I haven’t been a “wedding photographer” for several years, once my daughter started school and I decided I’d rather see her more on weekends. I didn’t “burn out” or “get sick of girls in white dresses” – I simply chose my family.
While I stopped marketing myself as a wedding photographer, I have still photographed a few weddings for friends and family. I choose my assignments very carefully, and sporadically.
This particular wedding was a unique situation where the bride is a cousin to my best man Mike, and the bride’s Mum was terminally ill and given weeks to live.
Plans for the wedding came together within about a week, and I made plans to travel from Newcastle to photograph the event for Renee and James.
To say the wedding affected me would be a gross understatement.
Here’s a few words I had to say on Facebook about the event, when I was first booked:
HOLD TENDERLY THAT WHICH YOU CHERISH
A few nights ago, I was contacted by my best mate Mike. His cousin Renee had just gotten engaged, and her mum is terminally ill. Renee and her fiancé are planning a super short notice wedding so they can include mum in the ceremony.
I was (and am) honoured to be invited into such an intimate, delicate set of circumstances, and fortunately I was available to shoot it on the weekday they’d originally locked in.
Sadly, Renee’s mum has deteriorated much faster than anyone expected, and they have mentioned they might need to bring it all forward as a result. I don’t yet know the new date, but have committed to move mountains to be there for them.
I have so many emotions going on. I am gutted for Renee, her fiancé, and her extended family. I wish they didn’t have to endure these circumstances. I wish NO-ONE had to endure these kinds of circumstances.
I also feel … guilty, I guess, or maybe cynical… that I have had this thought:
Why, in today’s world, does it take these kinds of events (funerals, terminal illnesses) for us to gather close the people who matter, and to make our lives the havens of love and warmth we deserve, and in fact, NEED them to be, every day, all year round?
And also this thought:
Oh well. That’s part of life.
Here’s the take-away messages, I suppose:
Hold your favourite people close. Not just for birthdays and special occasions – but EVERY day. Be unashamedly full of love and be willing to share it with everyone. Try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes at least once a day, and see how things feel.
Everyone has their struggles. Sometimes, a bad day or a low ebb makes me feel like my challenges are worthy of an all-consuming despair. Sometimes, though, I am able to see clearly enough that everyone faces challenges, and 100% of the time there are shitloads of people suffering much worse, far more silently, and with far more grace, than I.
Bring your empathy A-game, people.
Use understanding and consideration as weapons of togetherness.
Be brutally loving and recklessly compassionate, each and every day.
By these things will you make a positive change in the world, and enrich your existence.
How do I know these things? Partly because of intuition and empathy and shit. Partly because I feel a million bucks for putting my own shite aside and sending love to Renee – someone I’ve met only once about a half-dozen years ago. She called me “An angel. But a masculine one.”
#masculineangel #warrioroflove #holdtenderlythatwhichyoucherish
(Original post: https://www.facebook.com/israelpsmith/posts/10152970710045785)
A few days later, the day after shooting the wedding, I wrote this post:
HOLD TENDERLY THAT WHICH YOU CHERISH – PART 2
A few days ago, I wrote about a wedding I was commissioned to shoot, for a couple who had to plan and hold their wedding within less than a week, because the bride’s mum is terminally ill.
In case you missed it, and want to catch up, the post is here ->https://www.facebook.com/israelpsmith/posts/10152970710045785
Yesterday, Renee and James held their wedding. It was small – only 21 people including the couple and myself – and intimate. It was held in the backyard of Renee’s family home where she’s lived for her entire life, and it was heart-rendingly beautiful.
Renee’s mum was – despite her illness – positively radiant in her love and pride, and was clearly thrilled to be a part of the ceremony.
The whole day was special, and intensely emotional for me. I cried several times during the ceremony, and have cried already while trying to edit the images. I had to leave Newcastle early to be there for them, and Bel and the kids caught the train back to Sydney in time for me to collect them after I finished shooting. It was a minor change in plans, to accommodate such a moment for Renee and James and their family.
Frankly, I’m still an emotional mess. All I can say is that everything I said in my previous post holds even truer on the other side of this special event. I’ll hopefully be able to post a photo – with the family’s permission – to show you just how beautiful this event was.
Hug everyone. Hold on to the ones that don’t run away.
(Original post: https://www.facebook.com/israelpsmith/posts/10152976392175785)
HOLD TENDERLY THAT WHICH YOU CHERISH – PART 2A few days ago, I wrote about a wedding I was commissioned to shoot, for a…
Posted by Israel Smith on Sunday, 26 July 2015
Now, I’m well and truly on the other side of this wedding.
I have delivered the album, and contacted Renee to follow up and see what she thought of the album. Here’s both her response, and her album, in its entirety. (Both posted with permission.)
The Wedding album is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
It is my favourite possession.
James and I just love it. We thank you so much. It is beautiful and it is perfect. It was like opening up a treasure chest, just spectacular.
We showed our friend last night at dinner and he couldn’t stop complementing your photos; he just said you captured it perfectly and it made me realise once again how great you were on the day because you were so un-intrusive and every shot of every person is so natural. You made us smile because you were you, not because you had a camera in hand.
We love the imprint on the front and the paper and quality of the whole book is really stunning.
I was going to call you to tell you this but I wouldn’t be able to be this detailed in conversation, I want you to know that every aspect of it is flawless.
Thank you so much, I’m going to treasure it forever.
Dad summed it up perfectly “Wow”
Xoxox Renee & James
And here is the wedding album, telling the story of Renee and James’ wedding – that, despite their challenging, heart-rending circumstances, was the perfect day that they would do over exactly the same even without Renee’s mum’s illness.