For the last few weeks we’ve been attempting to descramble the codes and jargon used when describing wedding photographers and in our last couple of photography posts have been doing our best to break down what all the different styles actually mean. After explaining a little more about Documentary photography last week, today, with a little help from some beautiful images photographed by the fantastic Emma Case, we’re exploring quite a contrasting style: Alternative wedding photography.
When talking about alternative wedding photography the question that must inevitably arise is this: What is alternative photography actually the alternative to?
The word alternative is suggestive of two options: there is the expected path and then there is the alternative – the one that goes against the norm, that doesn’t follow the established order. The trouble is that as we’ve ascertained over the last few weeks, when it comes to wedding photography there are definitely more than two paths you can take.
Really alternative is a break from the most traditional forms of photography. It’s about seeing things in a different way and is probably not the sort of photography you might expect to be taught about in a formal setting. Alternative photographers are not as strictly bound by the established rules of form and composition, they don’t necessarily see in straight lines and perfect symmetry. They show the world in an unorthodox style and are not afraid to make bold creative decisions.
Often described as fun and quirky, alternative photography is perhaps best defined by the types of couples that tend to be attracted to it. With alternative photography it is perhaps more key than in, say, documentary photography, that the photographer fully understands and is in tune with the couple before the big day to ensure the couple and photographer alike will be happy with the final images. Alternative doesn’t tend to blend as easily with a very formal wedding but is the perfect compliment to a wedding where the couple are looking to do things a bit differently. In very simplistic terms alternative is more suited to a fun bright-spotted bow-tie than the black formal tie of a tuxedo – a style where the more traditional photographer may thrive. As in all the different styles of photography this can of course cross-over, but fun and quirky is perhaps the more natural habitat of the alternative photographer.
Although most alternative photographers will of course take some formal groups at the couple’s request and, as with all wedding photographers, will naturally document key events as they happen, their own favoured work tends to be skewed more towards posed imagery. Alternative photographers often like to take their couples (and sometimes objects – flowers, shoes etc.) out of the natural environment of the wedding and place them in a more unusual setting. Whilst doing so they frequently explore other aspects of what they see rather than focussing solely on the bride and groom. Whereas for a documentary photographer natural facial expressions are usually the key, for the alternative photographer it’s more about finding the soul of the image before them, whether that means drawing focus to the dress, the shoes or another object in the room around them. Where a traditional photographer would always be looking at framing their subject to focus on the face, the alternative style grants the freedom to crop the image differently, perhaps not showing the heads at all if they feel that another detail of the shot makes the most impacting image. For this reason alternative photographers tend to get closer to their subjects to draw attention to those elements whereas a Fine Art photographer, for example, by contrast might be more drawn to a much wider image where the couple are merely a small part of the landscape around them.
For me alternative photography is often filled with a sense of nostalgia and as such is frequently closely linked with Vintage photography. Just as most styles of photography are apt to do in the modern age, these two styles do often cross over, with alternative photographers sometimes suggesting the feel of old film cameras in their style, or on occasion even shooting with genuine old cameras such as polaroids to create a completely different look for a particular image. Mostly though it is in the types of Brides and Grooms that these two styles tend to attract in which the bulk of the crossover occurs, with both art-forms being associated keenly with unorthodox and vintage wedding themes.
Although this post may help to inform you of the characteristics of this genre, alternative wedding photography is ultimately, by its very nature, an impossible art-form to truly define. Wherever a rule or boundary is bestowed upon it the natural reaction is to break it and seek the new alternative to its own definition. As such it’s impossible to really end this post with a real conclusion, but a man known famously for a completely different style of photography unwittingly offered perhaps the best summary of the alternative wedding photographer’s ideals:
There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.
All of the above photographs are by the fantastic Alternative wedding photographer Emma Case. To check out more of her work go to her website at www.emmacasephotography.com