I posted this image on Instagram yesterday and I can't stop thinking about it. I'm thinking about how much fun I had with Paige and Martin. I'm thinking about how sweet and kind... and happy they were (and not just, "it's my wedding day and I'm over-the-moon excited to be marrying the love of my life," but a true happiness that comes from the deep parts of the human soul).
Here's what is really at the front of my mind though: How this image captured a beautiful, heavy, emotional part of the day. I didn't set out to create an image like this. In fact, this was a shot through the trees, roughly 90 degrees from where Katherine was directing the bride and the groom. It just happened. I don't know if this will end up speaking anything profound to Paige and Martin, but it speaks to me, and it makes me feel.
Let me explain: There are a few pieces to this. First, Paige's dad passed away two years ago. Here brother's wife passed away only a few weeks ago. Losing a loved one carries so much weight and the process of grieving is different for everyone. There's no right and wrong way to grieve, but there are definitely opportunities for positive (and negative) responses to the pain that we have when losing someone so close to us. Both Katherine and I were extremely moved last Saturday: Paige and Martin's wedding day. Watching Paige's brother walk her down the aisle; watching Martin's brother walk down the aisle with a bouquet of flowers sybolizing Paig'e sister-in-law's presence there with them all; watching (and weeping) and trying to hold it together, while Paige danced with her brother during what is traditionally the father/daughter dance while a slideshow of images played on the wall behind them; taking in the memorial table that was put together for those beloved members of the family. It was heavy, and their was a sadness in the air. But that wasn't all. Somehow there was a celebratory spirit of joy too... and not only for the new life that Paige and Martin are embarking on, but for the lives lived and loved and cherished in those two individuals that were not in physical presence. I don't know how to explain it, but there was a palpable air of joy and heartache; excitement and sadness. And it was far more fullfiling than it was depleting... at least from my perspective. It was not only a time to celebrate Paige and Martin, but a time to thank God for her dad... and for her sister-in-law.
When I lost my brother to a sudden stroke over five years ago my perspective on image making changed drastically. Katherine and I had visited Kansas City from San Diego in September of 2011. We did a family session for Matt (my brother), Molly (his wife), and Harper (his daughter). He passed away hardly six months later. Those photos that we were able to capture (never even having the slightest notion of any of us not being here for the next 50+ years) became such significant treasures, not only to us, but to our families and to Matt's friends. They still hang on our walls. I've been taking pictures with one camera or another for years, but never did it rest on me the significance that a single photo can have until then.
Those are some of the things that are going through my mind when I look at the photo above. These moments are cherished... every minute... every day that we get to spend with each other.. with our parents... with our kids! I'm sobered by the responsibiility that rests on us to capture these moments on a medium like a photograph that can be kept forever and cherished at will. And I'm so thankful that we have been given the opportunity to share that gift with so many others. I know that those photographs of Matt have meant so much to me, and I hope and I pray that that will ring true for the families that we have worked with in the past and will work with in the future.
Paige and Martin: I can't thank you enough for inviting us to step into your world... to be given the opportunity to see behind the curtain of your grief, and your joy, and your love, and your sadness, and your celebration. Thank you!