On this Valentine’s Day, I thought I would share Megan and Andrea’s story. This holiday is so commercialized and that leaves a bad taste in some people’s mouths but I have always thought of Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to celebrate love. How cool is it that we have a day to make people around us feel loved and feel special? Answer: very freakin’ cool.
I get to photograph people on such a special day but in Megan and Andrea’s case, I had gotten to know the two of them throughout their relationship. I met them when they had just started dating. Then, as if no timed had passed, I was photographing them on their wedding day.
This wedding was full of personality and character. Megan and Andrea incorporated their family members and their personal traditions into their wedding. All of these things made for such a beautiful and meaningful ceremony. To top it all off instead of dinner, their wedding had brunch! YUP, this was a bunch wedding. gah! So cool.
After the ceremony, Meg made this speech and it brought tears to everyone’s eyes. No picture could do justice to the sentiment behind these words. I am including it here for you.
“I want to take a moment to acknowledge how we all got here today. Many of you know that I was previously married to a man; it’s been my experience that nothing tests a man’s character quite like his wife telling him, “listen, I’m gay and we’re getting divorced”. What I saw after that conversation was that he was kind when he could have been cruel and supportive when he could have been destructive; he showed me what it looks like to value your partner’s happiness even when it comes at the expense of your own. Some of us have probably learned these things from observation, but I had to learn them from experience, and what I am bringing to my marriage to Andrea is what I learned about love, commitment and support not only from my first marriage, but from its dissolution.
We would have celebrated an anniversary just a few weeks ago. I still celebrate that day for the optimism and hope I brought to my first marriage. Of course, some of that hope was that I wasn’t really gay, and here we are. Being openly gay is a privilege that many around the world will never experience. Andrea and I are fortunate to be celebrating with so many LGBTQ-identified individuals. And we collectively are fortunate that despite unequal rights, overt oppression, very real physical danger, lack of representation in everything except voting rights for the TONY awards, family opposition, and a heightened awareness of the risks and benefits of simply existing, we’re all still here.
We’re here because other people came before us: our ancestors who contributed the genes that made us so stubborn and so good looking, our families and friends who support us but still challenge us to grow, and our civil rights ancestors: the labor organizers, feminists, desegregationists, revolutionaries, and violent and nonviolent protestors whose work has brought us here today. None of their accomplishments are perfect, and none of their work is done, but it’s a start. We also owe a debt of continued remembrance to LGBTQ individuals who have suffered and died, and to those who have suffered, but lived.
And everyone here who is not an identifying member of the LGBTQ community is an ally. This means that you support us. You support our right to get married; our right to not lose custody of our children because of our gender identity or sexual orientation; our right to a life free from physical and sexual violence; our right to be addressed by our chosen names and pronouns; our right to not hide our identities to keep our jobs, find housing, belong to a religious congregation, or simply walk down the street; our right to access healthcare appropriate to our unique needs, and to document and celebrate our own history. If you didn’t know what you were endorsing when you came here today and you’re just here because you like brunch, don’t worry. We like brunch too (we might have invented it), and someone will be dismissing tables very soon.”
A friend of mine recently asked me about why I always mention whether a photograph was taken digitally or with film. Especially because film isn’t replacing the photographer’s skill. I thought about this a bunch and realized that film changes the process of taking a picture. Each shutter click costs so much money and film forces you to be more thoughtful about each composition; it teaches you to move on from ideas that aren’t working. I was just reading a really good blog post by a wood worker
and he talks about how “few people have the ability to engage in the making of something.” When I am taking pictures with a film camera, I get more of a sense of creating something. So much has to be working in unison to get shots like these. Juggling all the technical variables in addition to working with another dynamic human being is what keeps photographers coming back to their cameras. This series is from a shoot with Sophia Brawner in one of the Detroit suburbs. We were both freezing but who could’ve passed up huge snowflakes like these.
Sometimes you wake up and everything looks absolutely perfect. I love that we get such gorgeous representations of all the seasons here in Michigan. It took me so many years to learn how to dress properly and now snowflakes like these are such a welcome sight. I hope you are getting out to enjoy the snow this winter.
A photograph is such a thin slice in time but a good image can leave us with feelings that extend much further beyond that one instant. When we look at an image we extrapolate a story before and after that moment. Not only that, when one person looks at a picture they have their own unique perspective and story around it. One person may look at this series of images and think about a memory of having coffee with a special person, another might think about their first job as a barista, and a third person may think of their morning ritual. These stories we assign to photographs connect us to these images. Photographers do their best to create a venue for people to establish these connections; sometimes we succeed.
I am always thankful when people let me take their pictures but I especially appreciate it when I am shooting film. With a film camera, I can’t give them the instant gratification of reviewing an image. So, it takes a lot of trust in a stranger to take your picture if they aren’t even going to show it to you. Thanks people.
This is another series with my mamiya 645 on Kodak Ektar 100 film.
“You Owe it to all of us to get on with what you’re good at.” W. H. Auden
In June, Angela Southern and I launched a monthly collaboration project. We start the month by giving each other a prompt, then, I spend the first 15 days working on a photo and Angela takes the second half of the month to letter. Here is the second photo in our series and I am in love with it. We decided to work with a one world prompt: work. Instead of the obvious imagery that is associated with work, I wanted to explore how beauty and toughness can communicate the same thing. I think this W.H. Auden quote goes along with the image perfectly.
I can’t believe how well Angela worked with the busy background and was able to give both the subject and the quote equal attention. I am feeling pretty thankful for being surrounded by such creative minds.
Lastly, a huge thanks to Mallory Goldman for dusting off her ballet shoes.
I really hope you are ready to see an awesome wedding because this one blew me away. Meet Aaron and Laura; they are two of the kindest people I know. On top of that, they have a great sense of style and their wedding definitely showcases their aesthetic. Before I get too far ahead of myself let me tell you a little bit about them. They both live in Chicago but Laura went to school at Michigan State University and they decided to have their wedding at the MSU gardens.
They met each other on a train … yup, just like in the movies. As you can imagine, with a story like that, everything that follows starts having a romantic snowball effect. I hope these pictures can give you a glimpse into how much they love each other and little cross-sections into their wedding day.
If you hover over (tap on mobile) some of the pictures you can read more of a back story about each of them.
I still can’t get over this but Aaron’s suit was the definition of how a suit should fit. He got it custom made for his wedding and had incorporated a bunch of details to match his style.
Much before the wedding, Laura sent me an email with photos of this dress. I had been waiting to shoot it since that email.
Khalid Angela Exchange
The final product from the May 2016 collaboration with Angela.
This reminds me of those long runs when you keep repeating a mantra. After a few miles everything starts happening in a beautiful rhythm of your cadence, your breathing, and you heartbeats.
Angela Southern and I are launching a new collaborative project. If you haven’t seen her work already, be sure to check out her portfolio
. She is an absolutely incredible lettering artist and illustrator. We have known each other for years and I am so excited to bring our work together. Every month, we will be working from one prompt and creating a joint piece at the end. I will be sharing these collaborations here on my blog and on Instagram
A photo of Dr. Mona (she goes by her first name) outside Hurley Children’s Center in Flint.
My camera brings me across some incredible personalities. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha’s name is synonymous with “Flint Water Crisis”—her research blew the lid off the lead poisoning of thousands of people in Flint. She has been interviewed on CNN
about her work, written for the New York Times
, and most recently named one of the Time’s 2016 100 most influential people
. A few weeks after her research findings were announced, I was asked to go to Flint to photograph her for an Inspirational Woman of the Year Award.
Before arriving, I knew I would have just a few minutes with Dr. Mona. However, as soon as I shook her hand, I felt a sense of calm. I’m grateful for her time spent taking portraits amidst a day of her clinical obligations. Sometimes, I have a very small window to tell someone’s story. In the little bit of time we had together, these photos were my impression of Dr. Mona.