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Holi Powder Photo Shoots

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There’s nothing more delightful than feeling like Spring may truly be right around the corner.  As a photographer, that feeling is multiplied by about a million.  Daylight lasts longer, providing that stunning golden hour light that is one of our favorite times for shooting.  Models revel in allowing the sun to warm their skin, and we can work longer without having having to worry about anyone freezing.  A couple of years ago, we became mildly obsessed with the Holi Festival, an ancient Hindu religious festival which is now celebrated world wide.  The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and a time to repair ruptured relationships.  One of the most visually stunning rituals of the festival is the throwing of Holi Powder, highly saturated and deeply pigmented powders which are thrown on the hundreds of thousands of people who gather for the festival to usher in Spring every years.

At the time we began our exploration of using Holi Powder as an expression of the powerful emotional life of women, there were very few photographers using the powder for anything other than engagement shoots.  Rather than using the powder as a weapon, we wanted it to be an extension of the model’s internal emotional life, and allowed the colors used to reflect what the model was feeling at that moment, and wanted to express.  The internet now seems flooded with model powder shoots, all of us inspiring each other to play with color.  It truly is a humbling experience to see an idea take off, especially when you remember the moment the idea struck you, and to revisit it as soon as the days get warmer and the promise of Spring in the air.  You can visit a more complete gallery of our journey with Holi Powder at Holi Powder by Black, White and Raw Photography.

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When Moms Become Wives

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As a photojournalist, it’s my job to capture events as they unfold in front of me.  As an artist, it is impossible to photograph what’s in front of me without seeing it through the filter of a lifetime of personal experiences and feelings, both the love and the heartache.  Each wedding has a story, an intricate web of family relationships, history and love, and as someone who drops into the most intensely personal day in the lives of our clients, it is our responsibility to quickly see and feel those moments and to have the courage to show them in the midst of the wedding day chaos.

For Jackie and Matt’s wedding at the Talamore Country Club in Ambler, Pa, I was instantly struck by Jackie’s young son, and the way he was welcomed into his new family.  Getting dressed with his new dad, who did everything possible to include the 7 year old at every step of the way.  It awakened memories in me of my own mother getting married when I was that age.  A mix of fear at seeing seeing the woman who had bravely risked everything to take care of me on her own, and a great joy and relief that there was someone who was promising to step in and take care of both of us.  Someone who promised to be there forever, who made me feel like everything was going to be ok.

It was a beautiful day, and a lovely experience, and I wish the beautiful new family every bit of joy and happiness in the world.

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The Reluctant Bride

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It was our greatest photographic challenge to date.  We were hired to shoot a wedding that we were quite excited about…just one catch.  The bride didn’t want photography.

We were hired by the groom’s mother.  It all seemed very routine.  It was a gift from the groom’s mother, and I thought she was just helping her son and new daughter-in-law by taking care of the one thing that every bride wants:  stunning photography, right?  With my contract to the bride, I also send a pretty detailed questionnaire.  A timeline of the events, addresses of locations, important people to photograph, etc.  I received back nothing but a signature and an email address. As we got closer to the date of the wedding, I tried to reach our bride, but she was clearly avoiding me.  I was in a panic.  How would I know what style of photography she wanted?  Was she a formal, posed group type of girl, or did she like candid photojournalism?  Did she have a location in mind for group shots?  Did she want group shots?  Who were the important people in her life?   A day before the wedding I reached out to her future mother-in-law and was informed that her new daughter adamantly didn’t want a photographer, but she would just have to “suck it up”.  I was petrified.  Here was the most important day in a young woman’s life, and we were about to appear with cameras and our gear, no more wanted that the paparazzi with an armful of lenses in the face of Alec Baldwin.

How to approach it?  We were hired to capture all those lovely, smiling happy moments, to do our best to create beautiful memories, and now we had to navigate around an angry bride and some clearly complicated family issues.  We decided to approach it the best we could,  please our client, focus on the guests, put on our longest lenses, and attempt to be as discreet as humanly possible.  I met the groom first.  He was perfect.  I couldn’t believe our luck.  Young and handsome, with a brilliant mohawk that instantly made me deliriously happy.  I wasn’t allowed to see the bride beforehand, so I waited for her to appear for her walk down the isle, armed with my longest lens and hoped I wasn’t about to ruin her day.

She was awesome.  Covered in tattoos, makeup-free, rocker chick with a flowing, easy white gown.  Did she know how we adore couples like this?  Young and bad ass and tattooed and different?  Visibly pregnant, I suddenly wondered if this was the issue.  Did she want me to hide her adorable baby bump, or feature it?  If only I knew what she wanted, I knew we could have knocked this young tattooed, off-beat couple out of the park with some cool, edgy photos.  As she started her walk with her father, down the isle to her handsome future husband, I zoomed in from across the room, hoping to catch the glint of joy in her eyes.  Possibly it was my fear of ruining her day, but I could have sworn her glaring contempt for me was palpable.

As the day unfolded, we carefully did a balancing act, of trying to catch her happiest times, while not being intrusive, as she ducked and dodged us at every turn, until finally, at last, we asked our couple to do us one favor…give us the finger.  It was officially the most genuine, wonderfully warm moment of our interactions with her.  I hope she loves her photos.  I hope she cherishes them forever and that we were able to capture all those details that she won’t remember one day, or was too busy to notice at the moment.  I’ll probably never know, ’cause she’s just not that kind of chick.  And as someone who desperately craves the words that my brides (or anyone else we photograph) are totally in love with every moment that we put our hearts and souls into capturing, I’m oddly ok with that.

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