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We Have Come A Long Way…

…since Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

But until Theresa and Alia can legally get married then we still have a long way to go.

So this is what I would like to add to the dream speech…

I have a dream that little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin…

…or by who they choose to love…

…but by the content of their character.

Here’s to having a dream.

And here’s to Alia and Theresa.

The Whole Rollei Story…

This is a continuation of Gina and Keith’s wedding (to see all of the series click here).

Since Gina had hired a photographer to document the day (so I could be a guest for the night) so I made an executive hurried decision… no digital only the Rollei.

I wanted to enjoy the night and not worry about photographing the whole time and I didn’t want to be the obnoxious guest that gets in the way of the hired photographer while he was trying to do his job. But the minute I left my canon in my room and joined Gina and her family as they were heading down in the elevator, I started to regret my decision. Because her photographer was not there and the scene was amazing… and the elevator, although really dark had great lights and mirrors everywhere… so I guessed the exposure on my Rollei, crossed my fingers, held it really really still and jumped in… and here’s the story of Gina and Keith’s wedding at the United Nations from the Rollei’s perspective…

And here’s one with me, just to prove I was indeed there and having lots of fun… thanks for the amazing wedding Gina and Keith!

The Ultimate New York Wedding… (coming soon)

Rehearsal Dinner Cruise on Friday, followed by a wedding at the United Nations building…. it was amazing. I was not the official photographer, as Gina is one of my close friends and she did not want me working, but I of course could not help myself.

This is just the tiniest sample, as it is only the day after the event, and I am still recovering from the festivities… but I wanted give them a glimpse before they depart to the Galapagos Islands (I tried to convince them to take me along with them to document their honeymoon but for some reason they weren’t so keen on the idea.)

Happy travels, Gina and Keith, and thanks for the amazing weekend.

A Documentary Photographer’s Perspective on Weddings…. candids, candids, candids

First of all, I need to define Documentary Photographer, so this is wikipedia’s definition: The photographer attempts to produce truthful, objective, and usually candid photography of a particular subject, most often pictures of people.

That definition basically says enough about why I like photographing weddings and the way I approach photographing them, but I am still going to say more.

It is odd because within the documentary photography world, there is some snobbery about photographers who photograph weddings. But if you are a documentary photographer (see definition above) then there is no reason not to love photographing weddings… there are usually 50-200 people to photograph and that means lots of moments, stories and emotions everywhere you look. And generally, most everyone is in a good mood and happy to be photographed (although I have definitely learned that is not true for everyone!)

As for my approach to photographing weddings, I love telling the story of weddings through photographs.

I would so so so much rather take candid and truthful photos than any posed photos. Posed photos make my stomach flip with nervousness. I am getting better at directing, but at the weddings I photograph, I can’t wait until all the formals are over and I can get back to taking candids. I feel like a wedding should be about enjoying the day and living in the moment… not stopping the moment, and leaving the moment, so you can go and freeze a false moment. (Although I know that formal portraits are important too… but I keep them to a minimum, and my philosophy is: the faster, the better.)

The one formal part I do look forward to, is stealing the bride and groom soon after the ceremony and photographing them alone and happy being brand newly married… but I try to make them forget I am there.

Here are some of my favorite parts of the wedding I photographed a couple of weekends ago. It is the story of Jodi and Dan. Their story is more emotional and complex than some; it involves Dan’s 8 year old son, a considerable difference in ages and Jodi’s mom who is living with cancer, all coming together on this one day to celebrate.






And then… the ones below are some of my favorite extras and outtakes.


Yay California! Fingers crossed for Novemeber… or better yet, Vote ‘No’ on Prop 8!

On May 16, 2008 the California Supreme Court overturned the ban on Gay marriage. I heard the report in the car as I was driving and I immediately called one of my best friends who has been working for Equality California. They are trying to get people to Vote “No” on Proposition 8, in order to legalize Gay marriage in California permanently. We excitedly talked about what this decision will mean for California and for the thousands of gay couples who could not marry the person they loved. This is a concept that makes no sense to me. Why, in this world of so much negativity, violence and suffering, why wouldn’t we want to encourage people to commit their lives to caring for and loving another person… regardless of their gender?

Well, luckily, for the time being, California is taking a stand and making it legal, and so I wanted to show my support however I could. I have been nagging my friend to please spread the word to all her lesbian and gay friends that I want to photograph a Gay wedding. Finally, Jessamyn, another photographer, contacted me and told me about the competition she held on her blog, asking gay couples to share their story and then she would pick the best story and photograph their wedding for free. She told me that she had picked the winners but that she was so bummed not to be able to photograph all the weddings…. and I said, “Pass them to me, I’d love to.”

So Wednesday afternoon, I drove to SF and met and photographed the weddings of two different couples. Here are my photographs of one of the ceremonies along with the story they submitted for the contest:

Our story: we met 22 years ago and have lived together 20 years. I was previously married and had a 4 month old baby boy when my husband died of a sudden heart attack. I met Marguerite when Michael was almost 4 years old, and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have found love again. Marguerite had not had a serious love affair before me, although she had been out as a lesbian for several years. We were introduced by a mutual friend–someone I had known for many years and someone Marguerite met while she was delivering the mail! It was love at first sight and we have been together ever since. I am now 63 and Marguerite is 55. Marguerite is the first-born daughter of Chinese immigrants and she has now quit the post office and is a pharmacist. My background is Southern US and Caucasian, and I have been in CA since high school. I am a pediatric nurse practitioner. We both lived in Berkeley for many years before we met and still live in our home in north Berkeley. When our son Michael was 9, Marguerite adopted him and we have been his official parents since then, although he considered her his other mom before that.

We never thought of ourselves as the marrying kind. We hadn’t been involved in pushing for same-sex marriage in the past, but during the marriages in 2004, we both realized it might be for us. We had just decided to make a date at City Hall when the decision to annul those marriages came and we put the marriage idea behind us. I told our son it would never happen in my life-time. The day of the Supreme Court decision, I just didn’t even want to know about it, because I knew the decision would be against us. I learned of the decision via e-mail while at work, and I immediately texted Marguerite and asked her to marry me. She responded yes! We both could not believe how happy we were, and how suddenly we became the marrying kind! I felt legitimized and normal–it was and is a great feeling. Our son said, “Now maybe I could someday get married,” and we found out he had decided that he couldn’t get married until we could get married.

We looked for rings and finally decided–similar but not identical bands. I wanted a new dress, and found a beautiful dark blue dress that I love. Our friends and family are so happy for us and have been really great and we are looking forward to both the ceremony and the party.

We decided on SF City Hall for two reasons–it is totally beautiful and it is totally historic. If it weren’t for Gavin, we wouldn’t be getting married at all. We have friends who stood in line for 12 and 13 hours in 2004 to get married at City Hall, and the people at City Hall were just wonderful, kind, generous and we want to honor them and the City of San Francisco by getting married there ourselves. And we love the City–we always feel we can go anywhere and be welcomed as a couple.

Thank you so much for your offer. Pictures can be so special–ours will be snapshots taken by friends and hopefully by someone at City Hall so we can get one of our whole party. It’s hard for me to express just why I think what you are doing is so great, but it has to do with that feeling of being normal and legitimate. And the positive regard from people like yourself is like being bathed in sweet warm sunlight, after having been in a dark cave for awhile. You are very kind to make this offer and I know all of us, whether selected or not, truly appreciate you.

As Martha and Marguerite walked down the stairs after their ceremony, the next couple waiting to get married with their wedding party, started clapping and congratulating them. And that is how it felt the whole day. It was so fun to watch all the other couples who were there standing in line and waiting excitedly with their partners. It felt so good to be even a small part of such an important part of human right history.

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