When it rains, dance in the mud.

Here I am, back on the blog train. Glad you’re reading this. So in the year since Brett and Caroline’s wedding in Nashville, TN, this photo has grown to be one of my favorites. It’s not the most beautiful, most dramatic, or most fashion-forward photo of all time (in fact, it’s quite the opposite). It is, however, a beautiful representation of what I believe is an awesome way to approach a wedding.

Brett&CarolineCelebration-516.jpg

Brett and Caroline’s wedding was scheduled for a summer afternoon in Nashville. Summer in Nashville certainly has the potential to be stunning and sultry, one of those days where butterflies and bunnies flutter and hop through a field of perfectly green grass. This day, however, was not that. The flip side of the weather coin in Nashville is that when you’re not frolicking around with the butterflies, you’re likely to be hunkering down out of a huge thunderstorm. And indeed, a huge thunderstorm is what Nashville offered up on Brett and Caroline’s wedding day.

This is the radar on my phone right as Brett and Caroline's wedding reception was about to start.

This is the radar on my phone right as Brett and Caroline's wedding reception was about to start.

Much like life, there are two very different ways to react to a pure washout. Brett and Caroline handled it flawlessly. Instead of wallowing in the imperfection of a rain-soaked wedding, they chose to embrace it wholeheartedly. By the end of the night, the dance floor was entirely mud-covered. I’d ditched my nice dress shoes for a pair of sneakers I kept in my car, and many of the guests–bride included–decided to just ditch the shoes altogether. I’ve never experienced a group of more joyous people huddled together under a tent.

So sure, this image isn’t the prettiest. But for me, it’s a reminder to keep dancing even when it pours. Perfection isn’t the point of a wedding (or of anything, for that matter). Rather, I believe, it’s the about the pursuit of joy. This is a joyful image to me.

Don’t be afraid to dance in the mud, even if you’re wearing a wedding dress.

 

To Be Never Obtrusive

A wedding at its best is a deeply meaningful, intentional experience. The photos I produce at a wedding, then, are at their best reminders of that experience–like this one.

A wedding at its best is a deeply meaningful, intentional experience. The photos I produce at a wedding, then, are at their best reminders of that experience–like this one.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few weeks thinking about what distinguishes me as a photographer (and, in turn, what distinguishes Organic Exposure as a company). There are several main things that have continued to come to mind, one of which I thought I’d discuss for a bit here. It’s a quality that’s featured quite prominently on the home page of this website, encapsulated by two words:

NEVER OBTRUSIVE

This sounds great (doesn’t it?). But what does it mean? To answer that, I’ll share a bit of my philosophy:

I believe deeply that a great photograph (especially a wedding photograph) is a reminder of a real moment that really happened. It’s why we carry our phones around and snap pictures of things in our lives that seem even slightly exceptional. It’s the truly unique power that still photography has: to freeze not only an image, but a memory. Photos allow us to quickly re-enter a meaningful space, where we can forever tour, explore, and bask in the elements that made that moment meaningful. Truly, it’s amazing.

Here’s the thing, though. In order for a photograph to have that power, it must be preceded by an actual experience. A photograph, in other words, that isn’t preceded by a real experience is a reminder of a shallow, hollow memory. It’s why it can be boring to look at someone else’s vacation photos–they (not you) are the ones who have real experiences to be reminded of. (Please, however, indulge your friends if they want to share their vacation photos with you…it’s only polite.)

This is especially true for a wedding. A wedding at its best is a deeply meaningful, intentional experience. The photos I produce at a wedding, then, are at their best reminders of that experience.

Nothing is more important than allowing real moments to happen. When you're fully invested in those moments, your photos will become reminders of incredible memories, rather than shallow experiences.

Nothing is more important than allowing real moments to happen. When you're fully invested in those moments, your photos will become reminders of incredible memories, rather than shallow experiences.

This is the key: if anything I do as a photographer inhibits a real, meaningful experience from taking place, then the photos I create are reminders of shallow, hollow moments. Worse yet, if I do anything that creates a negative experience, then my photos are reminders of just that–a negative experience. This is why I promise to whomever I work with to never be obtrusive.

So that means several specific things:

  1. I will never do anything to change a real, meaningful moment
  2. I will never try to manufacture a real, meaningful moment. I will let them emerge naturally (dare I say…organically). They are best this way.
  3. I will be very sensitive to what makes a moment meaningful to you. I will do my best to save a reminder of it–a reminder that will allow you to forever re-enter that exceptional space, to tour and explore its extraordinary parts, and to bask in its real meaning.

Announcing: Engagement Documentaries

There are lots of exciting things happening at Organic Exposure these days. In the coming weeks, we’ll be doing our best to keep you informed of these things via this blog.

While I’m excited about many things (new studio space, great new connections in the Raleigh area), perhaps what I’m most excited about sharing is a new set of very unique products that Organic Exposure is now offering.

Brett and Caroline's Engagement Documentary Book by Organic Exposure - 2014

Brett and Caroline's Engagement Documentary Book by Organic Exposure - 2014

We call them engagement documentaries. Ultimately, these products are born of the idea that your story belongs to you, and thus you should be able to tell it in your own words. I work diligently as a photographer and photojournalist to make sure that the content I create tells an honest and authentic story…these engagement documentaries get to the heart of your story like nothing else we’ve ever done.

The process starts by recording a conversation–audio only, radio-style. Then we use the content of that interview create two main products: videos and books. These pieces are truly custom, highly personalized, unique mementos that document as authentically as possible the uniqueness of your story.

Brett and Caroline's Engagement Documentary Slideshow - 2014

To learn more about these products, please check out the Engagement Docs page on OrganicExposurePhoto.com. And don’t hesitate to contact us to talk about how we can document your story in this way.

What does "Organic Exposure" mean?

The most meaningful moments happen naturally, untouched and unchanged by the photographer who illuminates them.

The most meaningful moments happen naturally, untouched and unchanged by the photographer who illuminates them.

Sometimes, I take for granted that the name “Organic Exposure” makes sense. But from time to time, people ask me “what does Organic Exposure” mean? I’m delighted when people ask the question, because it gives me a chance to describe one of the things I’m most passionate about – finding inherent meaning in real moments.

In short, the word “organic” refers to my belief that the photos (and everything else) I produce should be reminders of real moments, feelings, and meanings. My job as a photographer, I feel, is to discover and illuminate meaning, rather than manufacture it. “Organic,” then, reflects the belief that the purest and most fulfilling meaning emerges naturally from the world. Life is oozing with meaning, purpose, emotion, and joy. It pulses through life like blood through a body, like sap through a tree. My passion is searching for it, harvesting it, and honoring it.

“Exposure,” then (set aside the obvious photography reference), alludes to the searching/harvesting element of the job. If you speak to enough photographers, you’ll start to notice a sort of dichotomy in how they refer to the act of photographing. Some will say that they “make” photographs; others will say that they “take” photographs. I unashamedly “take” photos. To “expose” is to illuminate rather than produce, it is to enlighten rather than fabricate. Technically speaking, to produce a photograph, a photographer opens their camera and exposes their sensor (or film) to light that already exists in the world. The photograph is not an original creation, but rather a reflection of reality. I try to allow the same process to occur in my intellectual and philosophical approach to the job of photographer. My experiences, both physical and emotional, are sensors upon which the meaning(s) inherent in life can be impressed. At my best, whether as a photographer or simply a living being in the world, I allow my senses to exist unperturbed by the a need to reconstruct or refashion. So it is with my photography work. I find the most meaning when things happen naturally, unperturbed by my presence.

Or, as Lao-Tzu says:

““Therefore the master

acts without doing anything

and teaches without saying anything.

Things arise and she lets them come;

things disappear and she lets them go.

She has but doesn’t possess,

acts but doesn’t expect.”

This is the approach I try to bring to all the work I do. At a wedding, I try to allow meaning to arise naturally (organically). At a portrait sitting, I try to discover the essence of what it means to be you. At every turn, the meaning that I try to manufacture is never even close to as fulfilling as the meaning that is manufactured by simply living in the world. The best photos I take, then, are ultimately organic exposures of life’s inherent meaning.