words & images


poem by Brent Southgate, photographs by Ritual

Love, we arrange ourselves too much,
like awkward flowers in vases:
let's be more accidental to each other.
Something might grow from that.
Just any-old-how, like marigolds that strollers and lovers
chance on in what used to be gardens;
sooty-gold and surprised through the rubbish,
and against odds, they bloom from a soil
secret, disregarded, sweetened by windfalls.

Editing: Crucial!

words and photograph by Holger Thoss

The crucial importance of the editing process.  
Editing your own work is as important as the act of pressing the shutter.  Once the shutter is pressed the photograph exists (if the camera functions properly and the film is loaded correctly), but it is like a thought that has been scribbled into a notebook.  It might be an incredible statement or an important part of a plot but it has not been selected and included in the narrative.  It has not been validated.  Most writers (possibly near to none) can write without editing their work.  I'll draw the connection that a photographer can not create a body of work without editing.  And the argument that Garry Winogrand didn't edit a large amount of film after he passed and it was still included in his body of work doesn't count here.  He was a ferocious editor of his own work during his lifetime.

We need to observe, analyze and select our work constantly.  Too much important growth and development originate in that process.  A photographer needs to nourish their growth, prevent creative stagnation and contraction.  It is our crucial daily practice, it should provide us with joy and excitement.  We can not be afraid of making decisions and the courage to define ourselves.

On Time and Distances

words and photograph by Olya Vysotskaya

This photograph of Louise and Dennis happened almost ten years ago, at the end of a long, but happy day.  It was a vibrant city wedding, maybe a quintessential New York wedding – with scenery unfolding and changing very quickly. One hotel, second hotel, walks, subways, taxi, more walks, buses, horses, more and more walks and the sea of people all around.
And then there was this pause, the exhale, perhaps not meant for the camera -- something intimate, disarming, unexpected.
When I first saw this image on a roll of film, I thought -  is it a fitting wedding photo, maybe it’s too dark, too somber, too personal? Should it be shown?  As time passed, the image stuck with me.  It was revealing and beautiful, touching and honest.

A photograph is a photograph. A moment is a moment. A wedding is part of life. If you slow down, stay open and come closer, you can see the quiet, real moments, which are not always on the surface. Maybe they’ll be a revelation.
This image was the one that really taught me to trust myself as a photographer, to follow my intuition and to let go of the preconceived notions, which create invisible distances and keep things impersonal.  
It was most gratifying to learn that Louise and Dennis, living in Brussels now with three little children, also think of this photograph as one of their favorite.


words and photograph by Meredith Heuer

Anyone else having pandemic dreams?  Most of mine are easy to analyze: my brain trying to make sense of what this will look like as we ‘reopen’. My first dream was the one that keeps coming back to me: I ran into a woman that I knew, but not super well.  She was sad and after talking for a little while, we hugged.  It was a big hug and in the middle of it, we realized our mistake.  It was heartbreaking. 

We gasped and drew away from one another.  Hugs are such an integral and wonderful part of any wedding.  Hugs at weddings have a unique intensity, even a ferocity.  Guests approach old friends and relatives practically at a run, knowing they will be caught, knowing they are surrounded by love. I can’t wait for that to be ok again.

No Recipe

words and photograph by Holger Thoss

When I hear the word improvisation, I naturally think about Jazz. The wonderful dynamic waves of unexpected notes flowing towards you. But I also think about cooking.
I spent many years in the darkroom printing images of master photographers, bringing a negative to life by feel, manipulating light and chemistry and temperature and timing. A surprisingly similar process to working in a kitchen, just under a red safelight.
When I shoot a wedding, I bring the following ingredients with me: My knowledge of light, composition and storytelling learned from my study of photo history, film history and observing daily life.

As soon as I arrive, I start to improvise. I have no idea what will happen in the next moment. I am ready to press the shutter and move, flow and capture images that describe an emotional story. I see moments unfold. I don’t have preconceived ideas in my head. I have experiences to fall back on: those are the spices that will make the fresh ingredients of the day deliciously surprising.
My improvisation is the result of lots of practice, trust in my skills and letting go of half baked formulas and ideas. I rely on being open to looking and experiencing without thinking, cooking without a recipe.

When Weddings Return

words and photograph by John Dolan

What will weddings be like after this strange time? Society has pressed pause. Plans are in limbo. Everyone realizes that weddings are the opposite of social distancing. Guests converge on a destination. They hug, kiss and dance in a tight circle. Hard to imagine that right now.

When we next hear the phrase “Dearly beloved, We are gathered here”, will the events follow the old formulas? Or will something new emerge to reflect what we have all been through?
For some photographers, this can be an opportunity to reevaluate how you do your job. At times of change, it is useful to ask yourself some questions. Which pictures matter most? Are you making photographs that are meaningful? Where does your responsibility lie? Is history not your ultimate client?
Maybe there will be a new approach: One that is open to emotional complexity, not just a narrow range of happy, pretty pictures. An attitude that allows for unscripted moments not on a shot list. A shift from quantity to quality. What if you pull back on the urge to design the moment, instead serve as an honest witness to events as they unfold.

The thrill of photographing weddings is that we know the timeline, but we don’t know exactly what will happen. We react to actions and emotions. I am rarely inspired to shoot a hanging dress or a pair of shoes. Rather, I am endlessly fascinated by what happens to the person who puts on that dress and those shoes.

How will weddings change after this time of isolation? Will they be massive, ecstatic celebrations in exotic destinations? Will they be small, intimate gatherings, close to home? We should be prepared for both. I suspect these events will be powerful gatherings, packed with emotion. The best thing a photographer can do is to absorb all those feelings as they happen and resist the urge to control.
I’m hoping for something valuable to come out of this moment. Some truth telling. I have learned over 25 years that weddings serve a vital role in society to mark time and give meaning to all who are present. Now, more than ever, it will be the job of the photographer to create significant, enduring photographs that capture the emotional essence of that wedding day.


We are inspired to document life honestly, intimately and unexpectedly.
We use personal work as the engine of our commissioned work.  
We live, breathe and love photography. This is our medium to make sense of the world.

individual websites: Olya VysotskayaMeredith Heuer •  John Dolan Holger Thoss