esperanza is a photographer's dream in any weather, in any season; it's gorgeous both inside and out. But when the venue is meaningful, the photographs mean even more.
Choosing a wedding venue can be so much more than selecting a place to get married. Bryan and Carla had discovered the mansion on a weekend getaway during their courtship and fell in love with it, so it was a natural spot for their reception. It's a place that came to mean something for them. It's a part of their history together. And it's a place to return to.
I'm a big advocate of planning a budget-conscious wedding. And Esperanza is definitely higher-end. But I feel its endurance as a historical landmark and as a vacation destination are worth the price if you can swing it. Maybe I'll get to photograph the whole Rowland family there for their silver anniversary in 24 years!
It's recital time.
All those months of lessons. All that shuttling kids from school to games to practices. All that money (maybe a thousand or more) spent on tuition, costumes, fees ... The day has come. The hair is curled. The makeup applied. Your little star is tucked away backstage and you're in the theatre, clutching your camera, waiting for your baby to shine for three whole minutes.
The lights dim and your hope is dashed. "Ladies and gentlemen, we'd like to remind you that the taking of photographs and recording of the show in any way is strictly prohibited. So-and-So is videotaping the recital today, and photographs taken at rehearsal will be on sale online next week."
Your heart sinks. The grandparents are out of town! How will anyone know how adorable and talented your kid is if you can't post photos to Facebook right away?!
There are lots of reasons why photography is prohibited at many recitals and performances. For one, it can be a huge distraction to performers on stage. I’ve heard snickers from the audience when an announcement is made that "flash photography can be dangerous for performers onstage." We in the audience just don’t believe it. But it's really true. During a show, the stage is lit largely from lights above. Performers are taught to look out in the direction of the audience, which in most cases, is pitch black. When a flash of light bursts from the crowd, dancers can get distracted. It’s jarring. If the lighting is dark or moody, that unexpected pop of light can make a dancer do a double take and see spots. This really happens.
Also, there may be a photographer who has been asked to make pictures during rehearsal. This is long, arduous work for a photographer, who is usually shooting for free since most studios can't afford to actually pay a professional's hourly rate. So the photographer works like mad to photograph every kid and sell the images online. I've done this a couple times, and I've always been disheartened at the low response to some truly beautiful and captivating images. But a lot of parents don't even think to check the galleries after the show is over; they've moved on to School's Out and summer vacations and the next sports season. Sometimes, photography is prohibited to try to boost sales for the photographer.
But the biggest reason photography is restricted, from my view, is that we parents can be real jerks when it comes to our kids! At last year's recital, at an out-of-town studio, I saw some things that were nothing short of parental desperation and denial.
I sat next to a women who made at least 15 shots with flash of her kid's number. Every time the flash burst next to me, I had to blink away spots, literally feeling like I was missing half the routine. I watched another woman a few rows down climb over seven or eight people in her row to go down to the front, resting her elbows on the shoulder-height stage floor. I saw parents stand up in the aisles, completely oblivious to the crowd behind them. Good, decent people lose their minds when it comes to preserving their baby's history.
I understand the rule prohibiting photography. But I am still going to break it. It’s my kid, after all, and we’ve put a lot of time and commitment into this.
I tried to be good at my own kid's recital yesterday. I had a nice aisle seat down in front and my long lens was at the ready, camera set to high ISO and wide open aperture. But then I heard that announcement and tucked my camera away, disappointed. But then, slowly, other parents’ pocket cameras and cell phones came out. And darned if I- usually a rules-follower, wasn't going to get my pictures, too.
As a professional who photographs these events, I get it, from the photographer's perspective. But as a parent, I understand that the chances of the photographer, no matter how good he or she is, getting a great shot of MY kid are slim. In a four-minute song, with 20 kids onstage, even the best photographer has very limited time to spend on each kid during dress rehearsal. That's why I place no restrictions on parents at these events. I sure hope my professional shots are better than the ones from your iPhone, but if not, that's on me.
So here are my rules for how to break the rules, without being a jerk:
- Use flash under no circumstances. Bump up your ISO as high as necessary and open your aperture as wide as possible. If you don't know what this means, you are probably not going to get many good shots anyway, so just put it away and enjoy the show.
- Do not get out of your seat.
- Do not hold your camera above your head, obscuring the view of people behind you.
- Turn off your LCD (you know, the panel on the back where you can see your picture). This prevents it from being a distraction to other audience members.
- Do not take 8 million shots, annoying the person next to you- especially if you are fancy and have a dslr with a loud shutter.
- Take a few minutes to check out the photographer's website. Yes, it's hard to get great shots of everybody's kid but there's a chance there might be some great images of your kid. You wouldn’t want to miss out.
And I leave you with this thought, too ... Consider NOT photographing the recital. I made the mistake yesterday that I ALWAYS make. In trying to get great shots of my kid and her friends, I nearly completely missed her whole first number. Yeah, I got some great images but I missed the essence of the routine. It was a musical theatre number and there was a storyline that unfolded that I totally missed. "Mom!" said my kid excitedly after the show. "Did you see the part where so-and-so did whatever?! Wasn't that funny?!" Sadly, no. I missed that part because I was too focused on getting a picture of my kid. I was so intent on capturing the moment that I missed being in the moment.
That's something to think about.
I love January.
Anyone who knows me will be shocked to see those letters form in that sequence in anything written by me. My hatred of the bone-chilling cold of winter is famous. The holiday cheer is past, and I find myself looking down the barrel of a long, grey, frigid three months.
But in recent years, January has become a month of great excitement for me. Over the hump of fall weddings and Christmas card family portrait sessions, I find myself in a period of reflection and renewal. As we are all making our News Year's resolutions, I am also re-evaluating my studio and my business in preparation for the annual Arnot Mall Bridal Show. This weekend in Horseheads, dozens of wedding vendors converge to put their best foot forward and show what they have to offer the prospective brides and grooms of the Finger Lakes Region of Central New York.
As I review my work from 2012 to find just the right prints to display, I use this time to retool my website and all my wedding package offerings. Just as I begin to come down from the adrenaline-filled high of finishing last year, excitement already begins to bubble for the new year.
And 2013 is off-the-chain EXCITING!
I might as well go ahead and let the news rip; I've been sitting on it for months. I AM OPENING A STUDIO ON MARKET STREET!
Along with David Rochelle of Rochelle Media Works and Sean Lukasik of CreAgent Marketing, I took over 41 East Market Street in Corning on January 1. The three of us are sharing suites above Pure Design in the former Exhibit A Gallery.
After two years without a large shooting studio, I am so looking forward to getting back in the swing of it. I will have two shooting bays and will equip myself for portraits for professionals, high school seniors, families and children. I will continue to specialize in location portraits but am glad to have a back-up for inclement weather and a space to experiment with creative and dramatic studio lighting, and inventive backdrops and props. I expect to be fully operational in this new "main" office in June. I will continue to accomodate high school seniors, individuals and small family groups in my Canisteo studio at 16 East Main Street. As ever, I will remain true to my style of capturing the essence of my subjects in candid and realistic images, rather than rely on a lot of out-of-the-can, hokey "theme" portraits.
Also exciting is the addition of Simply Stunning Cinema, our artistic approach to "the wedding video." Shooting weddings exclusively for Strinni Studio, David Rochelle offers something completely unique in our region.
Check out a trailer from a recent wedding.
Another feature unique to Strinni Studio is our Simply Stunning Portrait Booth. Manned by our assistant photographer, this portrait station offers a fun backdrop, studio lighting and wacky props. Guests at your wedding, party or corporate function can step onto our set and walk away with a 4x6 print or 2x6 strip of four images. These make a great favor from any event. Wedding clients may also elect to have our studio create a unique guest book from these photographs, where your guests affix their prints and sign in with advice and well-wishes.
Log on to Facebook to see the results of our Simply Stunning Portrait Booth.
Lastly, I am beginning a project of photo essays on families headed by same-sex parents. I am calling the project "Two Mommies Two Daddies ONE LOVE." If you know of a family who would like to be documented, please have them contact me. I'd love to hear their story.
So, this is why I am beginning to love January! Beginnings and re-births abound. Please like Strinni Studio on Facebook and follow my blog to stay tuned! As always, I am so thankful for your support of my business and your interest in my work. Happy New Year!