Sometime this afternoon, on Twitter, I came to know about a gallery of images on Brides magazine’s website called Real Brides’ Favorite Wedding Moments.
Let me be very clear at the outset that I have nothing personal against Brides magazine, its editors and publishers. I am just voicing my opinion here and being pissed off doesn’t come easy for me.
Now have you had a chance to look at the gallery? What did you find? Or, rather, what did you NOT find?
As a wedding photographer, I immerse myself in a couple’s celebration regardless of their background. It’s what makes my pulse beat a little faster. There are times when two different cultures come together. I recognize there are all kinds of people in the world who wish to have nothing more than a great celebration of their wedding and work with a photographer who is mindful of their presence to document their event in an elegant manner. And some even want me to find those real moments and capture them as they occur without being obtrusive.
Yes, couples come in different hues and shades of color, with very different expectations. When I saw this Brides magazine gallery, I was quite frankly, appalled. No, the images were spectacular. In fact, I was happy to see two of my friends – Scott Lewis and Robert & Kathleen Trenske‘s images were part of this selection (they are truly great people). What got me in the gut was what was missing. The magazine had not picked even a single bride from a different cultural or racial backgroun, for their selection of “real” weddings.
Chelo Keys, a photographer in New Jersey responded by saying: Wow! I guess Brown/Black/Asian women cannot be “real brides”.
That was my reaction as well. My question to Brides magazine and others in the industry is a simple one – how accurate or “real” of a representation do you have in your magazine of couples from different backgrounds, faiths, sexual orientations? Is Brides being inclusive or exclusive when it chooses not to acknowledge other types of brides?
Denying the presence of other cultures is nothing short of a travesty. No, I am not asking that magazines shift gears and start publishing images of just a few Indian weddings from time to time. That would be patronizing. What I am
demanding requesting is that magazines, blogs and other outlets that claim to showcase “real” weddings take a bit of time to understand what that might mean to people across the spectrum before laying claim to the term “real weddings.”
“What to Look For In a Photographer” is directed towards photographers, but I suspect the message in that blog post can be reiterated to magazines that fail at every turn to showcase brides and couples from all walks of life.
Are the rise of magazines like South Asian Bride or blogs like Maharani Weddings a direct response to how most of these widely read publications are shunning multicultural, ethnic or gay couples? I understand the need to focus on your niche, but is that just a clever way of saying “I am going to segregate and serve only one type of client over another based on their skin color or sexual preference?”
As publishers of magazines and bridal blogs that are read widely, you do have the power to dictate what is truly happening in the wedding industry. And you also have the responsibility to represent all brides in an equal manner. But will you?
Imagine the African American bride or the Indian bride or the Chinese bride who may just stumble onto your magazine and website, only to find what you have published simply does not relate to them. Or, that all they have access to when planning their wedding is what you supply to them. It scares me that a couple’s or culture’s visual history will be but a fading memory, while clearly only one dominant culture continues to highlight its celebrations all the time.
Why is it that other cultures get sidelined? What perverse rationale is used to NOT acknowledge that other people exist among us? I ask these questions not to point fingers but to really figure it out. I am sure other people have these thoughts running through their brain too.
Even I am not infallible. My galleries were once segregated to “Eastern Weddings” and “Western Weddings”. My website has this on the front – “Seshu Is A Documentary Wedding Photographer Serving Multicultural, Ethnic & Interfaith Clients In Connecticut, New England and Around The World”. This will be changed pronto to make it more inclusive. I am a documentary wedding photographer of ALL people. Period.
A good friend and I have talked about this a lot. A wedding is a wedding and the documentary approach I use isn’t going to be any different because the clients are different. Makes sense to me, so I thought about it and have decided to display the very best images from all my weddings, regardless of what traditions my clients have chosen to follow. In the end, it’s about telling everyone’s story – not just Indian, Japanese, Iraqi or French couples. Get my drift?
Perhaps I have been naive all along. But folks, it’s 2010 and I say let’s mix it up. It’s more fun that way!
*The above image was created by Jigar Champaneria, a photographer in the Bay Area. Check out the covers. Isn’t it indicative of what this blog post is about? Thanks, Jigar!
Jigar Champaneria says
I’d venture to say that the editors of such magazines or websites don’t even realize that “color” is missing in their features and that sort of reflects badly on their market research. I don’t have any metrics right now, but I’d guess that the percent of non-white weddings in America is far, far higher than the percent of non-white weddings featured in their magazines. So even if they don’t see it as a moral imperative, it’s, at the very least, a market imperative for them.
Don GIannatti says
As I read it, these are images submitted by Brides to the magazine. That means that the people from at large get to send in their favorite images.
Do we know for sure that other ethnic brides submitted images?
Did the magazine actually cull out images from ethnic minorities?
Was this an act of omission by the magazine or is it a simple matter that they didn’t receive the images from any one else?
I cannot look at results and infer motives unless I know more facts;
And let’s say they had other images laying around… would it have been better for them to include ethnicities to enhance a reality that didn’t exist (ie, there were none submitted)?
I must admit that for the last year or so I have become pretty weary of the cry of ‘racist’. When everything is suspect, nothing has meaning anymore.
I certainly don’t know the answer to this dilemma, but there certainly seems to be a lot of assumptions being made that are not known at this time. The editorials seem to be pretty inclusive in this and most of this publishers magazines. If there were 30 images, maybe it would stand out more to me… but of ten weddings, I don’t see evidence of PRE selection, only the result of submissions.
I may be wrong… hell, that happens on occasion.
Trevor Current says
This is a great post Seshu. You’re absolutely right, real brides/couples come in all colors, shapes and sizes and only representing one group on these covers is a real misrepresentation of the melting post we live in called the United States of America. The only rationalization I could see behind using thin white women is maybe they represent the magazines major demographic. Is that a poor excuse, absolutely! All brides a beautiful and should be diversely represented.
Seshu, at first when you emailed me that link, I didn’t notice a thing wrong. I didn’t even notice that the bride variety was minimal. I have zero expectation for diversity in bridal publications. From the first time I saw a bride magazine as a girl to my most recent trip to the supermarket, the magazines look the same.
As a Black woman I am used to being excluded from any imagery that is supposed to represent purity, beauty or happiness (not that I necessarily associate marriage itself with any of those things automatically…I don’t). Honestly, after constant barrages of negative imagery of Black women, I am thankful for the times we are excluded. Being ignored is better than being insulted and since the media takes personal interest in finding new and creative ways to insult Black women, I rather us not be mentioned at all.
It would be nice to see a variety of brides who aren’t White or a size 4 or below but that is going to be a rarity for publications. I figured that women who aren’t in the aforementioned demographic weren’t being targeted for marketing anyway. Perhaps that is the publications’ loss or perhaps they don’t give a damn, who knows?
As photographers it’s great when our portfolios are diverse so that a variety of clients can feel welcome when viewing our work and making hiring decisions. However, I still have zero expectations that publications will ever do that.
Don makes interesting points above which may be applicable to this particular publication. However, overall, it cannot be denied that many companies have much invested in not being diverse, portraying a narrow and specific beauty myth and even downplaying or downright insulting the beauty of women of colour or larger women. Again, I am not remotely surprised to the point that I didn’t even notice the lack of diversity in the original link you sent me Seshu. To me, it looked like another typical, homogenous and boring bridal display. I yawned.
Syed - SYPhotography says
Well, for one thing the “real weddings” should be called “perfect weddings” because not all real weddings look like the ones featured in many of the websites and blogs. And for some diversity, the situation is worse.
Sephi Bergerson says
Seshu, living in India I can totally relate to what you are writing, and I tend to agree immediately, but I must say that I can also agree with Don’s remarks. It might not be due to racism. Being an independent magazine ‘Brides’ can showcase whoever they feel is good for their image. This is why other magazines cater to Indian, black and Chinese and Asian’s brides. When was the last time Playboy (just an example) had featured a black/Asian/Indian model?? I must say though, that it is not unlikely that a US magazine looks at the US as if it is the entire world. After all, it does represent the point of view of most Americans!
Some other photo magazines choose the ‘Best Wedding Photographers in the WORLD’ and I have NEVER seen a photographer who is not based in the US among the ‘Best int eh world’. Is that the same symptom? maybe.
I have often wonderd this myself looking round the various twitter related wedding photographers that used to be a big inspiration point for me.
Where are all the black, Indian, Pakistani or otherwise colored couples? And then more; where are all the not so beautiful or not so perfect couples? Do they not deserve to heve their wedding photos in a photographer’s showcase? How are you supposed to judge a photographers work by a picture of two beautiful (white, most obviously) people standing in a field?
Please show us real life!
It is hard to say if it was the editors fault, the art directors, layout designers or who. The only people that can tell us that are the magazines, but they won’t of course.
It is sad that such a popular genre of magazines all do the same thing. However, not surprising at all. I find that magazines have changed so much that they rarely appeal to the readers anymore. I cancelled the majority of my photography magazines for this reason. Less ads, more content.
Sorry, that was a little off topic. I really hope that someone form the wedding magazines read this and realize that they are missing something very important. Color.
When I go home I am going to look at all of the magazines that Melissa has to see if there is diversity. Looking at that photo and reading your article I am going to guess no.
Keegan Hobson says
Seshu I completely agree with you. There definitely needs to be more diversity and I really like the way you wrote this post. I also agree with Syed, “Perfect Weddings” is a more appropriate name instead of “Real”. The sad reality is nothing will likely change any time soon. But who knows, maybe more posts like this and your consistently excellent work will show everyone that there is beauty beyond the size zero blonde that generally graces the bridal magazines and websites.
Keep up the great work Seshu.
Janice Celeste, MBA says
The editors know they are missing color on their covers. They believe that women of color on covers just don’t sell. My daughter is supermodel, Sessilee Lopez and she was on the cover of Italian Vogue’s All Black Issue in 2008 and sold out here in the United States. That should have sent a loud message to editor but it didn’t. That was the first time in history that Conde Nast had to reprint issues. The article is here: http://www.glossedover.com/glossed_over/2008/07/italian-vogues.html
BTW – the article states that Gwyneth Paltrow was on Vogue’s cover and it was the worst selling issue ever but no one says, Gwyneth can’t sell covers!
It’s narrow thinking and some of the most ‘creative’ people in fashion can’t see out of the myopic box they’ve been stuck in for years.
Lawrence Chan says
I agree with you, Seshu. Just playing Devil’s advocate – they’re trying to represent their target audience.
I understand that it’s cyclical. And I’ve had this annoying feeling before as well. I do dare to say that one magazine company did venture out (and you should know this too because you’ve seen her work).
This cover was a bold move for a powerful company like theirs, but they did it anyway. Hopefully, it will offer some redemption and appease some of our disappointment.
I love what you wrote and completely agree with you Seshu! I too read the “What to look for in a photographer” blog post and was disgusted with that specific photographer’s (lack of) professionalism. I don’t understand how in today’s diverse market, even the big-wig magazines are discriminating, even if they claim it to be inadvertent (which I’m sure they would.) There are so many gorgeous brides of all sizes, orientations, races, religions and creeds. Why not showcase THEM?
Joseph Hoetzl says
Yeah, and after they are “real” brides, they become “real housewives of [insert city here]”.
Neither makes sense…
Jigar Champaneria says
Lawrence, thanks for bringing up that article, however, I’d say Ormand made the “usual exotic” choice when going with that cover in 2004. Yes, it’s daring, but it’s so far out to the edge of what even and Asian bride would like that it’s not actually representative of Asian brides. So Ormand made a bold choice, but it wasn’t a choice to represent a woman of color in an honest way…in my opinion it was bold for the sake of being bold. I still applaud Ormand for doing that, but it’s with that grain of salt.
Jigar Champaneria says
Don, you may well be correct about the article that Seshu refers to, and you’re calling out an important note that we shouldn’t infer. Note that Seshu is just using that example as an anecdote of something which is hard to ignore. Moreover, what can we make of the magazine racks? Not a single non-white woman on a single cover? If they’re selling to their market, sure I guess that could be a reason assuming their research tells them that the vast majority of their buyers are white women or prefer white women on the covers. More likely, it’s something closer to what Trudy mentioned about not even expecting a non-white bride on the cover. In Silicon Valley (where I took that photo), it’s more common to find a non-white bride perusing that section than it is a white bride, so the NorCal based mags don’t seem to be catering to a large percentage of their potential audience. All I know is that whenever I walk by that section of magazines I’m really surprised to see a non-white bride on the cover and just as surprised if I flip through the pages and see something similar.
Cassandra Bromfield says
This is an on going problem and the more we complain the whiter it gets. Then for a brief moment in technicolor the other cultures are discovered. Well anyway, thank God for the internet, all kinds of images can be displayed and discovered and new ideas from old traditions can be discovered.
I look forward to beautiful new ideas.