Our investigation into the different styles of wedding photography has so far covered two quite contrasting techniques and allowed us to share some really fantastic examples of each particular art-form thanks to the brilliant Kevin Mullins and Emma Case. Today we’re excited to explore another style from the world of wedding photography with the aid of perhaps one of the genre’s best known practitioners, the awesome Steve Gerrard. Yep, this week we’re talking Contemporary Wedding Photography
Last week we described Alternative photography as a style that rebels against the traditional and explores different ideas about form and composition. In this sense Alternative and contemporary have clear similarities. However where Alternative tends to focus more on exploring unusual aspects and framing of an image, the Contemporary style is truly boundless in creating whatever kind of image they wish to convey by whatever means necessary.
Although (as we’ve said each week) the lines between the different styles are often crossed in order to create the most appropriate type of image for the bride and groom (e.g. virtually all photographers do record the natural events of the day, just with more focus on particular aspects), contemporary photographers are, in theory at least, at polar opposite to documentary photographers. Where documentary is all about remaining discrete and not physically controlling any part of the image (except with the way they frame it), contemporary photographers are often known for the way they sculpt an image and the unique twist they put on it. Where wedding photography is traditionally known for its naturalism, contemporary photographers may implant artificial elements into the image to create unusual visual effects and are often more open to using in-camera techniques and strong colour processing to adapt what they see before them through the viewfinder into a completely different final image. It’s conceptual, creative and rarely cautious.
This most modernistic take on wedding photography tends to utilise rich, saturated colours and kooky, unusual angles to create a bright, bold, highly provocative image rich in contrast and with immediate visual impact. Where Alternative photography seems more inclined towards a softer, dreamy look with a hint of nostalgia and rural rusticity, the contemporary style typically feels more about grunge, hard edges and the mean city streets.
Posed imagery tends to be the preferred forum of the contemporary photographer, with the ability to control the world around them important in creating the proper final look. The style is perhaps less about fluid natural storytelling and more about creating the most sensational individual image, although naturally the couple’s own quirks and personalities help to tell the story in each frame. The images often focus on unusual elements rather than just the faces of the couple, and cool props can often become a key focus of the picture. The use of text within the images is sometimes included as an added story element, often with the keen sense of humour that many contemporary photographers love to incorporate.
Photography can be described as the study of light and form, and use of light is sometimes one of the most defining qualities of the contemporary photographer, specifically in the use of artificial light. Contemporary photographers often play with flash techniques and slow camera shutter speeds to create blurred dabs of light, using them to “paint” on the image and create a quite extraordinary look.
Contemporary tends to appeal to the fun-loving bride and groom, to the couple that would sooner visit the Tate modern than the louvre, to the quirky, the unorthodox the modernist. It’s constantly evolving and the boundaries are being re-drawn and re-broken every day. If you want wedding photographs with a difference, perhaps this is the path for you.
Contemporary photography: Chic, modern, quintessentially cool.
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them. “
– Elliott Erwitt
All of the photography in this post is by the awesome Steve Gerrard. To see more of his work and further fine examples of the contemporary style check out his website: www.stevegerrard.com