Thoughts From a Wedding Photographer During COVID-19

It's easy to say it's been hard. This entire monstrosity of a pandemic. How it's ravaged our livelihoods, our planning, our day to day. Not to mention the actual souls it's stolen from us. I'm constantly reflecting now on the fragility of life & how uncertainty is a constant. Those are the harsh truths of COVID-19. And so, wedding photography has taken on new personal definitions. When I moved the business to Colorado two years ago, ('cause, mountain weddings... am I right?!) I had certain set intentions. These intentions have been a through line of my career, but sometimes new surroundings can refresh long established goals. As I drove my little black car through the wonderland of Denver, they echoed in my brain.

"To capture insanely gorgeous images that memorialize true moments in people's lives. To make photos & videos of utmost importance to the viewer. To honor them above myself."

I've always believed if you go into any wedding with that mentality, you can make great work. Honoring the viewer, the receiver of your art, above yourself means they are the reason you create. Without them, your work would cease to exist & your sole job is to celebrate them fully. Needless to say, my clients mean everything to me. Honestly. So witnessing some of their carefully crafted wedding plans unravel rapidly has been, in a humble attempt of words, frustratingly & persistently heartbreaking.

The helper in me wants to just completely fix the situation. To erase the pandemic, travel bans, guest count limitations, county variances, & cancellations altogether. But the rational thinker inside realizes this is not possible. And I'm caught dancing between the two. When our clients first began reimagining or pushing back their weddings this season, I was abruptly thrust into that drive through Denver in my little black car.

What does it mean to honor the client above yourself during a global pandemic? I'm still searching & exploring this. At the outset, I didn't know how to respond to the somber emails of cancellations in a way that I felt actually captured how sorry I am. I considered trying to keep them focused on the future, on the possibility of planning a stunning, even more perfect wedding once things settle, but that doesn't honor the validity of their frustrations. It's akin to someone saying, "I'm starving," and you saying, "Yeah, but in the uncertain future, you'll be able to eat again & it will be great."

So, I tried to breathe. One thing I think I can be so bold to claim to have learned in my 27 years around the sun is that empathy takes patience. I can't really imagine how someone is feeling without taking the time & space to do so. And that can be harder than you might think. But, nevertheless, I tried. What would I feel if my wedding plans were thrown into a blender from a completely inconceivable outside force? Pissed. Straight up pissed. Then sad. Then pissed. Then repeat.

Our couples have probably already heard me say this, but I feel as your wedding vendor, I'm your wedding ally. You're gracious enough to allow me to follow you around and capture one of the biggest days of your life, so the least I can do is support you in the best ways I know how. Usually this involves a lot of just getting to know what's important to you for your wedding day, your personality, & your style. Hate direction and just want lots of candids? Done and done. Feel awkward in front of a camera & need to laugh a little to forget it's there? I have a plethora of dad jokes in my arsenal sure to make you're completely distracted by all the cheese. Facilitating a breezy, truly enjoyable process of photography and videography is a lot like speaking unique languages of each person you aim to capture.

But what is the unique language of COVID-19 affected clients? After some reflection, I knew I had to meet them exactly at the present. Admitting this categorically sucks. There's no way around it. It just does. And it's not fair. And you don't deserve to be going through it. But what happened next, I didn't expect. The overwhelmingly majority of calm, grounded responses I received. The feeling of yes, it sucks, but what matters most is the love they share for each other, their friends, & family. How could this immensely responsible outlook spring from such an emotional time? It got me thinking.

If my job is to honor the viewer, the subject of my art, above myself, then my job is to capture this resilience moving forward. To somehow show the emotional, difficult journey the couple has endured to get to their wedding day in spite of COVID. But, it doesn't have to be a depressing image, rather the opposite. In my time shooting reimagined, resized, & reformatted weddings in the wake of COVID, I've found this resilience in the soft, subtle moments. A look between a bride & her mother, a moment of release that says, "We made it, finally". The candid moments of emotion have always been my focus as a wedding photographer, but now they feel even more grounded, real, & alive.

And so, with enough Purell to fill a swimming pool & masks perpetually attached to my face, I'm still shooting weddings, working within the guidelines & restrictions, just like my clients. I keep reminding myself that photographing & filming weddings has now become more important than ever. To capture that distinct resilience between couples, their commitment to love, & their humble sacrifices. Images are the most powerful way to hold onto a moment, and now with family members & friends unable to attend due to guest count limitations, travel restrictions, & health concerns, I see my photography & videography as a way to include them on the wedding day. So, every moment double counts. And I'm here for it. Promise.

Have and To Hold Photography is a luxury wedding photography and videography company based out of Denver but serving all of Colorado. Keep up with their Colorado wedding adventures on instagram! @haveandtoholdphotography

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