Notes on a Frame - Brothers and Sisters

Friday, April 4, 2014

Welcome to the notes on a frame series, where I share the stories behind how and why images were made – both commissioned and non-commissioned work. Enjoy! Feel free to post questions below in the comments. If there are any specific images of mine that you would like me to talk about, let me know and I’ll add it to the queue. See all Notes On a Frame.


This image was made at a recent wedding at the Crane Estate in Ipswich, MA. It's a rather popular wedding venue so I have shot there a bunch of times. The fortune for this estate was made in the toilet industry. Yup. The staircase pictured is a main structural element of the building, connecting the main floor where all the excitement happens with he upstairs which, on the wedding day, houses only the bridal suite. I have seen this image hundreds of times but never had the opportunity to make it until this wedding between Tara and Erich.


The painting on the wall is of a brother and a sister. Familial relationships transcend time and art like this adds a sense of environment and austerity that feels definitive of the older wealth of the North Shore of Massachusetts. One of the foremost principles that I adhere to while shooting [and in truth, my entire wedding documentary philosophy revolves around it] is behavior defines character and environment shapes behavior. What we do and how we do it is the foremost indicator of our personality and the physical place that we find ourselves in influences and molds our actions and decisions, but does not necessarily dictate them. I made the image because it would echo not only the sense of place that Tara and Erich chose to get married, but also the universality of brother/sister relationship that spans across socioeconomic, cultural, and generational lines. There are those that have come before and those that will come after. The centuries stop for nobody.


Every wedding at the Crane Estate has traffic on those stairs. Every wedding that I have shot there, I have looked to use this element as a transitional moment, and often the result is quite satisfactory. I've shot them from above, from below, on them, under them, the subject ascending, the subject descending, birds eye view, worms eye view, and every other perspective that might serve the story at hand. One thing usually remains constant, however, and that is that rarely do I feature [or even include] this specific piece of art on the wall because it is a very strong visual element that immediately draws the eye as it becomes directly confrontational with the viewer/camera. Once the bride had finished getting ready, she headed out of the bridal suite and down the stairs to see her groom for the first time before the actual wedding ceremony happened. When she asked for her brother to help escort her down the stairs and help her navigate the exterior terrain, I immediately knew my picture. 20 minutes before they even set foot on the staircase, I knew where my picture was, what the depth of field was, how it was composed, where to stand, what lens to use and where to position myself. Would I have loved for there not to be the highlights of the windows behind the subject and a light chandelier in the foreground? Hell yes. They almost ruin the image for me. But the moment trumps. When Tara and her brother rounded the corner I accentuated the shutter twice - once when the brother and sister in the painting were in between them as if peering out from behind and fighting for attention [isn't that lways the case with siblings?], and then I dragged the shutter for a second shot giving Tara and her brother enough movement to render them in motion to juxtapose the stillness of the painted portrait, frozen in time, with the anticipation of the wedding ceremony. The first image won out because the other image felt like it was about technique, not content. Into the trash it went. The image was made with a DSLR and a 35mm lens.


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