Dawn on June 4th…..over the East River and into Manhattan, and the NYC Wedding Bureau.
I shot this at 5:32am on Thursday morning of last week. Little did I know that by Friday afternoon, almost exactly 36 hours after this frame was made, I would have photographed about 70 joyous, boisterous, marvelous, glowing couples, some by themselves, and many of them surrounded and supported by their ecstatic friends and families, all in the back of this truck. It was one of the giddiest, most exhausting, exhilarating, emotional assignments I’ve ever done. I was occasionally laughing so hard it was hard to frame the shot with coherence and straight lines. Other times I was glad for autofocus ’cause my eyes were stinging with tears. What’s not to love about making pictures of people in love?
The process was simple, on the face of it. The truck was parked almost directly across the street from the Office of the City Clerk, and all the couple had to do was walk over, show their marriage certificate, sign a photo release and walk up the stairs and into the truck. The “shoot” took, for the most part, all of about five minutes. I was ready to go. Shake hands, say congrats and start clicking. They would then wait about ten minutes, and walk away with a USB stick with toned and tweaked selects. Done. A small piece of their day perhaps, but on that stick, in their pocket, was a bunch of high res memories they could keep forever and use as they would.
Like Forrest Gump’s momma said, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” That was the mantra of this job, and I was in a constant state of wondrous anticipation about what the next couple might be like. Some came in gowns, tuxes and stilettos, and some in t-shirts and jeans, sporting elegant sneakers. Some ladies had dresses to die for and wore enough jewelry to open a store. Gents had elegant suits and snazzy shoes. There were headdresses, and other adornments verging on crowns. We provided a makeup tent for a quick, impromptu touch up, but lots of these folks barely needed it. Literally every couple was beautiful. My camera and I stood in service to them, and in awe.
How many ways can I say this was wonderful to shoot? We had clouds, wind, and rain for parts of the days, and temperatures more akin to November than June. But that did not deter the dazzling duos from going to the clerk and the judge, saying “I do,” and coming out for a picture. Many said they had a blast being photographed like this, which was a relief to me, as a 20′ box truck is not the most elegant of photo studios. We used every inch of the truck, dividing it into two studios, each with a distinctly different type of light. The back end was for the couples and their entourages, open and clean, lit with a big Lastolite umbrella box. The way back of the truck had a black background, with a moodier, soft but directional feel to the light that came from three lights on a tri-flash, through a Lastolite 3×3 diffuser. All done with Speedlights! We occasionally had as many as 14 or so people in the truck, quite raucously, and managed to cover them all with good light, while they had a non-stop good time.
Sometimes, as above, the truck was literally bouncing with laughter, while at other times it framed a quiet moment.
Many radiated pure joy and excitement.
Others were giddy and a little goofy. They had a ball in front of the camera.
Many had a tremendous assist in the merriment from family and friends.
There’ll be another blog later this week detailing BTS stuff, the lighting, the gear and the logistics. This blog is simply a thankful one. Thanks to Nikon and the Nikon USA Ambassador program for embracing this mildly nutty idea, and supporting it. Thanks to Lynn DelMastro and Tony Moschini, who collaborated in their wonderfully resourceful ways to produce this event and make it happen in the middle of NYC, the most wonderfully hectic city in the world. And huge thanks to the Captain Castellano of the NYC Supreme Court, who really stepped up and made the whole thing possible.
And the couples. Thank you for some of the most joyous, memorable and hopeful days I have ever spent behind the camera. More tk……
Bob Harris says
What a wonderful idea. I feel inspired and I wasn’t even there. Hope you’ll do this again and post the pictures. Best wishes to all the newly weds.
What an amazing idea! Sounds like a blast, for you and them. Kudos to all for this service.
Beautiful shots from a such simple idea. It looks like you all had a fun day.
What a wonderful gift to all those who had their photo taken. Great images by one of the greatest photos of all time. Would love to see a BTS shot of the lighting. Small flash, studio flash, how lit?
Disregard above please. Missed the lighting description when I was going through the images. Sorry! Great job.
Very, very cool.
“AWESOME” captures of love and laughter! What was the size of the Lastolite umbrella used on the backend with the larger group of people, how many speedlite flash were used with the umbrella? Always wanted to be able use something along those lines for future events! Thank you!
Vanilla Gorilla says
Good Job Mr. Joe. Looks like you made about 70 couples wedding day a little more wonderful. Also, 25 years from now, they won’t have to look a cell phone pictures in the photo album.
Absolutely fantastic. When I read the post about the idea I thought it looked fun. After seeing the pictures and reading this it looked like it was. What a fantastic way to spend a couple of days.
Thanks Joe all I can say is WOW!!!
Fernando Gonzalez Coca says
Great! Fantastic! I loved those pictures…. When I started to read the blog (just after I’ve seen all the photos) I discovered that you expressed the same feelings that I felt through your photos! Thank you and congrats!
For the past 3 years, I have led a band of volunteer amateur photographers through the best photographic learning experience I’ve ever had. The pastor of our church “bet,” the Photo Corp they couldn’t do Mother’s Day pictures of the whole congregation… across all our campuses, in 1 weekend. Sure, we said… all outside, right. Nope, Alex you get to do an indoor booth. Time to reread, “The Moment it Clicks.”
You’ve been an inspriration to me through out my military career and now in civilian life. Just wanted to say thanks for teaching with such passion. Maybe one day I’ll see you in Sante Fe.
Lt Col Alex Carothers
Joe, an amazing job. Great portraits! I can only image you were absolutely physically and mentally drained after this project. But WOW!
Joe McNally says
Hey Alex….that’s awesome! What a wonderful challenge, and I’m sure the pix that resulted were terrific, and made many a mom’s day! Just great. Photography is like that….just pulls people together. All the best, and thank you for the kind words….Joe
Tom Sperduto says
Wonderful! What a treat for the couples!
This is inspirational on so many levels, but most of all it speaks to your creative ability that brings joy your couples, their friends and families and certainly to the viewer. chapeau!
Dave Prelosky says
And another suggestion for those who have a desire to serve, and are finding inspiration in Joe’s effort here.
There is a worldwide organization called Help Portraits that offers photographers an annual chance to give back. Their site is here:
It can be a worthwhile way to spend a Saturday in December.
Great results and some flattering white balance for all portraits.
Kind regards from the UK
Wow..how interesting it sounds! I am sure you must have had fun doing this. Capturing precious moments of lovely couple from NYC. How many couples did you shot that day approximately? Have you made some money too out of this?