Tonight we made it back to Seattle after a wedding extravaganza in Los Angeles. Elly made us dinner, and supplied us with fortune cookies from takeout earlier in the weekend. Mine read: “You may attend a party where strange customs prevail.”
The wedding was a big, traditional Sephardic affair, of my wife's third cousin's daughter. By coincidence, Miriam and Josh's photo, that I took, was on the splash page of the Yeshiva University website last week (they met there). The event felt like I was back in Washington Heights when I shot the Yeshiva U viewbook.
I watched the pro photographers at work. They were efficient and good, and at one point we talked shop. John Solano and his wife do 130 weddings a year. They obviously know what they're doing. “I don't know how to do anything else,” he told me.
My first thought was, how does he handle that massive data stream (he shoots RAW). Here's how: seven employees (“Though I edit every one,” he said). And a new 14 terabyte server. Later I asked the bride's mom how much the photography was costing (answer: a lot more than I charge). I did a quick calculation, figured in the substantial overhead, and realized these people were not getting wealthy.
But they were pros—they knew to get close, they directed only minimally and didn't interrupt the natural flow of the event. Whenever I saw them shooting, I tried to steer clear and photograph my own way elsewhere. It meant I got to do my own weird shots of what, for me and many of the guests, was an exotic spectacle of a wedding.
There is a lot of dancing at an Orthodox Jewish wedding. It's segregated though, men on one side, women on the other, and a wall in between. An enduring photographic exploration of mine is dance as social cohesion, so I got into the middle of the men's circle. It felt like a rugby scrum in a mosh pit, filled with joyful abandon.
Here are some photos.