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Page boys and mischief

page boy at a wedding in Singapore

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What is really funny about this is that the pageboy actually started off in front, but nerves held him back a bit while his sister was calm and steady…and then… well… boys will be boys, right?

You can’t fake or create moments like this, that is what I love about the honesty in children. They do what they want, they don’t listen at rehearsals. It’s all real. Love and be loved!

Updating?

Honestly I am never sure whether people read blogs anymore. With the advent of Facebook, it certainly reminds me of how video killed the radio star… and certainly things like Livejournal and Blogger have seemingly faded from public consciousness.

But recently I must say that I have been encouraged to try and blog more, on a business perspective, but also from a personal perspective as well.

Since the last time I actually “blogged” here, it has been nearly a year, and so much seems to have changed, and yet quite a lot hasn’t really changed either. I have had to slowly change the story of my answer to the question “how long have you been doing this for?” which last year was a mere, half a year, to now, a year and a half. Soon, I’ll be answering with “two years” which is actually pretty long.

You know how they always say in sport that it is the newcomers who are the most exciting to watch, because the more experienced the player gets, the more they have to fear… well, I think the same goes for business. So much the same goes for business. So much so that it is actually scary at some times.

Last year, my first year in the business, I was fearless. This year, as I see my timetable for 2012… I am fearful of the uncertainty. I have been extraordinarily blessed to have been able to be financially stable the past two years, with clients and friends who have been amazing and incredible. Sometimes when I post on the Facebook page ( www.facebook.com/bittersweetbyjoseph ) about how “grateful” I am to clients and friends… it may seem superfluous but actually it is not. Because honestly, without clients and friends (not mutually exclusive) where would I be? What would I have? Indeed, where would any business be if it were not for clients? Perhaps some industries have it better… like petroleum. You can treat your clients like crap but they will still come back to you because they absolutely need petrol. But photography? It’s an uncertainty, let me tell you!

But anyway, I suppose that is something I should worry about less and start acting more on. Heads down, editing, and marketing. Blogging more!

These moments.

singapore wedding photography bittersweet

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What I love about these two images is the story behind them. I had talked with the bride before the ceremony, and she had bet she would cry when she recited the vows.

Sure enough, as she began to read the words of her beautiful vows (from her iPhone!), the tears began to well up, and only naturally she turned away from the guests to hide the tears. Interestingly, at that point I was the only person in her view and that’s how I got the first shot. What I love is the smile and that knowing expression that just reads “see! Told you!”

Of course, thereafter, her husband to be gently dabs the tears from her eyes in what were a pair of truly beautiful personal vows.

I said this recently, but I’ll just repeat it again. It’s these moments that really are very close to my heart, and one of the many reasons that I feel so privileged to be part of memories such as these, on days such as these.

Days of our Lives

One of the “liabilities”, as I would call it, is that as a photographer who shoots a lot of weddings, there could be a tendency to become numb to the emotional significance of each day. I don’t think it’s just a job liability in this particular field, all of you who are reading this I am sure are doing something where there can be a tendency for things to just become a bit boring because it is repetitive, but in a sense it is definitely a “liability” in the photography, or any creative line, because so much of it depends upon you not being bored, but instead upon being inspired, and excited.

But I have met people who do have jobs where they are completely adamant that this is not the case, and those are usually the jobs whereby there is a personal reward, usually emotional, through each one. Maybe a charity worker, or someone who does community work, I do tend to notice when there is an emotional “payment” at the end of it all, and you are helping someone through the work you do, there tends not to be so much of drag on your feet.

I really believe that this holds true in my profession. Particularly in wedding photography. There’s nothing quite like delivering images to a couple/client a few weeks after their wedding and enabling them to relive the day again, to remember the emotions, the love, the tears, through something that I produced for them. It’s not an arrogant thing, not at all, but it’s really a joy that I have to be able to do this for two people who usually become friends after I have worked with them.

Of course, I would be naive if I said this doesn’t add a little bit of pressure on me, which it undoubtedly does, but that anxiety does become less as each wedding passes and I become a bit more assured in what I do. Again, it’s not so much an arrogance or pretentiousness, but it’s more of a “self-assuredness” that I can offer to all my couples, that I believe in what I do, and hopefully they do as well.

So, back to the original paragraph. Do I get bored of it all of all these weddings? Not at all. Every wedding is special, it’s the biggest day (probably) of two people’s lives, and I’m sharing it with them in an important way, in a way that will actually help them to remember each and every moment in the years to come. How do you get bored of that?

<3 thy parents

I think everybody knows about the various forms of love. I remember when I was young that my parents would explain to me that the love between them, was different from the love between them and me. I remember being very confused about it all, until of course, I met my first crush, but of course that’s a totally different story altogether.

Nevertheless, my point is that what I find very interesting at weddings, or at least some weddings, is the love between child, and parent. It’s an extremely different emotion from all that is happening between bride and groom, something that somehow exists all around, yet is never really spoken of. It’s an emotion that I think we all acknowledge even when we are at home, but never say anything about. It’s something that exists between the constant nagging of our parents, the irritations that I am sure we all experience, and the disagreements. But it’s something that always pervades. It is almost unbreakable, the love between parent and child. And I think it is the consistency, the ever present nature of this love that makes it so powerful when it is, inevitably, spoken of at weddings.

You will see grown men cry, women weep, friends shed tears. Honestly speaking, I have generally seen more tears when the thank yous go to parents, than there are when vows are exchanged (not just from the couple themselves, but also from the guests). I don’t know if it’s just because it is a more emphatic love, that it resonates with something inside of you, some regrets, perhaps, because we all know that perhaps we don’t treat our parents with as much affection as we ought to, or we don’t sit down and listen to them when they talk to us. I think we all know our parents love us dearly, that they put in so much effort for us, sacrifice for us, but yet most of the time we ignore it. I hope that the generations will change, that we will see less tears, perhaps. That speaking of love from child to parent perhaps may not be so taboo in households. It might sound a bit odd, but I think it’s a beautiful thing. I guess I should try and practice it more myself, because really, I do love my parents. (Aww). Try it tonight. I am sure that 70% of you will shed a tear. (I am also sure about 0% of you will do this…!)

As Different As You And Me

One of the reasons why I love weddings so much is not just the warm fuzzy feelings that you can practically touch, but it’s really just how each one is so different.

“What? Different?” I hear a hear a lot of sceptics say. It’s true perhaps, that most weddings in Singapore and around the world follow the same format in their own culture, but in all honesty it never ceases to amaze me how different each couple is in their own right, and that is what makes it different. A ceremony may be the same, the words may even be exact, but everyone says them in their own way, expresses it in their own mannerisms, with their own style, their own love.

People ask me if I get bored of weddings, if I get tired of them. And my answer is always no. I have photographed a good number of weddings this year, and the other week I actually teared at one, during the groom’s heartfelt, sincere speech to his mother. I do not get tired of these things, how can you? There is a passion, a purpose, a desire at each one of these occasions and everyone expresses it so differently, whether it be through a quiet, demure nature, or through a loud boisterous laugh and sense of humour. As a photographer, it is intriguing, fascinating, and an honour, most of all, to be able to capture all of these moments. If anything, it would really be an insult for me to turn up and just shrug my shoulders with resignation at having to photograph probably the most important day of two individuals’ lives. And that is two individuals who, out of seven billion people on this planet, met, and fell in love.

How is that the same as any other wedding? It’s exciting. It’s unbelievable. It’s incredible.

All Work And No Play?

Working professionals in general tend to compare a lot. You always look at others and think “they aren’t working as hard as me,” or “they have no idea what I’m going through,” and certainly that is probably something that you can relate to at your own workplace, studying environment. One of the common misconceptions, I feel, of many people is that photographers generally just slack around and don’t do much work. I think this generally is true if you don’t have much business and are, as they say, “coasting”, but generally is something that I would not be proud of.

Okay, so admittedly I cannot say that I am as busy as say, a banker, or a lawyer, but don’t think that this is something that I am incessantly proud of. I don’t exactly miss the crazy working hours of the corporate world, but at the same time, I do miss the constant learning and progressive environment that the corporate world did seem to bring. It is something that I do struggle with, because when a photographer is busy, he isn’t necessarily learning anything new, but rather just repeating similar tasks over and over again.

A lot of ex colleagues and friends have also asked me “so, are you bored yet?” to which I have replied in the negative, but it has, naturally, crossed my mind as to whether or not that lull, and that boredom, will take hold of me at some point. It’s an interesting predicament in a creative field, because longevity is something that is rather uncertain, compared to having a fixed salary income in a corporate job.

So what do I do, then? What can I do to keep myself motivated, to keep myself going, what goals do I set? I think that is something that everyone should ask themselves from time to time, whether you are a student or working in a corporate environment. Personally, I find myself asking this question much more frequently nowadays, which is possibly a good thing, and I do hope and pray that something will come out of it. Watch this space!

The Cultural Revolution

I’ve always found it interesting how different cultures handle weddings, and in this generation of contempary young couples, tradition often mixes with younger ideals.

I am no advocate of getting rid of tradition, and I am no advocate of being totally traditional, either, I guess a good balance is always good. Sometimes I wonder whether our children will still go through things like tea ceremonies if we ourselves are only doing it now because our parents asked us to?

In some ways I think that some of these traditions are very significant, the tea ceremony being one of them. But I also wonder if more elaborate things will still be done, for example like the delivery of the roasted pig in Chinese tradition, or maybe traditional Hindu ceremonies as well. In a world where we are becoming ever more globalised even in terms of traditions, will these things exist in 40 years time for the average couple? I really don’t know. I know some will still do it, but I wonder for how long. In a way it’s the same question I ask about certain languages and dialects, like Teochew or Hokkien. I’m sure certain slangs will still remain, but will the command of the language that some know now, still exist in a generation to come?

Grandfather

It started off like a normal tea ceremony with everyone gathered round and the parents were served tea by the couple. There were smiles, and words of encouragement, words of prayer. However, it was when the bride’s grandfather sat down that the mood changed. Initially I thought the old man was being slightly ill tempered. I could see his stern face, the years etched into his brow, his mouth sealed. God only knows what he has been through in his years. Whether he had suffered or whether he had rejoiced. He was quiet and seemed to glare down at the bride and groom kneeled down before him. The groom served him tea, and he drank. The bride served him tea, and he drank and he returned the ang bao in turn. And then his mouth turned down at the edges, and his eyes glistened as they brimmed with tears.

The room was quiet at first, watching as the old man began to stretch out his wrinkled, spotted, tired hands over the heads of the two that knelt before him, as if passing a blessing, a mantra, a life from him to them, and slowly lowered them to their shoulders as he embraced them.

I could hear the tears around me as I hesitated to actually press the shutter on my camera, almost ashamed of capturing a moment as beautiful and as precious as this.

To be honest, even to this day I do not know why it was such a sensitive moment. I strongly believe that there are not just tears of happiness in moments like this, but there are tears of sadness as well. That behind all of these layers of humankind in every moment of happiness, there are moments of sadness that cushion every emotion beneath.

To me, what it reflected so clearly was the passing of one life before another. That the grandfather had lived so much, had so many years behind him, while this newly wed couple, were just starting theirs. I do not know where the grandfather’s wife was, perhaps she passed, and perhaps that is what brought those tears, that this ceremony reminded him of his lost love, of the love he once had, of all those years that maybe he should have treasured and loved more. I do not know fully, but I believe that in every happiness there is a reminder of a sadness, and that is what I truly believe is reflected at weddings.

London Office

I haven’t written much about London solely because I simply haven’t found the time to do do, unfortunately. I guess at some point, I should. Nevertheless, allow me to just mention that the offices in London certainly cater to those with portable devices with lovely long desks aplomb with powerpoints for my use and those of
colleagues. By offices I do mean Starbucks… ah. Joy!

Perspective

Been a while since I posted, not sure if anyone actually noticed that in the first place anyway!

Anyway. The past few weeks have been busy. I have been trying to finalise all the London photoshoots into draft format so that my couples can go about on the album process, but also have had a variety of all sorts of weddings as well. There was a solemnisation on a park bench which was so cute and sweet and simple, a lunch sitting between the bride and the groom’s father (I seriously had a great discussion with the father!) and the list goes on.

However, amidst the happiness of these events, there was something that moved me close to tears just the other day, and that was a small party of a little five year old girl who has terminal cancer. It’s easy to sometimes let these words just waft over our heads. Day after day after day we hear of the suffering of families, women, children from all over the world. A few hundred dead here, a few thousand there. Numb. In a way it is why they always say that it is the individual stories of people that change things, because when we refer to deaths in numbers, there lacks a personality, there lacks an individual, there lacks a human being that we can see. But that point aside, when I attended, and photographed this little party, with the magic tricks, with the balloons, I really had to hold back my tears. It puts things in perspective. You realise what priorities are, and it certainly makes you question the way you think, how you think, and what you’re going to do about it.