Photographing weddings is like people watching, only on steroids. There is a lot going on on a wedding day, a lot of interactions, a lot of different bonds, subtle gestures, some tense moments, nerves, happiness, sometimes sadness and as a photographer you become a keen observer. Only instead of people watching while sitting at a café and watching the world go by, you get to actually photograph these moments, moments that will be gone in a split second but are such keystones in someone’s life. You have to be on your game, be aware of everyone around you, know who is who, who is where, and tune into a sixth sense of “what will happen next” and how you want to capture it, who is the focus of your shot and how can I best tell the story of what is happening at this very moment, and the next moment and the next. On a wedding day the mind of wedding a photographer never stops. For eight, ten, twelve hours straight, my mind is on sensory overload and my body is running on empty, stuffing a cereal bar down to keep me going.
Thankfully the days of losing sleep before a wedding filled with anxiety of “what if I mess up” are long behind me. But the creative drive in me always gets my heart rate up to nail the shot, capture the moment in the most perfectly timed way and to know where to be at the exact moment to get the shot, without interfering in any way. All while the guests are kicking back and having a great and stress-free Saturday out with their friends. Yes, sometimes I get a little envious and think, I would love to be a guest at this wedding, but I am fortunate that the majority of my clients are people that I would genuinely consider as my kind of people. People who I gel with and have a laugh with, and so while I am there to work, I always have a good time doing it. I have been whisked onto the dance floor by the father of the bride and have joined in on some wedding beach games, but only for a moment or two before it's back to business.
Every one experiences a “wedding hangover”. But for me I am not nursing my head. Photographing for nine hours, sometimes up to fourteen hours, straight, with very little food and in a constant state of dehydration – and let’s face it, we can’t risk missing a moment to go to the bathroom – is physically demanding on your body. I roll out of bed on a Sunday morning, quads aching from the weird and wonderful squat positions I get myself into on the wedding day, feet swollen, hand in a constant “claw” shape (arthritis is inevitable), shoulders burning from the aftermath of carrying my bags and having one camera on each shoulder all day. And then you remember you are getting up to do it all over again. But just like the hair of the dog, once you take your first few photos, you forget all the pain and are ready to start again.
Jo Cush is a Melbourne-based photographer who loves to travel outside her comfort zone with camera in hand, and document any story ready to be told.