Oddly, wedding photography is often highly staged, formal and cliched – unlike the occasion itself, which is always unique and emotion-filled. Ian Weldon’s photographs are on display at the Martin Parr foundation from 26 June to 10 August and a book, I Am Not A Wedding Photographer, is published by RRB PhotoBooks.
Weldon’s photographs cut through the cliches and the fantasies to capture the real character of the big day with irreverence, warmth and affection.
Weldon writes: ‘Much as I’d love to stand around for hours lining people up and taking photographs of every combination of family members and guests, I’ve more important things to be doing. And quite frankly, so have you.’
Rather than following a list of desired shots, Weldon captures what the happy couple – and most others – will have missed.
Weldon describes his approach as photographic democracy. No photograph is more significant than any other, all things are equal and people are as important as objects.
Weldon captures all the minutiae of the event – the last-minute ironing, the split trousers, the hanging around, the dad dancing.
Fellow photographer Martin Parr writes: ‘Here is a photographer who shoots weddings as they really are: comical family occasions, with too much drink and wild things happening. Award-winning wedding photographers nearly all pander to the schmaltz that is so dominant in the industry. We believe this is the first time a wedding photographer has been exhibited in a “proper” gallery.’
‘Things happen at a wedding,’ says Weldon. ‘Your feet will be tired from standing and your face will hurt from smiling so much and you’ll have missed those things. It’d be like those things never happened and all you’ve really got to look back at are groups of people with forced smiles.’
‘I have absolutely no preconceived idea of what I should be photographing,’ says Weldon. Every image is spontaneous.
‘If I came to your wedding with any idea about how it should be, that’s not your wedding – or at least it’s not how your wedding should be documented. Emotions, gestures, dancing, wine, doorknobs, shoes, fancy lights and funny faces will all be treated the same.’
‘Things happen at a wedding, things that make it unique, and if I’m busy ordering people around I’m going to miss those things.’
Here, Weldon was getting ready to take a traditional group portrait. The group had been on their feet all day and had not had a chance to eat anything. So when a waiter walked past with a tray of canapes, they went for it. ‘It’s what I am trying to do with all my photographs,’ says Weldon. ‘It’s that serious situation that is juxtaposed with a ridiculous aspect.’
In contrast to the forced smiles and schmaltz of traditional wedding photography, Ian Weldon takes a documentary approach – capturing the real character of the big day