I'm a keen observer. I've always been. I remember my mom kept telling me not to stare at people when I was a kid. I don't seem to have listened as I keep staring at people, only now I do it through the viewfinder of my camera.
My interest in photography started back in the mid-'80s when I was barely a teenager. I saved for over a year to afford my first camera, which was a Nikon FM2 with a 50mm lens. A fully manual, film camera that I still own to this day and that still takes perfectly good pictures. It was a time when cameras and photographs were both meant to last. Cameras were mostly mechanical machines and photographs were physical prints, created on film and impressed on paper. There was something tangible about taking a picture and pictures, even normal family vacation pictures, were taken to make a statement. I remember leaving for several days with my family and I could take with me 1 or maybe 2 rolls of film. That was 36 or 72 exposures total. So, pressing the shutter was something exciting that came at the end of a thoughtful process, which could take minutes or a split second, but still: taking a picture was making a statement. And if you think about it, these photographs are still around, be it in albums or boxes in the closet. It may be your pictures as a child or the pictures of your parents or grandparents. They are still doing their work of preserving a memory, of passing down to generations information about people who came before us. They are telling us who we are and where we come from.
Fast forward a few decades, come digital sensors and smartphones and photography has radically changed, in that cameras seem to only last a few years before going obsolete and pictures are taken by the thousands, very few of which, if any, will ever be printed and stand any chance to be looked at by anyone in 10 years or more.
Still, my job is to take photographs of weddings and I like to come from the bygone era of photography that was meant to last when the shutter was pressed to make a statement. That has stuck with me, even if I'm working with digital cameras and the 36 exposures roll has turned into a multi-thousand pictures capacity memory card. My mindset hasn't changed, the excitement of seeing all the elements come together to make the frame I am looking for and pressing the shutter, that hasn't changed either.
I'm entering my 10th year as a professional wedding photographer now. It all happened almost by chance, when I was facing decisions about my 15 years long corporate career and my personal life had me rethink my professional path. I was asked to shoot a friend's wedding but I hadn't practiced photography since ages. I learnt photography technique when I was in my teens then put it aside as my hobby is and has always been guitars. So I borrowed a digital camera and took this people's wedding pictures without ever been taught how to shoot a wedding. I just went out there and took pictures of what I saw, without ever giving directions to anyone as I had no idea how things were supposed to be directed. It was documentary wedding photography without me knowing it.
Turns out, everybody loved the pictures. I was loving guitars and music so much and hoping to be loved back but as it went, photography loved me more than guitars ever did. I had a talent and the responsibility of making it grow. In the meanwhile, I started my business. I already had the basic techniques down from my younger days, so I studied the work of the masters. Photographers that always appealed to me such as W. Eugene Smith, H. Cartier Bresson, Don Mc Cullin, Elliott Erwitt, Salgado and the more I studied, the more I discovered, the more books I acquired: Alex Webb, Fan Ho, Josef Koudelka, Bruce Gilden, Robert Frank, James Nachtwey among the others.
The best way to improve your lexicon is to read books. Likewise for photography, studying the work of the masters on photography books is what develops your own photographic language. What educates your way of looking at things and crafting a picture, to make your statement.
To this day, I've shot approximately 300 weddings. Anything from eloping couples and a pair of guests to 200+ people events. No matter how big and fancy or small and simple, it's always about telling the story of my clients through my pictures. It's about putting my photography lexicon to work to craft images that will be true to my clients, to their day, to their vision. They provide the content, I provide the style. Simple as that.