Throughout our photographic careers, there are images we capture that remind us of why we’re photographers to begin with.
I have shot many Westin Philadelphia Weddings in my career. It’s a place I’m very familiar with, and if I’m not careful, I could fall into the trap of becoming formulaic, since I almost know it too well, and I need to make sure I stay fresh.
I’m often asked what motivates me to continue shooting 50 weddings per year, and how I stay enthusiastic about making pictures. My answer is honest and direct: I wake up in the morning, and I hope that sometime during the day, I’ll make a picture. I hope to make a picture that sends chills down my spine and make a picture that means something to me. I hope it’s an image that impacts my client, of course, but I want it to impact me as an artist and storyteller as well. Selfish? Perhaps, but it makes us work harder for our clients, as well.
This image sent such chills down my spine and still stays with me today. He was the father of the groom, patriarch of the family, the officiant of the wedding, and a holocaust survivor. This image was captured during a groom’s Tisch- a pre-ceremony for Jewish weddings where the groom’s male friends and family chant and sing in honor of the groom. It’s a very moving ceremony, and there are emotional moments to capture everywhere.
Thirty minutes earlier, I was chatting with this man, and he was telling me a bit about his life. I was blown away by my brief encounter with him, and I’m always dumbfounded when I think about the perseverance and the indelible spirits of holocaust survivors in general.
We were crammed into a dark conference room. There was an overhead can light hitting this man in a way that accentuated the lines on his face. It was as if the light accentuated all he’s been through in his life. The placement of that light seemed almost too perfect. The huge circles under his eyes symbolized cavernous pools of grief he overcame during his life as a survivor. It’s a very important image to me, personally. I recall the process vividly. I worked that moment furiously, shooting many, many frames until I felt as though I’d nailed the decisive moment- when his hand reached out for a loving member of his family who wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for his strength and resolve.
Sometimes we make images that make people feel a certain way. Sometimes we make images that make US feel a certain way. This is one of those images, but I’m thrilled the byproduct was that it meant something for the client as well. I wanted to share this image, which was captured a few years ago, as we mark the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Never forget.
Location: The Shoppes at Liberty Place, 99 S. 17th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103.1/400; f/1.4; ISO 3200; 85.0 mm.