As a wedding photographer, it’s easy to fall into the risky trap of regularly looking to our peers for inspiration. Whilst it’s crucial to keep up-to-date with current trends and styles, and wonderful to support our friends and colleagues, it can be detrimental to our work – and the industry as a whole – if we keep too close an eye on what others are doing. We may spoil our unique way of seeing the world, and begin to create work indistinguishable from the work of others. Worse still, we may inadvertently (or even purposefully) recreate imaginative, original work made by our friends and contemporaries - which really isn’t cool.
If we instead look to unusual places for inspiration – sources from outside the industry, even outside photography in general – we can help fuel our own creativity in immeasurable ways. Sometimes this can occur subconsciously, as was the case for me recently...
Sleeping Beauty - Walt Disney, 1959
I devoured Disney’s earliest animated masterpieces on almost a daily basis as a child, and continue to re-watch them into my thirties. Sleeping Beauty has always been an absolute favourite of mine. In 1959 it was Disney’s most expensive production to date, almost having bankrupted the company due to its groundbreaking attention to exquisite detail throughout every animated cell. These stunning visuals, in combination with the film’s magic-filled storyline and whimsical characters, continue to capture my imagination today.
In the late afternoon at a recent wedding, the bridal party and I were allowed into a crumbling, cavernous room in the wedding venue – a room that was usually closed off for public safety. We were only given two minutes to shoot in, and the green-hued light was all but completely gone, but I managed to set up one shot before we were kicked out of the unsafe space. After quickly looking around the scene, I decided against shooting a typical portrait, instead choosing to highlight the eerie and enormous space. I had my assistant shine the light from our two iPhones through a doorway, and shouted a few quick directions to my couple.
Lucy Spartalis - Nikon D750, 35mm - 1/200sec, f/1.8
Earlier that day I had mentioned to the bride that she looked like a Disney character - with her enormous, beautiful eyes and graceful posture – but the penny hadn’t dropped as to who she reminded me of exactly. When I returned home from the wedding I began editing this frame, and was suddenly aware that - since I’d taken the shot, I’d had a few bars of an classical piece of music playing on loop at the back of my mind. I stopped to work out where the music was from, and then it popped into my head:
Sleeping Beauty - Walt Disney, 1959
This sequence is from the third act of Disney's Sleeping Beauty, when the Princess Aurora is being led by a mysterious green light to the spinning wheel she inevitably pricks her finger on. When viewing my image from the wedding day, it suddenly became clear that I’d created a direct homage to this scene; yet at the time of shooting I hadn’t even been aware that I was doing it.
When we take the time to reflect on the images we fill our lives with, particularly the ones from sources outside of our industry, it’s fascinating to discover how our own styles have been formed. The more we continue to delve into art outside of the wedding scene, the more diverse our influences become, and the more our creativity will grow.
Also, it's a great excuse to watch a lot of Disney.
If you like Lucy's work, check out her portfolio and galleries here...