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Cliff Mautner Photography

Union League Wedding Photography

I’ve always enjoyed shooting weddings at the Union League in Philadelphia. This has always been one of my favorite photos at the Union League, and in my efforts to post a few images while gathering selections for my new website, I thought this would be a good image to talk about. I’ve enjoyed sharing my thought process with these images, and I hope to provoke some dialogue with them as well. ..I hear the words "photojournalistic" or "wedding photojournalism" quite often when wedding photographers describe their work. Personally, I think it’s a very overused label. There certainly are a few amazing wedding photojournalists out there, however, there is a huge difference between "candid" and "photojournalism".

Anyone can take a candid image. Just make sure the subject is not aware of the camera. Candid images tend to be singular in nature, and they are sometimes out of context, and a bit disconnected from the story at large. It’s very important to follow through with capturing moments in order to define that moment. Henri Cartier-Bresson called it "the decisive moment". Photojournalism concentrates on a cohesive storyline. PJ also requires vision, anticipation, and reaction. I spent 15 years, and shot approximately 6000 assignments for the Philadelphia Inquirer before I began my wedding career, yet I’ve never really described any of my 900 weddings as "photojournalistic". Yes, I document, I’m unobtrusive, and I do my best to capture moments in the most organic fashion possible. But that doesn’t define a photojournalistic approach. I’m involved with the day. I’ll help the bride with many things. I’ll advise her, comfort her, and I’m there to make her look fantastic. Part of my job is to earn my client’s trust. When shooting an actual PJ event, I’d never prompt, stage, manipulate, or apply my influence at all. It’s clearly an ethical violation to do so. BUT THIS IS NOT A NEWSPAPER ASSIGNMENT. That said, you can take me out of photojournalism, but you can’t take it out of me. It’s still a major influence on my body of work.

If I can improve upon a situation by simply controlling the light, and perhaps asking a client to do what they’re doing already in a better compositional scenario, I will. I like to say that "I set the stage for some moments, but I never stage the moments". The moments are not mine. They’re all about my clients. I’m not the photographer who wants to make them who I think they’re supposed to be. I want to simply capture who they are, with the most organic process possible. I’m a firm believer that the photography revolves around the day, and the day does NOT revolve around the photography. However, in the end, if I can make a better picture with very little intrusion or manipulation, I believe I’m obligated to do so. I know there will be many who disagree, but don’t hold my self up to the same journalistic standards shooting a wedding as I did when I was actually shooting events for the newspaper. Not to mention the fact that when I was shooting "environmental portraits" for the paper, they were absolutely staged, and it was my job to choose the best light and compositional surroundings to make things look their best.

    This image, taken a few hours before a wonderful Union League wedding, was created a few years ago. It was made when the bride, Kate, asked if I wanted to photograph her while she read her letter from her groom after she put her gown on. I said "of course I would". She said "where would you like me to do this?". I said "how about here in this nice light!". I had nothing to do with the placement of her bridesmaids. That was 100% organic. I couldn’t have staged them better if I’d tried. However, this is not PJ. I had a hand in on it. I asked her to sit by the window so the light could flatter her. In fact, a few years ago, I showed this image to my friend Jerry Ghionis while he and Melissa Ghionis visited my studio. He loved it. He said "you need to enter this". I told him I couldn’t because I told her to sit there. He said "mate, this has "bridal party" written all over it". It placed 2nd in that category at the WPPI print comp that year. Thanks, Jerry! Nikon D3 AF-S Nikkor 24-70 F2.8G ISO 1250 F3.5 @1/160th

    Keywords: weddings at the Union League (3).