In each of our explanations of the different styles of wedding photography so far we’ve included the caveat that whilst we try to establish the basic definition of each category, each photographer brings their own individual ideas and generally crosses the boundaries of various styles. Today we’re talking Fine Art Photography and featuring a wedding photographer who to be honest deserves a category all of his own (the self-professed Mexican Monkey style) but much of whose work is a perfect example of Fine Art Wedding Photography. We were lucky enough to be photographed by him as part of one of his workshops last year (see the awesome picture below!) and he’s considered by most photographers to be one of the best there is: The Mexican Master Fer Juaristi.
Art, in all its forms, is by all accounts a highly subjective topic, and although we always try to remain objective in our descriptions, this post, perhaps more than most, can’t help but be influenced in part by our own interpretations. There are no right or wrong answers in art, but we will endeavour to give the most accurate description we can. The Oxford English Dictionary describes Fine Art as:
“Creative art, especially visual art whose products are to be appreciated primarily or solely for their imaginative, aesthetic, or intellectual content”
In some ways all wedding photography could be considered true to this definition. Photographers capture the day in incredibly artistic ways and each individual artist will capture a slightly different aesthetic according to their own creative approach. At the same time however wedding photography is first and foremost about capturing incredibly personal memories in each image; memories that, however attractive in their own right, are recorded primarily to evoke an emotional response from the bride and groom pictured within. For the Fine Art photographer the challenge is not only to capture a photograph that the couple themselves would want to hang proudly on their wall, but one where the aesthetic value is almost equally as strong to someone who doesn’t know the couple at all. Fine Art Wedding photographs are a piece of art in their own right, and whether you know the couple or not doesn’t necessarily effect how much you like the picture.
There’s a careful balance to be struck. There’s a danger that in a desire to create art the bride and groom can become almost incidental to the photograph: props to be framed in a certain aesthetic rather than people in love celebrating the most important day of their lives. Step too far into the world of art and the couple lose their emotional attachment to the image. Step too far the other way and it becomes a different type of photograph altogether. And that, in a nutshell, is the art of the Fine Art photographer.
Of course, as with all wedding photographers Fine Artists will also take those important shots: the intimate scenes, the key moments from the day, the family groups and the personal memories, but the shots these photographers truly thrive on are the big, dramatic images, the ones where they have the creative freedom to create something spectacular, the photographs that are so often described simply as EPIC.
I believe there is a story in every photo. I’m not interested in documenting the minute to minute details of an event. My job is to capture that one image that tells a much bigger story & make you remember how you felt. I want to create your visual legacy.
– Fer Juaristi
Use of bold light and dark shadows is prominent in the work of Fine Art Wedding photographers. Where most photographers aim to create an even light across the face to show all of the Bride and Groom’s features, a fine artist might welcome the shadows and use them to create interesting textures, perhaps placing the couple in such a way that only certain parts of their face are lit, drawing the viewer into the image and revealing only what the photographer wants you to see. The use of interesting reflections is another trick of light in which fine art photographers are often accomplished.
Fine art photography is all about composition, and photographers of this style often look for dramatic backgrounds or lots of negative space (literally the empty space in a photograph around the subject) to create maximum visual impact. Although the Bride and Groom are generally the focus of the shot they may appear only as tiny images, or (as in alternative and contemporary photography) may be partially cropped out of the image. The theory is that we as the viewer automatically search out the human element of the shot, and that gives the photographer great freedom to use the couple in highly creative ways. Whether we see the couple up close and personal or tiny and distant in the background, we will always search them out.
“A picture is worth a thousand words; A fine art print so much more.”
The eye of the fine art photographer often seeks out lines, symmetry and parallels in their surroundings and they are always looking at the whole image around them rather than just what the Bride and Groom themselves are doing. Because of the precision in framing the image and the use of light there is a tendency to perhaps view fine art photography as primarily posed imagery, although this is not always the case and some of the most impacting moments are often created by waiting in the right place for the right moment rather than controlling every element. Indeed even where the image has been artificially composed, the art is often in convincing the viewer of the authenticity of the moment.
Fine Art wedding photography is essentially about creating absolutely iconic imagery. If you are looking for a photographer to capture all the little details and dressings of the wedding this is probably not the style of photographer for you, but if you’re looking for photographs you could hang on the walls of a gallery as soon as peruse them in your wedding album, then fine art is a truly beautiful way to capture your wedding day.
“Art helps us see with new eyes what we knew was there but never really recognized. I photograph not to record or document—but rather, to capture and hold, just for a moment, the essence of what exists beyond the scene.”
A huge thanks to the wonderful Fer Juaristi for providing all of the photographs used in this post. To see more of Fer’s incredible work make sure you check out his website at www.ferjuaristi.com