I am a New York City wedding photographer and I have been since 2008. My road to becoming a NYC photographer, however, was not linear. It took decades to get here, and it’s a story I love telling because it comes full circle in the most beautiful of ways.
I grew up in Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. I went to high school there, and I later went to college in a small town in the north of the state. I went to school for theatre, because that was what I loved more than anything.
As you do, when you are young, you don’t think “What will I do with this degree?” when you head off to college, unless you are way more self-aware than I was when I was only eighteen. You think “I am off to study what I love.” And off you go.
And oh, how I loved theater. I did not, however, love my choice of college. There was a sinking feeling somewhere in year one when I started thinking “I chose wrong.” I wasn’t sure where I started putting the wrong foot forward, but somehow I’d ended up at the wrong school. Nothing about it fit, like trying to awkwardly coax a puzzle piece into a spot that you know doesn’t fit, but you try try anyhow because MAYBE, just maybe it will.
College was like that.
I did well, I liked the theatre department, and I graduated with a BFA in acting and a minor in dance. But I left my college town the day I graduated and never looked back, sure I’d made a wrong choice somewhere but baffled as to where. I hadn’t made close friends. I hadn’t had the “college years” the rest of my friends seemed to. What was I doing wrong?
Things happened rapidly after that. I moved to NYC the day I graduated, possessions in a moving van and brand new roommate beside me. I married my college boyfriend quickly after graduation. We started our family. We moved from NYC to Florida, where we remained for the next eight years. I had my first daughter, then my second. Ands somewhere in there, all the dials clicked and I knew what I wanted to do.
I was going to be a photographer. I am a photographer. I think I always have been.
I always had a camera in my hand, in one way or another, growing up. I remember working part time in high school to buy my very first Canon Rebel. I remember the exact store in the mall that I bought it from, and how I felt when I loaded the first roll of film.
I remember taking a darkroom photography class in college, standing in the red glow and waiting for the mysteries on my undeveloped film to become art. (I also remember signing up for that class to hang out in the dark with a boy, who apparently also wanted to sign up for that class to hang out in the dark with a boy. I told you, college wasn’t my finest four years.)
I remember taking roll after roll of film of my first daughter. I remember taking pictures for fun of my husband’s office and his coworkers for their fledgling website. I remember one of those coworkers saying “Does your wife shoot weddings?” And somewhere in there a little voice said “OH SAY YES” and so I did, and I’ve been saying yes to weddings ever since.
I photographed my first wedding in the fall of 2001 in Jupiter, Florida. I photographed my second wedding in 2002 in Tallahassee. From there, it was wedding after wedding, year after year. I opened my Tallahassee studio in 2005, and moved to New York in 2008.
I said earlier that everything comes full circle, and I believe it. I believe that I was meant to go to school for theatre. I believe that every second that I spent learning how to manufacture emotion, to build and craft an action and reaction, has helped me identify moments while documenting events.
I believe that every light that I hung in the tiny black box theatre taught me about studio lighting.
I believe that every day thinking “What if?” and “Did I get this right?” and “What do I want to do?” just taught me how to move forward, analyze my situations, think clearly and in an organizational manner, and has helped make me the ambitious, hard-working business owner that I am.
I have lived in New York for over a decade now. It is my home. I wouldn’t be here without that college, that coworker, that Jupiter wedding, that old film camera, and an extreme desire to find my place in the world.
It’s here, it’s in New York. It’s at weddings. And I love it.
Location: 500 W 36th St, New York, NY 10018.Keywords: David Tutera (17), Indian (56), Meatpacking District (5), New York City (69), Oscar De La Renta (9), Ray Roman (9), Skylight West (17), Sonnier and Castle (9). 1/15; f/3.5; ISO 500; 24.0 mm.