Gene is a good guy, and a good shooter who works at Adorama. He was about to get married, last week, at City Hall in downtown Manhattan. He mentioned to his colleague, Annie, my wife, that he kinda, sorta, needed somebody to take some pictures. Annie made a call.
How could you not shoot a joyous few hours like this? Gene’s bride, Olivia, was radiant and beautiful. Gene himself was so over the top in love I coulda used his bald pate as a Group B kicker light. Sharing this day with them was a great way to start the year. (I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve never gotten off of school schedule. August is always dog days, a reprieve and recharge period. September means back at it.)
The day started early at an East Side hotel. Olivia donned her veil (very proud she had found it for $5) and pulled herself together while Gene clutched the marriage license and engaged in deep breathing exercises. Rings? Check! ID’s? Check! Metro card? Check!
And off we went to the subway.
If New York City were a human body, the subway system would be the veins. They nourish the city by ushering people on a mission to every nook and neighborhood. On a subway car, you hear everything from Swahili to French to German to Farsi to Englishâ€”the unique, mixed jargon of the underground. Very international, which is to say, quite local, given the fact of New York.
Gene, from Ohio, and Olivia, from Zimbabwe, fit right in, and given their attire, and the fact they had a photog in tow, were warmly received on the six train to City Hall and the courts. As block after block zipped by overhead, the congratulations flowed, and good spirits filled the car. It was such a treat as a shooter. Instead of being greeted with the usual mix of subway suspicion and indifference, punctuated by the occasional growl of annoyance at a flash pop interrupting the morning look at Page Six, I was an honored guest. People suggested shots, and had no problem with me squeezing into a crevice on a bench to get an angle.
We flew to City Hall. And found some light along the way.
Once inside, I found myself in an effervescent swirl of happy humanity, all of them there to simply declare their love of someone. This wasn’t atheist, or Christian, or Jewish, or Buddhist. It didn’t have a color, or a preference. It wasn’t about where you were from. It was about where you were about to go with the person you had just declared your love for.
Now, it’s still a government bureaucracy. You have to stand in lines, take a number, report to windows, have documents checked, and pay a fee. But, given the mission of the folks on those lines, there was none of the irritated clock watching and tense conversations that often occur when the public faces off against an overworked bunch of folks behind a counter. Think of a deliriously happy version of the DMV.
At a civil service like this, with literally hundreds of people waiting to give each other their first married kiss, the ceremonies are short and sweet. You walk in single, and three or four minutes later, you’re married. You walk out to the cheers and clapping of total strangers, who bid you good luck, and then walk in to try their own in a whole new chapter of their lives.
I thank Gene and Olivia for the invite to their wedding day. And Annie, who made the call. She snapped this Iphone shot of Gene last week. I’m sure today, he’s back at his station at Adorama, doing his thing, which he does quite well.
Being part of their nuptials was a great way to start the fall, a breath of cool air to blow out the sogginess of a long summer in the big city. It was also a powerful antidote to our current, roiling season of discontent and politics, announced daily in tiresome headlines that fairly reek of nastiness, exclusion and blame mongering. It was a wonderful, emotional reminder that when you find your beloved, your life becomes automatically good.
For the technically minded, the pix were all shot on Nikon D4 cameras, with ISO ratings ranging from 200 to 1600. A little bit of hot shoe flash was mixed in here and there. On the bridge we used a shoot through umbrella, with two SB900 units firing through it, maxed out, given the harsh sunlight. A lot of frames were shot with available light, and I pretty much, for the backgrounds, just let New York be New York. Lenses were 24-70, 70-200 and a 35 f1.4. Post was super basic–a bit of burning and dodging and contrast. Couple got sharpened a touch. Couple others had some NIK lighten/darken center. Other than that, these are JPEGS out of the camera. Gene and Olivia, with their expression of love set against the vibrant mess of NYC, are as real and durable as the concrete they walked that day.
May the road rise up to meet you both…..more tk….
Joe, thank you for the amazing experience and for taking the time to make our wedding even more memorable. The pictures are awesome, not that I excepted any less. Hopefully we can all go to lunch soon. Many thanks and kind regards.
Awesome Delatour kind of light in the Hotel room! Amazing!!! Should be in the next edition “the moment it clicks” Thank for your inspiration !
glenn usdin says
if this whole shooter/educator/world traveler thing doesn’t work out, there is room for you in the wedding photographers directory.
nice work, as always…
Jan Winther says
Simple and beautiful. Love it!!
Awesome great story and nice shots again! – Congratulations for the happy couple!
John A. says
Awesome wedding shots! I really like that even without your narrative, these photos easily tell the story of the day. You don’t always see that in ‘standard’ wedding photography.
Congrats to the happy couple!!
Tim Skipper says
Awesome Joe. Thanks for posting this. I have one wedding to shoot this year in two weeks. I normally dread them if I book any at all, but this is a family member so off I go. I am glad I read this because it gives me a fresh look at how the day can go.
Zachary Long says
Great job! You definitely turned “courthouse wedding” and all the preconceived notions of that into something fun and exciting!
Ian Hargraves says
Having had a very bad experience with Adorama that was never resolved I viewed this article with suspicion . I now see that they do actually have some human, human beings! Good article, good photographs and a beautiful couple.
Well done Joe!
Ian Clements says
Congratulations Gene & Olivia!
Best wishes for a long and happy life together!
What a great way to start the day. Thank you for posting that Joe.
SaÅ¡a NadrKan VereÅ¡ says
nice photos.simple and straight from the heart,like the ceremony itself.may luck be always on their side.
Beautiful story, thanks for posting this!
the last one Photo is really rally beautiful !
Awsome!! May I know how to shooting in Metro with flash to keep depth of field betweent the couple in front & back?
Also congrats the couple
This was simple, memorable, and beautiful!
Jonathan Thompson says
Thanks for this post Joe. I’m now smiling from the inside out. A huge congratulations to Gene & Olivia, I wish them all the joy & happiness in the world…… Even though they don’t & probably never will know who I am, but their little story brought a bit of extra happiness to my office in unusually sunny England 🙂
Karen B says
Great post…. I love you you love me let’s get married. Wonderful pictures accompanying a beautiful story. Thanks for all you share, Joe …and friends.
Zsolt EÃ¶ri SzabÃ³ says
Simple, articulate, clear images. I love the style!
Barb Rice says
I felt NYC in sync with this beautiful occasion, and seeing Gene be as giddy as a schoolboy was incredibly touching. Olivia is gorgeous and so full of life as well. Oh, to be a well-wisher on that subway ride! Luckies!
Congratulations to Gene and Olivia!
You continue to inspire me, Master of Lens and Light. Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂
Robin Garber says
Thanks so much for this posting Joe! Your photos are simple, meaningful and gorgeous and your words were heartfelt and full of emotion… I even had a tear or two as I read your narrative.
Congratulations to Olivia and Gene!
Congrats Olivia and Gene! I hope you have n=many fine years ahead.
Hmmm, so Joe McNally does Weddings! Awesome! Great shots and the one of Gene and Mom is just priceless.
Bradley Marshall says
Congratulations to two obviously in love. They are very lucky to have you as a friend and their wedding photographer. That in itself is an amazing gift! Some more shots for your next “The moment it clicks”, which I am reading now. Great insight and tips. I recently attended your seminar in Miami and love your work. Looking forward to having you return!
Jay Goodrich says
You definitely have a way with words Joe. you always bring back those wonderful memories of life. Congrats to Olivia and Gene. My friend Art Wolfe just shot my family portrait, so the feelings ring through on what you did for Gene and Olivia.
Beautiful photos and warm, fuzzy prose. Thanks.
Antony Scully says
Congratulations to Gene & Olivia!
Great friends, a wonderful couple and clearly fantastic subjects.
Wishing you guys the very best.
Excellent job on the photos and narrative Joe. A lovely story.
Congratulations to the lucky bride & groom. Best wedding images I have seen in years…lovely to dispense with the folly of the event and capture what really matters
Awesome as always. Fun and excited moments indeed. A friend of mine asked me to shoot his solmenization in December which is an hour event. That will be my first time shooting for someone else’s big day. But I’m already excited and nervous and have been thinking of how am I going to capture those moments. Pictures here are eye opener at least for me. Thanks for posting this Joe.
Denise Duhamel says
Joe, what an amazing story teller you are! Your images speak volumes in their simplicity, and the couple looks radiantly happy. Hats off to you for another job w
I would totally remarry my wife again in NYC if it meant I could get this kind of McNally treatment! 😉
Thinking about it, the thing I love most about you is not only the amazing work… but the thoughtful write-ups! You tell such great stories in every medium, and I really look up to you for that. Thanks again!
Eduardo Suastegui says
Neat PJ coverage. They should be ecstatic with these photos, as well as the rest you delivered.
MARIO NARANJO MOLINA says
Thanks Joe a lovely story, simple and so human. The pic on the Bridge fantastic…
Michael White says
Not what i would have expected from you. I see this weeding shoot as average. I though I would have seen something great from you. I have your other work and this seems plain for you.
Simply beautiful! The photos . . . the story . . . An all around great way to start off the year!
Wife made a call…..I love it!
Shots with available light? As in, no flash? Joe, u really gonna meet me halfway, don’t ya? 🙂
Heidi Lundsgaard says
Very personal, very dynamic and very much a live and….in love. I like the tone.
RJ Hidson says
You shoot weddings? Wow! I thought a guy like you would never touch that. But, in New York I could totally see it.
Thanks for sharing all this Joe. It was a great read
Mike Nelson Pedde says
That’s a beautiful story…and a beautiful couple!!
Reminded me of this:
Neil Kemp says
What can’t you do Joe. Well done.
RV Sun says
Joe, I really enjoyed viewing these beautiful wedding photos of Gene and Olivia. Not only are the photos great but the story that you told is awesome! I feel like I know this couple already. And thank you for including the gear and setting that you used. I am learning from you, Joe. And I look forward to reading more of your blogs with the awesome photos. Thanks–RV
I just love the composition of your photography – Joe! To me is that still the most important thing, as I can see we all can learn a lot from that point of view.
Once again, very nice post!
Greetings from Zurich / Switzerland.
Jim Hughes says
I always love it when I see a new McNally blog post pop up because I know I’m going to get to read a great story (and probably see some fun shots as well). I know you have to make a living shooting, Joe, but I sure wish you’d write even more stories! Thanks for this one!
Joe Masucci says
I wonder how many folks can say that Joe McNally was their wedding photographer? You are a true gentleman.
Patrick Mc Donnell says
Best wishes to Gene & Olivia from Ireland – hope you both have a long and happy life together!
Thierry Dehove says
Genius as always 😉
Joe M Sankey says
You just made my day. Thank you.
Kathy Espina says
Their love is so palpable and the photos convey it so eloquently. Thanks for sharing this Mr McNally. You’re not only an amazing photographer but a good read as well.
Gene Everett Szucs says
What a wonderful day, thanks for all the well wishes. We are still on cloud nine, it was hard to compartmentalize on one hand getting married, and the other witnessing a true run and gun photography clinic! My only complaint is that I don’t have a photo from the text when Annie confirmed Joe’s avail. My bride to be will confirm that I had a somewhat glazed look on my face for a good thirty four minutes.
I have had the opportunity to work with BOTH Annie and Joe, and I can’t find the words to describe the absolute passion and joy that both carry with themselves day in and day out.
Thanks for all the well wishes, we all know who you are, if you’re ever around 18th between fifth and sixth, drop in and say hi!
Cool. Wish more weddings could be like this… real.
Congratulations Gene & Olivia!
Simple and sweet….they got it right.
This is exceptional work. Powerful, emotional, and really unique. Best of all it tells a great story without the captions. Congrats!!
do you also do bar-mitzva’s
These images literally put any viewer right there with them. Powerful and natural feeling without all the glitz and glamour that we sometimes think is required; these are a great reminder of what it’s all about.
Frank Burch says
Sweet story…thanks for sharing!
Aw, they look so happy! I couldn’t stop smiling as i’m reading, scrolling and looking at the pictures. So much of their day reminded me of my wedding day at the courthouse in Brooklyn. On days like these it is is the moments you’ll remember not the train stalling, or the long lines or all the racing around days before. Appearantly you do ;0) well, they were very fortunate to have you there to capture the moments for them. Now I’ll have to congratulate Gene the next time I pop into Adorama.
Ivan Boden says
Wonderful shots Joe!
I was amazed… how similar your’s were to shots I took at City Hall NYC!
Of course, your shots are 1000x better. 🙂
Wait, I’m a lawyer getting ready for a deposition; I take a minute to check Joe’s Blog; and now there are tears. What’s going on here?
Good work. Thanks for brightening my day…I think.
Grand job altogether. You had to love her smile!
Great story to start my day, so refreshing to read and see something special in peoples lives.
well written and eloquently done.
Thanks for sharing all.
Bob LaRouche says
Joe: I’m using your wonderful blog to tell my students at Webster University, St Louis, that when done well a wedding can be great photojournalism.
Great job. You never forget what it’s all about.
Marvin Moore says
Great way to start the new (school) year. Very refreshing and sweet!
I, too, could not stop smiling!
Wedding photos are one of my favorite things, and these were more interesting than most, thank you!
Billy Sauerland says
Well congrats to the newly weds, awesome way to do it, I’d say. I know they’ll have a great family photo album with you a call away, if only right! Well keep up the good work and the fun.
Georeg Aubrey says
Great shots! You captured the emotion of the day. What a wonderful wedding gift from you and Annie to Gene and Olivia. Thanks for sharing with us.
Kay Horne says
I don’t know you or the happy couple but I sat here, looking at your photos, and got all verklempt (that word is almost as full of expression as your photos). To me the photos reflected the speed, nervousness, chaos of the day, right along with the happiness of the couple who couldn’t have cared less what was going on around them as long as they had hold of each other. Thank you!
Raymond P says
The pictures in conjunction with the story brought a tear to my eye. Their love and joy that wonderful day was evident in the pictures you shot. Thanks so much for sharing the beauty of their celebration.
Ian Hargraves says
Just wanted you to know that with the hard work and good auspices of HELEN OSTER the dispute with used equipment department at Adorama has been amicably setthed. Thank you Helen you do yourself great justice and to your title Ambassador. You are a professional in evry sense of the world. Thank yopu
Clare Szucs says
Here we are, nearly a month later, and I am still daily revisiting our son and daughter-in-law’s wedding via this great blog. Yes, I’m the wide-open mouthed mom, hugging Gene and cheering.
Gene’s and Olivia’s wedding made a believer out of me that simple is better when it comes to weddings. The most hassle we fought was keeping everyone’s boutonnieres on and straight. After that, it was all enjoyment. But the best was having Joe as Pied Piper, magically guide us through the event.
He and his righthand woman, Karen, arrived at the hotel at 7:45 a.m. with much photo gear in tow. Smiling and smoothly, Joe set up shots of Olivia putting on her veil , looking out the window, etc. And Gene fighting to keep his cool. Then, instead of taking a cab to the courthouse, Joe led us out the hotel and to the subway. As the happy couple and Dad and I followed, we soon realized we were spreading joy to all the passersby as sure as if we were throwing rose petals in their way. The sight of Olivia in her little white dress and red pumps and carrying her red rose bouquet with proudly grinning Gene at her side in his dark suit and red tie, elicited smiles and congratulations, right and left. Couldn’t have thought of a better exercise to set the bride and groom at ease.
The subway ride was a hoot. Unbelievably, that crowd, too, melted at the sight of the wedding party milking their moments for all they were worth as Joe directed the shots. After exiting back onto the sidewalks, we stopped for more shots posed on the steps of the supreme court. Then,after briefly stopping traffic, we made it into the courthouse.
When we walked in,it was like the reception had already started. What fun! Everyone was expectant, nervous but above all, happy. Never mind we didn’t know anyone except Gene’s and Olivia’s witnesses who were there to greet us. We were all there for one purpose and so were pleased to help brides fluff their veils, compliment a groom or just encourage the next couple in line.
But only we were privileged to have Joe with us. Full of energy and ideas for the next shot, he never flagged. Even once the ceremony was over and we were outside, he was again in the lead to shoot the couple in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge. Indeed, what a marvelous New York Wedding!
A million thanks, Joe. We’ll continue to treasure every moment through your lovely photos.
Clare and Pete Szucs
Joe McNally says
Dear Clare and Pete…..it was a truly wonderful day, and I was so proud to be a part of it. Olivia and Gene are truly, absolutely in love. It was just great to be a part of! All the best, Joe
What beautiful photos and they look like such a happy couple, full of love and smiles. All the moments were natural and very NYC, just like a great wedding should be.
John Li says
Great shoot! I love your works!