Thursday, May 31, 2012

a bit of old carpet..

You may or may not know about a certain storm in a tea cup that brewed a few days ago within the wedding community over one of my photographs.  The image was one of a stair case.. and some amazingly wonderful 70's carpet.. and the storm included all sorts of things from the wedding industry going down the pan, what constitutes as a wedding photograph, what is art, what's the deal with all these soft furnishings.. it really did get quite bizarre.  If you don't know about any of it then you can read about it here.

If you do know about it then I wanted to share this.  I sent the owner of said wonderful 70's carpet aka my gorgeous bride Jen an email explaining what was happening as I thought she should have a right to know.. they are her stairs after all..

At around midnight last night this 'wee essay' (as Jen called it) dropped in my inbox and I sat and read the whole thing with tears streaming down my face.  I would really love it if you could take 5 minutes to read it...

I remember when I first met you & Pete. It was last Autumn at the designer vintage bridal fair. You won’t remember having met me, you were so busy & will have met loads of brides that weekend, but within a few minutes of conversation & a quick flick through a couple of photo albums I had decided you were the photographer for me. Stood there in your granny inspired vintage outfit I thought me & this lady have the same style; a love for brogues, granny fashion, folk music, floppy hats, polka dots, floral everything & an appreciation of the unique beauty in ordinary things. Two of my gorgeous bridesmaids kept saying, “she is so you”! 
A couple of weeks later & after 2 years of searching for the perfect venue Chris & I stumbled upon our dream wedding venue... a simple village hall in Dunham Massey which happened to only be a short bike ride from our house & coincidentally was a place I have visited hundreds of times with my Grandparents as a child. The only date they had free before this next coming winter happened to be Friday 13th April. Unlucky for some but not us as that also happened to be one of the last dates you had free for Spring/Summer 2012. Chris & I were over the moon that we snagged you. It’s perfect we thought, we can get married from home, we have Emma Case & my nana will be able to come.
My nana was able to be at my wedding! 
In January 2011 Chris’ beloved Nona died unexpectedly. We loved this woman so so much & we were devastated. We were so annoyed at ourselves for not getting our act together sooner because she would have loved to have been at our wedding & we would have loved for her to be there. To make things a 1000 times worse my own Dad died suddenly only a few weeks later. We were emotional wrecks & felt the same regrets all over again. A couple of months later Chris & I moved in to my own Nanas house. She herself had moved into residential care across the road from her home due to declining health. She was diagnosed with Alzheimers a few years ago, she is very old (having just celebrated her 85th Birthday last week) & she is incredibly frail. Regardless she is one of the loveliest ladies you will ever meet. She never has a bad word to say about anything, she is witty & she is always a joy to spend time with. Chris & I love her to pieces, we wanted her at the wedding. As we were making plans it was always a concern that for one reason or another she would not be able to be there. She has had a couple of hospital admissions over the last year. Even as the wedding drew days closer my Mum & I continued to debate about whether or not she would be well enough to spend the day with us & how we would arrange things to accommodate her. As you know, she was friggin’ ace, she lasted the whole day & as always was on good form. You got some photos of her that we will treasure forever.
As you know Chris & I now live in the family home. I tell her over & over how much I love it & she tells me over & over of how she found the house. My Nana & Granddad had been living in Portsmouth with a 6yr old daughter (my mum) & 4yr old son (my uncle), my Granddad was due to leave his service in the RAF & had gotten a job up North. They had decided to move back to Manchester, the city where they were both born. Nana tells me she had only one free day to find a house for the family, & so she came up from Portsmouth on the train alone, looked at a couple of houses in a morning & signed for this home that same day, she went back to Portsmouth later the same evening. She tells me she fell in love with this home at first sight. My mother grew up in this house & now more than 50 years later Chris & I live here. We love it. There are so many memories. 
The carpets although not to every persons taste & although worn & thread bare in some parts I have elected not to change. We love them. When I think about my childhood in this house so many memories relate to the carpet! As children my younger brother & I played hopscotch on the carpet pattern, we used to slide down the stairs on our bums (& then get told off), we used to roll on the floor in the hall with the dogs, we used to sprawl out on the front room floor & do jigsaws with Nana, we have had countless family photos in the living room – kids all lined up on the floor whilst adults sat on the sofa, there have been many Christmas trees with presents piled on the carpet underneath. Ironically my Nana remembers these things too, it’s her short term not long term memory she loses. I adore vintage things, this carpet is as vintage as it gets! When Chris & I moved into the house we had to move a lot of Nanas stuff out (people collect a lot of crap when they live in a house for more than 60years). Slight confession some of the things my mum put into charity bags I rescued. I kept some of Nanas blouses, pleated knee length skirts, leather & suede lined handbags & floppy felt hats which I love to wear & use! Like you & your photos I am confident enough to choose my own style, I don’t have to conform to anyone else’s ideal of what I should wear or look like & it’s pathetic when people feel the need to mock that individuality. I look back at photos of Nana when she was my age & think “God she looks great”! When I wear her clothes I can’t help but think of her & think what she achieved in life. Not everybody sees inanimate objects the way you do, some people look at on old hat & see an old hat. Like you I like to think about where it has been, what it has seen. The rips & tears give it character, they are the story & that is what makes it uniquely beautiful. This is why for Chris & I you were the perfect photographer. With our wedding you captured the sentiment & beauty of the things around you with such a natural ease. I don’t even think you realise how spot on you got it. We put so much thought into the things we decided to include in our wedding, the objects you photographed were belongings we had carefully selected for their story & sentiment & a lot of them were influenced by my wonderful Nana Muriel. 
The old china tea set in the cabinet belonged to my Nana. She gifted it to Chris & I when we got engaged because she knew I collected tea cups from charity shops.
The old leather bound books which I stacked on the tables belonged to my mum & uncle as children. Nana used to read them to my brother & I when we were little.
The old music reel which we had to peel away from Pete, belongs to my mum, she used to dance around the house to it as a teenager in the early 70’s.
The old vintage leather suitcase which we stacked the cards in belonged to my great granddad. God knows the places that that has been & seen. When mum found it had his old ration books & RAF papers in it.
The old sewing machine, my Nana tried to teach me to stitch with it when I was a girl. 
The old Guernsey Tomato crate we found in the garage full of Granddads old gardening tools covered in cob webs. Also Chris once grew a ridiculous freaky tomato plant which grew taller than he is & tomato plants were the speciality of Chris’ Nona who grew hundreds in Italy.
The lemon cheese favours were homemade by my mother from an old family recipe. My Nana used to make it & we would spread lashings of it on toast when we had breakfast here as kids.
The old school desk was a present to me on my Birthday from my parents when I was 8 or 9. My dad rescued it from a tip & polished it up.
My something blue, borrowed & old was my Nanas own Diamond & Sapphire engagement ring. I remember her on the day holding my hand, noticing it & saying “ooo this looks just like the ring I used to have”! She was genuinely happy it was being used.
The magic thing is Emma, I didn’t even ask you to take photos of these things, you just did it! Chris & I adore these photos they are something so personal to us. They are absolutely beautiful pictures of such treasured sentimental belongings.
On the morning of my wedding day, my house was full of my favourite ladies, we were all so excited & happy, the adrenaline was pumping. I was running late & I was a tad overwhelmed. I remember taking myself off upstairs to the bedroom (which was once my Nanas room & then my Mums & is now mine) to start doing my make-up. I felt too excited & jittery to even start my make-up. So I turned the radio on & decided to just take a few minutes to breathe. It was my wedding day! I was about to marry my best friend. I was feeling incredibly lucky (I even feel tingly now as I re-live how happy I was feeling that morning). The sun was shining for what felt like the first time in weeks, I realised that I had the best friends & family & they were all going to be there at the church waiting to celebrate with us. I was just completely overcome with joy & excitement. I remember vividly that the song on the radio was Jason Mraz “I Wont Give Up On Us”, the words of that song at that moment felt so appropriate. Chris & I both come from divorced parent families & one of the reasons Chris & I had put so much emphasis on my Grandparents is that we decided that their marriage is the type of marriage we want for ourselves. My Granddad died 10 years ago. Even now my Nana cannot talk about him without telling us just how wonderful he was, what a good man he was. They loved each other unconditionally. They had such a good partnership through thick & thin, richer, poorer, in sickness & health. They loved each other even after death parted them. They had a long & happy life together (I’m not sure how many exactly but I do remember a family photo on the carpet for a golden wedding anniversary). I want that so much for Chris & I. They are our role models. 
As I was having this little epiphany on my wedding morning, I could hear my mum & bridesmaids chatting & giggling downstairs. I could hear Lily the 2 year old flower girl looking for Molly the cat & at this moment this overwhelming sense of calm came over me. With every ounce of sincerity I have to tell you, the thing I decided to do then was to go & sit at the top of the stairs!! Seriously!! Cross my heart & hope to die honest!! I sat on the top step for about 5 minutes & just listened to everything going on around me. For those few minutes I was on my own & I was so peaceful. 
When you first sent us the link to the photos, I couldn’t help but notice that photo. I didn’t think it would be a particularly exciting photo to anyone else but I think you should know Ems that photo completely takes me back to one of the most precious moments of my day & I am sure it will turn out to be one of the most precious moments in my life. It was at that moment in the day when I thought “today I’m getting married to my best friend & it’s going to be friggin perfect”!!! 
Love from Jen x x

I wanted to share Jen's letter for a number of reasons... not to win any argument or get one over on anyone but because for me, over the last few days it felt like people were losing sight of what was important.

Every....  single...  thing in Jen's letter is important to me and as wedding photographers they should be important to us all.  I'm really glad I chose that image,  I'm really glad that some people got on their high horse about it because now I have the most precious email from one of my couples reminding me EXACTLY why I do this job.

I also think that next time we're all shooting a couple's most important day of their life it might be good to just take those blinkers off and to really see everything.. because it's all there right under our noses... or in some cases.. right under our feet.

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