Monday, August 15, 2011

Social Photography - Digital and Film

The Happy Couple wedding photograph by Tim Irving
The Happy Couple - Tim Irving
During the 1970's I used to photograph two or three weddings a week. Using 120 film, each wedding was limited to 36 photographs. There was no room for error and no Photoshop if things went wrong. Over a period of seven years I did so many weddings they became a blur. In fact the only weddings I remember are the ones that were bizarre. And of these my favourite was the solemn occasion in 1973, the year Bruce Lee the kung fu actor, died. I had the priviledge of being the photographer at a wedding where the young groom was not only a Bruce Lee fan, but was grieving for his hero. The hall where the reception was held was draped with kung fu posters, but more touching was the minutes silence to Bruce, after the toasts. I think it's fair to say I over-dosed on weddings.

But last Saturday they wheeled me out of (wedding), retirement. It was my first wedding in over 30 years and I was very nervous. I had the benefit of a digital camera which allowed me the luxury of checking the photographs as I went. I also had a Contax II 35mm camera and a roll of Ilford FP4 black and white film.
Family Portraits with the Contax II - Photography by Tim Irving
Family Portraits with the Contax II - Tim Irving
In the old (36 exposures), days you had to work fast. The bride, the groom and the guests would need to be shepherded to various areas and poses adjusted. You had to straighten ties, pin dresses, and, I used to carry white lead weights to keep the wedding dress from blowing in the wind. All of this was done with military precision, then it was off to the next wedding. The photographer, like the vicar, was part of the wedding, but just a brief part.

Using a digital camera everything is more relaxed for the photographer. I could carry on shooting until the last waltz if need be. I've never considered this before but the photographer could end up stealing the show. While directing events and taking the photographs, I became aware that I was in danger of becoming the central character. So with this in mind I concentrated on getting the essential photos, but resisted the urge to  do more. When the important photos were done using digital, I drifted into the crowd with the film camera.


  1. I absolutely love the b&w photograph. Beautiful!

  2. Both photos are lovely, but yes the black & white is something extraordinary. It's all there.

  3. Nice B&W Tim, very 1960's. The wedding game hasn't changed that much has it.

  4. That black and white is gorgeous.

    I wish you had been around to take my wedding photographs back in the mid-80s. The photographer that we had, well, let's just say I have no good photographs of my wedding day. Had it not been for my BIL shooting some film on the side, I wouldn't have any at all. I didn't want anything fancy, just a few nice photos to remember my special day by.



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