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!