Over the years I've shot scores of weddings but I never expected one so unique. A few minutes into our first call in December, I realised that Vibhu was not just a genuine creative at heart, but he also had a deep sense of respect and value for good photography. Things were almost too good to be true when he described images from my portfolio which were straight from the depths of my vision including ones that not many people liked... Ones which are hushed under the the rugs of the wedding photography conversation.
But then he dropped the bomb. "Abhishek", he said.. "I want you to shoot my wedding but here's the thing, we already have hired good wedding photographers but I still want you to hire you... Show up for the wedding as my friend and shoot whatever you want. Journal the event in your personal photojournalistic style but no one should know about this... Not even my fiancé. Let this be only between you and me because...
Your work as an incognito photographer will be my gift to my bride!"
There's a whole lot to process here. Many of my shoots involve managing and working alongside a full fledged photo and film crew. On one hand, this was almost too good to be true for me as going incognito and being a fly on the wall is a premise which pretty much gave birth to the 'candid' in candid wedding photography. And this was taking it to the next level. But honestly, it also got me nervous. I would go in solo and could shoot whatever I want but I also had to keep a low profile and not let anything blow my cover. I also had to be respectful and not get in the way of the other photographers who were hired and pretty quite good at what they do. And perhaps most importantly, I wanted to honour this desire of the groom who thought that photography would be the best gift for his bride!
Well the day finally came and on February 4th, I woke up in a small hotel room in Mumbai and started wearing a formal kurta and packed a small messenger bag. The role had to be played right you see! In terms of equipment, going low key yet having excellent performance at my disposal meant that I would shoot the wedding with just one camera and one lens. My Fujifilm X-Pro2 and 23mm f2. And here is how it turned out.
The day went by without any major hiccups. Just using the X-Pro2 and 23mm f2 seemed limiting at first but that's my primary kit and it didn't take long for me to embrace it and see it as something liberating. I also was prepared to have conversations and tell people how I had come for my friend's wedding but thankfully I didn't have to do that often and could successfully roam around getting the shots that I wanted.
I walked into the venue that day thinking it was the first wedding assignment where I got true freedom and it's freedom that made the shoot special. But today I realise that I was wrong and was missing the point.
Often, Freedom is a mere byproduct of love. That morning when I went to the venue, I fondly remembered that sense of love in photography which brought me here after many rough years (and rougher still) of being a professional photographer. Vibhu found love in Viny and thought photography to be worthy and capable of being the enabler for remembering that day. Viny on the other hand showed immense patience and tolerance to a random guy who was always taking her photos. And this under the stress of being the bride on the wedding day is nothing but praiseworthy. Looking back, it was also that love for the power of the medium that humbled me and reminded me of the honour and privilege that comes with being a photographer. And once once again instead pretending to give something, I find myself at the receiving end. If you're a photographer or artist of any kind, remember that love that brought you here. Remember that there are many out there who recognise and appreciate that love and are ready to journey with you. They maybe other fellow artists but often they may surprise you by coming into your life as a 'client' and gently push you forward and stir up the universality, preciousness and potency of your practice! Needless to say, I'll always be grateful to Vibhu and Viny for trusting me and granting this delightful and unique experience.
For those who'd like to see a BTS video from this shoot, please check it out below.