This is a Q&A guest blog with Kathryn Hamm and Thea Dodds, authors of The New Art of Capturing Love, an inspiring guide to photographing same-sex couples on their wedding day.
Photos reprinted with permission from The New Art of Capturing Love by Kathryn Hamm and Thea Dodds, copyright (c) 2014. Published by Amphoto Books, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc.
How did you both decide to start this project together?
Two years ago this month (June 2012), Thea reached out to me because she said that she had been frustrated by the lack of resources available for photographers who want to work (or are already working) with same-sex couples. She herself had been photographing same-sex couples since 2005 and she realized that there was room for improvement in her work. From what she’d been taught about posing and from what she’d seen in the photography education posing literature, she’d realize that, in posing many of her same-sex couples, they ended up looking like friends or siblings. She told me that she had been waiting for someone to provide a resource, but none were out there. That’s why she called me. To ask if I had a similar perspective on the matter and thought that a book might be a good idea. From what I’d seen in the wedding industry and media representation of same-sex couples in general, I knew she was right— that weddings were changing and wedding photography needed to change, too. So we met, work-shopped the book idea together and then quickly hit the ground running. Within a span of 5 months, we developed, wrote, designed and self-published the first version of our book (Capturing Love), only to have it acquired by a division of Random House called Amphoto Books. We revised and expanded the book and just released the latest version last month!
Photo: Cean One Photography
Your book and photos make the case that photographing LGBT couples
requires sensitivity and art that differs from photographing straight
couples. What are some of the key differences based on your experience?
Yes, that’s right. Ultimately, there are some physical and cultural differences when pairing two individuals of the same-gender as a couple. We believe that the best photography brings out the most organic and authentic expressions of any given couple (and that is true for opposite-sex couples, too!). If a photographer makes requests based out of out-of-date or ill-applied gender roles, not only is it likely that the couple won’t look good, but it’s also quite possible, they’ll feel uncomfortable and self-conscious during the session. They won’t truly be able to be themselves.
We also talk a lot about understanding the role of family; the way we approach our wedding rituals and wedding parties; our feelings about public displays of affection; the differences in ages from the typical 20- or 30-something year-old couple (as there are many more mature couples marrying since it’s only just now become legal for them). And, of course, we talk about the differences in planning for physical differences in that a couple might have two people of the same height; might involve two white dresses with no contrasting elements; might involve similar strength and so on.
Photo: It’s Bliss Photography
In our experience, many couples struggle to find same-sex wedding inspiration, whether it’s for photography or wedding cakes or clothing. Do you find this to be the case as well, and if so, do you see that turning around in the future– particularly through projects like The New Art of
Yes, that has historically been the case and it’s exactly why a straight mom founded our company (GayWeddings.com) back in 1999. There are certainly more resources out there than ever, but the trick will be to now have us included in all wedding representation and resources as we move ever –closer to full marriage equality, but also to make sure that we keep our fresh perspective and creative inspiration (which comes from our not having a road map) so that we can be true to ourselves.
I do expect to see more resources like the New Art of Capturing Love that dig a bit more deeply into what is needed and what is helpful in each planning category. It’s certainly overdue! And, actually, that’s why I spend a lot of time talking to wedding professionals about the difference of being “gay-friendly” (generally accommodating and happy to work with a same-sex couple) versus “gay-wedding-competent” (prepared and experienced and able to understand and anticipate what members of the LGBTQ community need when planning their weddings).
Photo: Kristina Hill Photography
There is undoubtedly a sense of intimacy and authenticity that seems crucial to these photos. Any tips for how couples can ensure they look like the most real and loving versions of themselves-even if they’re camera shy?
A lot of it comes down, in my opinion, to selecting the “right” photographer. That is, finding someone with whom they feel comfortable and trust and then taking the time to get comfortable with that person. In the old days, same-sex couples didn’t really do engagement photos. These are more commonplace than ever now. And, I think this is a wonderful way to get to know a photographer in a more casual, less pressured environment. Those in-roads can make a huge difference on one’s wedding day!
For couples who are traveling for a wedding or honeymoon and unable to bring a pro along, are there any conversations they should try to have ahead of time with their photographer to ensure they make the most of their photo sessions?
If you are using a wedding planner to help you at your destination of choice, I would make sure that you know that they understand what you are looking for and make sure that you have a strong enough trust that you can feel good about their reputation. I would encourage you to email with the photographer in advance and, if you are able, do a Skype or Hangout session with them so that you can get a feel for his or her personality face-to-face. Make sure that you explore the pros online reviews and ask for any recommendations they might have from a previous LGBTQ client. And, now that our book exists, I would encourage you to send the book to them OR ask them to read it in advance. You can always use it as a point of reference (both in the questions you ask the photographer, but also in the questions you might develop for them). One fun bit of trivia from the book is that we have 48 photographers and 72 couples in the book. Though the majority are from all over the United States, we do have photographers in the book from Canada, Italy and the UK!
Any universally-flattering or favorite pose that you think all couples should try for?
A very simple post is one of a couple walking next to each other (holding hands or touching directly or indirectly with a look or in holding a shared object) is an easy way to go and also serves as a great warm up. Rather than formally posing a couple and instructing them to sit on or in a certain way next to each other at the outset, I’ve learned from Thea and some of our other photographers that it’s often a good idea to ask a couple to sit next to each other comfortably and then take a few images as they settle in with each other. Then, as a photographer gets to better understand how the couple relaxes together, one can shape the pose and placement in a manner that is organic to the couple.
Photo: Authentic Eye Photography
And, hey, last thing I’ll add: though there are, without a doubt, some very specific considerations that must be respected for members of the LGBTQ community and same-sex couples, all of our pose considerations also apply to straight couples. Not all straight couples want to be posed in outdated masculine / feminine roles; not all straight couples have single-gender wedding parties; not all straight couples have two parents in attendance at a wedding; not all straight couples get married in a tux & gown.
The last time I checked, it takes two people to exchange vows and make a life-long commitment to one another (whether they apply for a marriage license or not), and I believe that both individuals deserve to be themselves and, through the work of the photographer, see themselves and their love authentically reflected on their wedding day!
To learn more about The New Art of Capturing Love, you can visit the site here.