Chelsea and Garrett are a very special example of how our jobs as wedding photographers goes so much farther than simply taking pictures. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't emotional for me to write this and go through the photos again. I've had to wait over a year to share these photos though, and am so excited to finally have that chance.
In February of 2016, they had reached out regarding a wedding date for 5/20/17. A pretty large wedding to be held at the Sculpture Garden at the Bridgeport Arts Center. After our initial meeting and some emails, Chelsea then let me know that her Dad was in the thick of a fight with cancer, and since they weren't sure of how strong he'd be to dance with Chelsea and really enjoy the 2017 wedding, in addition to the 2017 wedding, they decided to have a top secret backyard wedding at her parent's house near Orland Park so that he'd be able to take advantage of his better health and participate as much as he wanted.
So on June 18th last year, I showed up to a scene that was almost straight out of "Father of the Bride". A lovely, bustling house, complete with a tent in the backyard, decorations everywhere, people milling about the home, and so on. Since it was such a small event, I showed up alone without a second photographer, introducing myself to everyone per usual, but especially so since it was such an intimate event. Everyone was so warm and inviting, I was honored to be included.
During some of the ceremonious parts of the day, it was clear there were some emotionally challenging moments for everyone. With Mr. Fahey's condition not improving as we all had hoped by this time, you had to work extra hard to keep out those scary thoughts and focus on the happiness that was currently taking place. Looking at the photos though, I'd say folks did a pretty good job. It was exactly how you would expect a backyard wedding to be. Everyone was laughing, talking, having a great time. Chelsea was in a beautiful dress, but things were still casual enough to feel grounded and sort of "family style".
Fast forward to later in the day, the wedding had already taken place, everyone ate, we took amazing photos in a corn field, a few more when we got back, and that was supposed to be it. I was only contracted for a few hours for wedding v1.0 and could have gone home, but that didn't happen. Instead, a beer was placed in my hand, I was asked to put my camera away, and stick around. So I stayed for another 4 hours, getting to know both sides of the family even better, more eating, drinking a few more beers, played with their dogs, I even got to sip some of Garrett's Blue Label, and then finally left since I had a long drive home.
About 4 weeks before wedding v2.0, the end of April 2017, Chelsea let me know that they had just lost her dad, and wanted to tell me before posting a photo I had taken of him so I didn't find out through the internet. She expressed how special the photos from the first wedding were, and what a gift they considered them to be. When she told me she was going to post a photo to let friends and family know, I already knew which one it was going to be.
Shortly after I arrived at the house last June, I saw Mr. Fahey sitting in what I presume was his favorite chair, staring out the window with fantastic natural light on him. No one else was around, they were too busy getting everything set for the wedding. But Mr. Fahey was dressed to the nines, just enjoying a quiet moment. I'm not sure if he was aware I was in the next room or not, but all I knew was that it was important I took a photograph of what I saw right then. I didn't like that my mind went to that place, but in a way, I felt it was part of my job as a photographer. I never said anything to anyone about that photograph, I didn't want to introduce even a sliver of sad thought to the day, but I'm glad they had it when they needed it.
Once in a while, these sort of things happen as a professional photographer where we have enormous impacts on our clients. That's pretty much why we love photographs so much, isn't it? They're more than just pixels on a screen or ink on a paper, they're these sort of jumper batteries for our brains to help in recalling memories. To stitch together the little random ones we already have and help put together the bigger picture when we need it. Sometimes they're happy, sometimes they're sad, but either way, they're bringing back emotions in a profound way. I get emotional looking at other people's special memories, so I can only wonder what they feel like, looking at those same photos. The fact that photographers possess that ability is what makes this job so special. That's why we're creating so much more than just photos. -Alain