I am tired, I am weary
I could sleep for a thousand years
Lou Reed, Venus in Furs
The wedding industry, like social media is guilty of curating our moods, favouring happiness and presenting an ideal image to the world, and photographers, not just the photography are no different really. In a sense we have to be. Because who wants to be dour blot on everyone’s happy day? I don’t mean as a physical presence on the day itself, I mean how we represent it and ourselves afterwards. I’m not necessarily talking about photographing the stressed dad on the phone for two hours because the wine company forgot to despatch the entire wedding wine or the bride still trying to smile through the fact that the dressmaker got her dress wrong and it was too late to do too much about it. Or that ‘fine art wedding photography’ would have you believe everyone arrived borne on gentle gossamer clouds and were transported everywhere by the very softest of sunbeams, and that no one ever at this wedding has ever even heard of, much less seen or even handled, any kind of carrier bag. Even documentary wedding photographers shy away from plastics preferring to capture the bride and groom accidentally standing pretty still in a field of golden hanging lanterns.
If I sound a little grumpy about these wedding tropes that’s because I am. But that’s really what this blog is about. No one really talks publicly about the seasonal wedding burnout. Of having shot a lot of weddings and spent too much time around our own photography.
Right now, frankly, I’m pretty bored of my photography. That doesn’t mean I’m phoning it in or doing a bad job. It’s not a question of quality but more how I respond to my own work. I look at my photos and don’t see anything new. My photos just look like my photos. Again, no qualitative judgement on that. This is very probably an entirely internal process. It’s just they don’t surprise me or delight me, personally. But also I’m pretty sure dissatisfaction, even disaffection, is part of the process. The moment our brains allow contentment to creep in is the moment we get sloppy, disinterested and lazy. How many of us come away from a wedding thinking, ‘I smashed that,’ compared to ‘Shit, I got absolutely nothing today.’? I think most of us would be in the second camp. But then how many sit down with the photos, go through the edit, and go ‘Oh actually, I kind of did a good job after all.’ That happens to me throughout the year, at pretty much every wedding, but around this time of year there’s an added accumulated mental fatigue from all the aggregate stress and worry over the many times you’ve beaten yourself up for not getting the shot that it will turn out you did actually get.
And you know what photographers, of course you got the shot. After all the hours you’ve put in on this job it’s actually more difficult to take a bad shot than a good one. Because this is your job. This is what you do. You have trained and conditioned your brain and your brain doesn’t forget how to compose an image from one week to the next. That’s just static on the line from your neurotic, weary, end-of-year self. The self who could really, really use a holiday right now. And you should go on holiday, or do something nice for yourself, because when someone comments that ‘Wow your day rate is a lot. Like A LOT.’ actually there’s no such thing as a day rate in this job. Because yes there’s the editing and the equipment, the insurance and the man hours spent responding to enquiries, but also there is the constant nervous energy that any good, committed photographer is burning through 24/7 throughout their year. And it is tough.
Here then is a shot that I took at last Saturday’s wedding, which I left feeling like I’d got nothing at all. Not because I had got nothing at all but because right now, for a lot of us, we are pretty exhausted and that leads directly to a self-deflating neuroses.
Hands up if you’re feeling that, too…
Technical details for the photography wonks:
Camera: Leica Q
Lens: 28mm 1.7
Shutter speed: 1/3200