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Documentary Wedding Photography: Inspired by the Legacies of Parr, Eggleston, and Visionaries

a Martin Parr wedding photo. A colour photo of a bride having her makeup applied.

Martin Parr, England. 1986-89

The documentary photography approach weaves a captivating narrative of your big day, celebrating the beauty in its fleeting moments. From tender exchanges to grand displays of emotion, this unobtrusive style cherishes the un-staged and unscripted, and in the hands of a skilled documentary wedding photographer, transforms them into exquisite pieces of art. Attentively tuned in to the subtle whispers a wedding day’s quieter moments, the skilled documentary photographer uncovers the beauty in the mundane, the transitional, and the everyday. Through their artistry, they transform the ordinary into something truly extraordinary.

a photo taken by William Eggleston. A young girl laying on the grass with her eyes closed. She is holding a camera and wearing a dress with floral patterns.

William Eggleston, Memphis, Tennessee. c1975

Whilst wedding photojournalists have incorporated the candid aspects of weddings into their work, there remains a fixation on the substance of beauty over the ethereal moment, but by drawing inspiration from visionaries like Parr, Eggleston, and Chris Killip et al, we are encouraged to view weddings not only as visually stunning events but also as social occasions where communities and connections are forged. By shifting our perspective, we can begin to appreciate the true beauty and significance of the fleeting moment as a narrative, a feeling, a story, rather than just a pretty wedding photo.

A wedding photo taken by Magnum photographer, Bruce Davidson. A bride and groom sit in the back of their wedding car. In the background is a hotel complex and palm trees. This photo was taken in 1966.

Bruce Davidson, Los Angeles, California. 1966

In the realm of photographic art, few individuals have been as influential and celebrated as Martin Parr and William Eggleston. Both photographers have made their mark by capturing the essence of everyday life and social events in more commonplace settings, shedding light on the beauty and emotion present in seemingly ordinary moments. Their abilities to tell a story whilst imprinting their own stylistic signatures has inspired a fresh approach to alternative wedding photography that goes beyond the conventional.

A black and white photo of a bride and groom kissing next to their wedding cake. The photographer is anonymous. The photo is collected by Stephen Gill as part of his photobook titled 'Hackney Kisses'.

Untitled, date unknown, photographer unknown, credit: Stephen Gill

Parr is renowned for his unique and humorous perspective, infusing his photographs with a sense of whimsy and playful mischief. He has a keen eye for the absurd, the ironic, and the eccentric, which brings a vibrant energy to his work. On the other hand, Eggleston’s approach can be summarized by his mantra of being ‘at war with the obvious.’ He masterfully employs the subtleties of colour and composition to uncover the poetic beauty hidden within the mundane and ordinary aspects of life. The contributions of both Parr and Eggleston have left an indelible mark on the art of photography, not only by shaping its artistic vision and aesthetics but also by challenging the medium’s conventions.

A black and white photo taken by Magnum Photograph, Chien-Chi Chang. The photos was taken in Taiwan in 1997. The bride looks tearful as the groom lifts her veil.

Chien-Chi Chang, Taiwan, 1997

A black and white photo of a newly married couple. They are sitting down next to each other and both looking straight at the camera. In front of them is a wedding cake and bottles of alcoholic drinks. Photo was taken by Colin Jones as part of his project 'The Black House'.

Colin Jones, from The Black House, Holloway Road, London, UK. 1973-76

A humorous, black and white photo taken by Wayne La, London wedding photographer. A couple sits down with their baby in the middle. The male is holding a bottle of champagne whilst feeding the baby from the bottle.
A colour photo taken by Wayne La. A bride getting ready whilst children play and bride's friend is painting her toenails.

Photography possesses a unique power to halt time, immortalising precious memories in a way that transcends a simple, ‘that’s a pretty picture’. It stirs curiosity, provokes inquiry, and ultimately elicits emotions, allowing us to experience our past with connection – and feeling.

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