Picture This

Picture This: The Wedding Ceilidh

Picture This: The Wedding Ceilidh

In my ‘Picture This’ series I focus on an individual image, or series of images, and explain why I like it.

War Memorial Hall wedding photography

For the latest in my ‘Picture This’ series I’m focusing on an image that has so much of what I’m looking for in a documentary wedding photograph. It’s from Rosie and Stuart’s wedding in Alfriston, East Sussex. As you can see, the evening party, a ceilidh, was in full swing and I wanted to capture the carefree atmosphere in the War Memorial Hall – and do it in a way that told a story in a single frame.

Moments before, I’d taken a shot through a doorway of a dancing couple that put me in mind of those 1950s French New Wave films, like Godard’s ‘Bande à Part’, and especially its dance sequence in the Parisian bar.

Alfriston wedding photography

Suddenly the music changed and several couples lined up together ready to dance in a sort of improvised formation. I crouched down with a wide-angled lens to get a more dramatic viewpoint as they set off towards me. (Keep in mind that nothing is orchestrated when I photograph a wedding, apart from any formal group shots.)

I think I fired off about 3 or 4 shots, no more than that, altering my angle slightly each time as the couples galloped across the floor. I often picture in my mind the type of image I ideally want before I take it, perhaps so I can recognise it when it appears in the frame.

When I look at this picture now I can almost hear the music again and feel the movement of the dancers. Their faces are a mixture of joy and concentration so as not to be the one who messes up the dance for their partner. Nobody has even noticed me despite being just a few feet away.

Documentary wedding photography

The couples are all leaning eagerly into the dance, as if into a stiff breeze. Their leg positions are repeated across the image and the edges of the frame are as full as the middle, giving a sense of action outside the picture.

In the background on the left, the best man is standing casually unaware in the doorway. On the right, the fiddler plays her tune. There are triangles everywhere – the bunting, the gabled roof and the legs of the dancers. The eye loves triangles and roams around the picture.

And most of all there’s touch, everything that that means…

If you like my style of documentary wedding photography I’d love you to get in touch.