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Why you need a feminist wedding photographer

I've tried several times to articulate (for myself, and for others) what it means to be a feminist wedding photographer, but this time I think I've really got it down! It's hard to write about feminism and other political things without implying that people who see things otherwise are Doing it Wrong, but I believe that people doing what they actively want--and not mindlessly doing what is expected of them--is the real important thing.

Being a feminist involved in the wedding industry, and in photography specifically, can be overwhelming. There are a lot of gender-related expectations tied up in American wedding culture, and I learned this firsthand last year as my partner and I planned a wedding-esque celebration of our love. While researching photographers to capture the event, I was inundated with language focusing almost exclusively on The Bride (™) and what The Bride (™) wants/needs/should look like in order to properly execute The Best Day of Her Life (™). I found this on photographer websites, in promotional material, on Pinterest, on Etsy, and many other online and offline spaces.

However, through feminism my relationship has grown to value equity and mutual respect, so I didn't feel like the celebration was meant to celebrate ME, but rather our partnership. Thanks to feminism, I define my life by more than my marital/relationship status, so I kinda find the thought that the best day of my entire life took place when I was just 26 years old a little bit depressing. So after twisting the arm of a photographer friend who usually shoots hardcore punk shows, I vowed (har har) to be the photographer that I would have wanted at my own love party: a feminist photographer.

Some might think that viewing weddings through a feminist lens (har har again) makes for a narrower view, but I disagree. Feminist wedding photography actually creates more dimension because it's about documenting love and relationships and happiness beyond the traditional [heterosexist] narrative of Boy-Meets-Girl, Boy Proposes, etc. Being a feminist wedding photographer means celebrating the individuals and their partnership as unique and wonderful things. It means:

    Richmond Virginia Wedding Photographer
    richmond va wedding photographer

    - Appreciating and highlighting the ways my clients decide to embrace or shirk tradition/capitalism and taking the pictures that are important to them (from their grandparents doing the Cupid Shuffle down to macro images of rings on foliage) because they are meaningful (and let's face it, pretty) -- not because that's what Weddings Have To Be Like.

    - Capturing the physical beauty of the day but focusing less on what your hair looks like (though I'm sure it looks amazing) and more on the emotional beauty: how much you laughed listening to your college roommate talk about what a slob you were, your new spouse's face watching you dance with your parent, the pure joy and warmth of your arms around each other after a first look.

    - Thinking outside the box in terms of posing and composition; recognizing that everyone is on a spectrum of masculinity and femininity and not boxing folks into traditional gender roles.

    - Mindfully not taking part in the stress and pressure generated by the Wedding Industry during the planning stages and acting as a wedding doula day-of by being supportive, positive, and drama-free.

    So if you know someone in your life who's planning to get hitched (legally or not), spread the word! Feminist wedding photographers are the way to go. You can get more info about my work specifically by emailing me: carly {at} carlyromeo {dot} com or using this handy contact form.

    DISCLAIMER: The post assumes that you are in the position of hiring a wedding photographer in the first place. Engaged folks or other soon-to-be committed couples who aren't planning on hiring a professional photographer for whatever reason (budget, politics, disinterest, etc): more power to you!

    *I originally published this when my business was a tiny baby business, back in 2014.

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    Noor & Matt // Richmond, VA

    I thought about letting these photos speak for themselves, because when a couple asks to shoot in an "industrial wasteland" and one of them is wearing a saree, you know the photos are gonna say something.

    But Noor and Matt's pre-wedding session, which was shot by Matt, had more backstory that needs to be shared. Noor is a Pakistani who has lived in the U.S since 2008, but her family still lives in the motherland. She moved to DC in 2012 and fell in love with Matt at a May Day rally and protest at the White House, where they battled some racist neo-Nazis together. So when they inquired I was already like YES YOU ARE OUR PEOPLE.

    I'll let Noor tell the story from there: "We flirted, and dated and have consequently been together since May Day 2013. I work at a DC based worker-owned collective and Matt works at a HVAC company in VA. Matt is born and raised in Richmond and loves it nearly, and we've spent a lot of time back and forth from DC and Richmond. I come from a family who had always imagined me to be forever betrothed to a man that fit the demographics of Muslim+Pakistani. But, now I got this white punk kid I love dearly from Richmond, Virginia. We don't have any nice photos just being our silly selves, just selfies of us sweating at marches. So, this request is for a photo-shoot the morning before our wedding lunch (in December we're all headed to Pakistan for a big old wedding there), just us looking fly."

    I love their story and these photos and I'm so thankful for couples who care about making this world a better place. And I'm thankful for my associate photographer, Matt, who totally nailed these images.

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    E & C // Humpback Rock, VA

    I'm trying to blog more, despite being knee-deep in my editing pile, so here are a few favorite moments from last month's trek to Humpback Rock with C, E, and their two pups. I love spending time with my couples before their wedding day so we can get to know each other, laugh together, talk about favorite music and vacation spots, and just generally diffuse the jitters. I don't always recommend doing this on giant rock cliffs but these two are pretty adventurous people, so... 

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    K & L // Washington DC

    K & L's wedding had so many of the elements that make shooting weddings fun: unique format (private, super-small ceremony on Friday night and a big reception party on Saturday), relaxed vibe (they were firmly in the we-just-wanna-marry-each-other-so-bad camp), style out the wazoo (BRIDAL JUMPSUIT Y'ALL), delicious chocolate desserts (even the photographer's gotta eat, y'all) and plenty of enthusiastic dancing. I almost died of excitement when I first chatted with these two, who are badass law-types. You know how sometimes you meet someone and you just know that you want to hang out with them more? It was that feeling. I arrived at the wedding and felt immediately like I belonged, and there were endless genuine moments of joy and delight to capture. Here are some of those moments from their Saturday celebration. 



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    Photo Albums: Amazing Gifts + Just All Around Awesome

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    About a year ago, I announced that moving forward all of the Carly Romeo & Co wedding packages will include photo albums. The reason was simple: After two years of shooting 25+ weddings per year and delivering tens of thousands of photos to some of the coolest people I've ever met, I still felt sad that most of those images lived mostly on hard drives, USBs, Facebook, and Instagram. After about a dozen weddings with this new system in place, let me tell you: It was 100% the right thing to do!

    So here's my quick and dirty sales pitch for why you should get a photo album if you haven't already (and why you should order one in the next couple weeks for your folks):

    • Photo albums create an opportunity to engage in-person with your friends and family—which is probably one of the reasons you had a wedding in the first place, right? 
    • They give you a chance to interact with and appreciate your photos whenever you happen to pass by the album (which doesn't happen very much when they're posted online). 
    • If you're more of a future-thinker, the heirloom quality of the album company we work with means it will last for years/generations. Plus, check out that sweet, sweet layflat action and super thick pages below. Yum.
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    Convinced yet? Email Studio Manager Fin (fin@carlyromeo.com) to start the photo album design process in the next couple weeks for delivery by late December! 

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    SUPPORTING #DEFENDCVILLE

    Hi friends,

    Many of you know that I was in Charlottesville yesterday, August 12th, as part of an anti-fascist demonstration against the Neo-Nazi/white nationalist gathering "Unite the Right." Everyone in my group made it home un(physically)scathed, but not everyone was so lucky. If you want to contribute but aren't sure how/where, here's a list of resources/ways to get involved that I will try to keep updated. Thank you all so much for the love and support.

    FINANCIAL SUPPORT

    IN-PERSON SUPPORT

    THINGS TO READ

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    Three Things To Do Before Your Engagement/Couples' Shoot

    Photo by Wojtek of Voytek London Wedding Photography

    Photo by Wojtek of Voytek London Wedding Photography

    Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to present at SNAP Photo Festival as part of the Catalyst team and while teaching about how to break out of traditional gender roles when working with couples was AWESOME, I was blown away by how much I learned from the other teachers and my fellow photographers. (Thanks Wojtek of Voytek London Wedding Photography for the photo of my class! I'm hiding on the far left)

    Post-SNAP, one of the things I'm really inspired to push myself further on is engagement/couples' sessions. As someone who hates being photographed myself, I'm excited to start fine-tuning my process in order to create the MOST fun experience -- and the MOST beautiful, true-to-who-you-are photos.

    SO as a starting point, I'm sharing my three best engagement/couples' session prep tips. I'm planning to share this article with my future couples so they know what to expect and how to get the most out of our time together, but hopefully it can be helpful to others as well!

    THREE TIPS FOR RAD ENGAGEMENT/COUPLES' PHOTOS

    1. Plan what you will wear. I'm often asked what a couple should wear for a photo session, and I love to respond with the not-super-helpful "whatever makes you feel fab!" but that is really the most important part. You don't have to worry about "matching" each other, color-wise, but instead try to plan outfits that are comparably fancy (or not-fancy). For example, if one of you is wearing a cocktail dress, the other should avoid a beachy maxi dress. Or if one person is wearing cargo shorts and a polo shirt, the other should go for something more casual than a suit and tie. Other general tips: opt for solid colors whenever possible, avoid logos and items with words on them, and wear comfortable shoes. Bonus points: wear something with MOVEMENT!

    2. Fuck expectations. Overwhelmed with the amount of "should"s involved in this process? Guess what: fuck 'em. Are you dying to wear androgynous clothes but think you "should" be more femme/masculine? Fuck it. Do you hate getting bug bites but feel like you "should" do your photos in an epic meadow of wildflowers? Fuck it. In the age of Pinterest and Instagram, there are countless poses and themes to emulate; we're not copying those. Instead, we'll go someplace you like (Art museum? Farm? Cafe? Mountaintop?), and do something you like (Look at art? Milk cows? Drink coffee? Fireside sing-a-long?) and I'll take photos. There's usually some off-roading, some go-stand-over-there-no-wait-over-there-ing, and we'll probably play some silly games. The goal of the session is to capture your relationship in a series of photographs, so the only thing you should be worried about is being yourselves, in love -- not trying to recreate something from the internet or doing what you feel obligated to do.

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    3. Mentally prepare to get be in front of a camera (and ignore it). My engagement/couples' sessions are designed to feel more like a fun date (albeit with a third wheel) than a cheesy posing experience, so my priority is to help you forget about the camera and enjoy one another. In most cases, that means you'll be squeezing/snuggling/smooching/hand-holding/etc quite a bit, but I promise if you go with the flow and focus on each other, it won't be as awkward as it sounds. Remember: a (consensual) butt grab is always appropriate. If you're extra nervous and are a person who enjoys adult refreshments, it can help to partake--in moderation!--beforehand. If you're more of a meditation person, that also works. 

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    That's it! I'll help you find a good spot, advise on the best time of day, and bring my camera. If you're wearing something that gives you some swagger, not worrying about doing it "right," and focusing on loving each other, you're golden. 

    Geneya and Karen, Engaged - 22.JPG

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    Patricia & Sammy // Altadena, CA

    There were too many luscious details at Patricia and Sammy's wedding to mention them all, but if you saw the photos up there you probably already guessed that. Because their home base is NYC and they have lots of family living abroad, the entire ceremony was live streamed for international/east coast friends and family who couldn't make the trek. Each element of the celebration was thoughtfully blended: it was a little bit glam (that gown!), a little bit pool party (that gown underwater!); a little bit Dominican (Patricia's side), a little bit Egyptian (Sammy's side); a little bit cozy and warm (hookah and s'mores station) and a little bit chic and funky (Patricia's blue hair)!  

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    WELL THIS SUCKS.

    It happened nine days ago, but I'm still struggling to accept that DJT has been elected president. I have spent much of these nine days--with the exception of a weekend facilitating Catalyst's (un)convention at the Quirk Hotel--lying in bed or wandering like a zombie around my house. I've felt mostly numb trying to wrap my mind around this new reality. Trying to adjust to the confirmation that hatred, xenophobia, racism, homophobia, sexism, Islamophobia, and disrespect for basically everyone except American-born straight white men aren't only present in our country (DUH) but are powerful and admirable assets.

    This shit is devastating, yet predictable. This sucks.

    I've seen a lot of amazing critiques from (queer) women of color calling out (white, straight) women like me for the newness of this revelation; many point out that oppression isn't as salient to us when it doesn't directly affect us, but now that Trump has come for all women (in addition to hating on every other minority group), we care. Y'all are 100% right, and I'm sorry. Part of working to be an ally is recognizing my weaknesses and trying to improve in the ways that I can. So instead of sulking around the house more, I'm ready to get shit done. I'm ready to cultivate my own hopefulness through my very own actions. Here's what I've got planned so far:

    1. Organizing a bus of folks to attend the Million Woman March in DC the day after inauguration. We will be doing pre-march get togethers at my house for sign/banner/tshirt making, and training everyone on how to safely demonstrate. We will pay special attention to how the white folks in our group can be active allies during these types of events.
    2. Stocking up on healthcare-related items and non-perishable foodstuffs in the event that access to healthcare or EBT/food stamps is diminished/eliminated. This includes Plan B (emergency contraception).
    3. Doing my very best to take action beyond the internet as much as possible, and not allowing myself to get too worn down by this administration, despite knowing that that's their goal (to tire us out). This includes calling my representatives, talking to my friends and family (especially the conservative ones), confronting hatred whenever possible (including racist/sexist/homophobic/Islamophobic/xenophobic/ableist microaggressions) and not being afraid to be "that girl" in my personal or professional life.
    4. Accepting feedback and criticism gratefully. 

    It still feels hard and a little wrong to share blissful beautiful things on this blog and on social media. I'm hoping that changes soon. When it does, though, don't worry: I'm not forgetting all the work we have to do. I'm not forgetting how awful it is that we elected a narcissistic sex criminal to the white house. I'm just trying to share some love across the airwaves. 


    With so much love to all of you who are also struggling,
    Carly


    **I want to send a special thank you to all my clients/friends who have had to wait extra time for their images over the past couple weeks. Kathryn + Nick, Camille + Mitchell + Ollie, Hannah + Everett, Seo, Evan + Emily, Ashley + Charlie: I love you. I really appreciate your patience and I hope the photos will be worth the wait!**

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