I have been wanting to write this post for some time but I have been hesitant to do so. I am not sure why to be honest. It's hard in my head at times to merge the concept of being a feminist and a wedding photographer. Sometimes, I feel like I am selling out as a generation X woman. Being both a feminist and a wedding photographer seems to be an impossibility at times. I have struggled with this many times over the years and the questions I constantly ask myself are:
Is it really possible to be a feminist wedding photographer? and am I selling out my ethical and moral beliefs in the pursuit of creative expression and a pay cheque?
There are not many rules books floating around about wedding photography that tell you what does it exactly mean to be a feminist wedding photographer. Actually, there are hardly any books that discuss the theoretical aspects and wider societal implications of wedding photography. Most wedding guide books and blogs will tell you about lens choice and aperture settings, how to pose a couple but no one really looks at well, why as wedding photographers do we shoot the way we do. Why are so many poses expected in wedding photography and people are happy to say, it's a wedding, it's what photographers do.
So, my answer to the question is it really possible to be a feminist wedding photographer in an industry so riddled with heteronormative scripts, binary views on gender and patriarchal expectations is, (and this is me being polite) HELL YES IT IS! YES YES!
Damn straight, this is me trying not to swear.
This is not a post slating the institute of marriage, I am not here to over throw the patriarchy and abolish weddings in the name of feminist rage. No. I am here to play the patriarchy by re shaping the visual landscape of modern day weddings and marriages. I fundamentally believe marriage has its place in modern society and there is no denying a wedding, a marriage is an institute of the patriarchy, I as a photographer find myself with a bit of a challenge, can I challenge the dominant visual tropes so embedded in wedding photography and still have a successful career as a wedding photographer. I like to think so (he hee)
Historically weddings have always been about men, sorry but not sorry to say that and a wedding is full of patriarchy pitfalls to avoid and saying that is not to suggest that I am misandrist who loves the tears of menimists and men's rights activists nor am I wedding kill joy so trust me when I say read this article as it explains all https://jezebel.com/5019303/the-modern-wedding-ceremony-full-of-patriarchal-pitfalls.
Patriarchy and its influence on the style of wedding photographs can explain why some wedding photographers are challenged by the notion of same sex marriages. All typical wedding photographs are based on the visual hegemonic predefined role of man and woman, the husband takes the lead in the photos. The bride rests her head on his chest, stares pensively into the mirror pondering her new life as a wife. I heard a tale the other day about a photographer who made the groom to be stand on a box as to appear taller than his new wife because she was taller than he in heels. See my point. Who plays the dominant role, the protector, the provider, the head of the new household if both genders in the photograph are the same or non-binary in the eyes of traditional marital views.
So, I see two ways that I can be a feminist and wedding photographer that results in stunning images for my modern day couples and satisfies my need to be authentic to my belief system.
Firstly, I finally understand that the way I see marriage and coupledom heavily influences the way I photograph brides and grooms. For me, I see marriage as an adventure that two best friends take, lovers who have a laugh and share intimacy together, a secret club just for two. Co conspirators and partners in crimes, lovers, usually with a cat thrown into the mix, no one is the leader or home maker, - both are partners, equal in every sense of the word, mentally, physically, sexually - both bringing equal but different elements to the relationship and then comes the dilemma, how is this then reflected in my photographs.
Secondly, I did away with photo lists - the dominance of the man and the role of woman as a submissive wife is engrained in the wedding list, just look at traditional wedding photos. This is also not to say I do not do family shots, I do I just don't do any image that suggests the bride is now the property of her new husband and that there is a power difference at play in the relationship. Next time you are bored at work, just take a look at parody Instagram accounts of men mocking the traditional female poses, a big burly bloke staring seductively as he sits in a bubble bath does not work, seems hilarious because we have been visually conditioned to see men and women is certain poses that reinforce societal gender roles and they simply do not work when you reverse the gender in the shots.
We all, as photographers photograph weddings differently, there is no harm in asking the question why do we photograph the way we do and calling bollocks on it to suit yourself and your clients.