What do Muse, Queen and Pearl Jam all have in common with the wedding photographs I’m about to share below? Answer; they’ve all shared the same space at Ridge Farm in Surrey. In the sixteenth century when the first stones were laid at this farm, I doubt those who tilled the soil would ever think, or even be able to imagine the kind of music produced by Manchester’s iconic stars of rock, Oasis, filling the four walls of a barn designed for keeping grain dry. Be Here Now, one of my favourite albums was recorded on this farm at the famous residential studio retreat in a room a stone’s throw from a cottage where brides prepare for their weddings now. The studio (two pics down on left) is used no longer, its windows shaded by the foliage that’s gradually enveloping the building sadly, though I did stand on tip toes to see if the hallowed mix desk was still there, until someone remarked it had been sold over a decade ago to Radio Denmark! The bridal preparations take place on the first floor of this neighbouring cottage. Legend has it Ozzy Osbourne’s girlfriend, Sharon also got prepared in this room, although it was a good few years before their wedding. She infamously threw a Rolex watch belonging to Oz in the pond from the balcony and it’s apparently still in there. I looked hard into the shallow waters. It’s not there. The studio closed and the farm grew other business wings as a party venue and latterly, a wedding venue too. Ridge Farm is unique indeed. I doubt there are many other wedding venues where you can play tennis on a court where Freddie Mercury fought five setters, or sit at a breakfast table that entertained Morrisey of The Smiths. I can understand why bands came here. You can breathe in creativity when you’re not fighting in the smoke or struggling to get into work in time thwarted by city traffic and executive attitude. Bands were encouraged to live here as they created their albums and I can just imagine Noel and Liam in more harmonious times, sat writing lyrics and melodies where outdoor wedding ceremonies now take place, serenaded by the sound of wild woodland.
Elmore Court, Gloucestershire. As an English country home, it’s certainly beautiful; a Grade 2 listed mansion; without doubt the stuff of chocolate box England and the classic Englishman’s Castle. As a wedding venue, Elmore Court is remarkable on many levels. It has the kind of family history that heritage tourists salivate over. It’s enveloped by lush green fields, decorated with magnificent mature trees, where echoes of grazing flocks of sheep complete the sound of the countryside. Shut your eyes and you won’t even hear distant traffic’s faint murmur. But within this stately home, a party is brewing, in a house that claims 740 year old roots. It’s history is now Aniket and Russell’s history. There’s nothing very sleepy about Elmore Court tonight as the Photofilm and accompanying wedding pictures will show. My congratulations Aniket, Russell. I’ve gotten to know the boys very well over the past three, four, is it possibly five years? I’ve photographed them as a couple in London and told their story pictorially; how they met and their personal journeys to reach this important point. Their friendship circle includes guests whose own weddings I have shot. It was practically a reunion and one in which I was introduced to couples’ children, the next chapter in their adventures. I know it’s often proposed that a couple should pause in impromptu fashion during their day, to observe and survey all that is going on around them, to breathe in this auspicious occasion and appreciate what an incredible privilege it is to be with friends and family who want to share this story. I equally found myself doing the same on Aniket and Russell’s big day. For one fleeting moment during the afternoon, in each corner seemingly of my eye’s composition, there appeared to be a couple for whom the privilege had equally been extended to me to document their own precious days, a momentary compilation of what for now is my life’s vocation. Aniket, Russell, I look forward to the next chapter in your wonderful story.
I guess an appropriate suffix to this question could also be; why would they even want to? It’s an open debate this one, often discussed in tucked away private social media forums where the gloves are off and battle is fought between professional ‘snappers’ over wedding photographers’ interpretations of words like reportage, documentary, or photojournalism. And I use the word ‘snapper’ purposefully. If you’re coming at this blog from the viewpoint of arranging a wedding then you’ll perhaps by now be aware that differing genres of wedding photography exist. Some of the more formal or traditional photographers in wedding world relate to a natural reportage approach as snapping, which suggests no forethought, composition or character. And for balance, some of those who take this reportage so called snapshot leaning swipe back at the staged flavour of wedding photography as overly contrived, stuffy, perhaps non representative of the actual day or event. To my mind there is no right or wrong and as in all walks of life, you get those who just see the one side of a wall and will never grab a step ladder to appreciate the pointing on the other side. So why am I raising this? Well, over the last week I have been asked a few times about whether I would consider shooting some formals, or if I even do them at all? So this post, is inspired by those questions. Because the answer is yes and it’s always been so. I’ve written a page to celebrate the more posed element to a day, because if I’m asked to do so, I’ll happily set some formals and I’ll think of them as legacy pictures; photographs that show the fashion of a day and how a couple interacted during the few moments they had alone, bar of course sharing it with someone toting a camera. Follow THIS LINK if you’d like to read that page and I’d be interested to receive any comments or thoughts on the subject. But. There always has to be one doesn’t there? In championing a more natural approach to wedding photography, I have a suggestion to couples who are thinking about this part of your day. Your day is unique, special and particular to you. You choose to share this incredible occasion with the most precious people you know. You’ll likely never again see this many people congregate to celebrate just YOU. Your family, your friends, your work colleagues, they are all at your wedding because they have made some kind of contribution to your life. Spend time with them. Be with them, be present. The wedding reception or cocktail hour is a chance to mingle and spend time with guests. It’s not a photoshoot. As I often say to folk; “I’d like to just borrow you for a short while and then I want you to get back to your friends and most of all those natty little canapés.”
A post script to this blog to celebrate being featured in The Wedding Secret’s photography guide. It’s always flattering to be hand picked to help fly the flag for specialised online wedding diaries and search resources, particularly so with The Wedding Secret as this family business ‘knows its onions.’ Jennie Evans launched TWS from a real nuptial base of knowledge; decades of experience organising wedding based entertainment. The link to my own featured page is here. Best of luck to the team with this venture and thrilled to be on board.
It would be fair to say there’s been a hiatus in blog posting of late. Given I posted one a day in May, I just needed a little time to divert my energy into ‘being on the road’ with a camera in hand over the last thirty days or so. So, here’s one from Greenwich; The Queen’s House to be pedantically accurate. Weddings in London are, in terms of transport, a juggling act. I try to leave my car at home in Berkshire and use public transport. There’s little that enthuses me less than making a snail’s pace of progress through smugly calculated short cuts, only to watch cyclists flash past at a relative light speed – and that’s not even the lycra brigade. Having said that, if a London wedding is in one place, or relatively tight in crow flight planning, I prefer the moderately less than mortgage styled train fare, park up at or close to a venue and use my legs. And I’m pleased I did just that for this day, as climbing the hill between Greenwich and the observatory for bridal preparations I happened upon this view.
And so the day began; bright sunshine, Greater London’s decadent and most beautiful hillside awash with sun worshippers, and one ‘glowing’ wedding photographer ascending and descending what seemed like a forty-five degree gradient to traverse between bridal preparations atop the hill and the main show in the valley. This is the story of Lena and Ander’s day. I’m yet to mention that the couple know what they like in terms of photography, respective movie producer and decorated special effects supervisor for films within the Harry Potter franchise to name but one.
Elmore Court; a venue I’ve not photographed at before. I’ve fortuitously got a couple of weddings lined up for the next year or so at Elmore, though the analogous bus routine seems a trifle inappropriate when writing about a house with such history. If you watch the Photofilm you’ll understand a little more about it’s heritage and equally learn, as I did when I visited earlier this year, how earth can be made to shape the most incredible building to play host to banquet receptions and dancing. It’s just occurred to me that I watched a programme about Elmore Court on the BBC recently as it’s owners faced locals in a planning dispute as their wedding venue intentions were deemed to ‘threaten’ the deafening silence of peace across a Gloucestershire valley; loud parties and all that. That’s what the earthen building is about. As a side note, compacted earth is a natural sound proofing ‘agent’. I promise you this. As I took a breather from the dancing and stood peering into the dark acres bordering what’s referred to as The Gillyflower, door closed behind me, I could see guests dancing, but I couldn’t actually hear any music. It was like one of those odd soundless discos, where everyone wears headphones and dances to their own tunes. You can see the moves, you just can’t hear the beats. Aside my light shuffling to stay warm, the sound of my camera’s shutter dragging slowly through a long exposure to attempt a star capture was the only audible clue of anything being beyond the walls of a full swing disco. I digress. Here is Kathryn and Alex’s incredible day, as a Wedding Photofilm.
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