All Things Old are New

Roughly two years ago I was falling out of love with Leica. There were a variety of reasons, some valid, some perhaps not. Regardless I culled my rangefinder heard down to one remaining body, two lenses and moved on in the world. I discovered the Nikon F6. In fact, I discovered two of them, and two lenses to go with. The F6 is the most advanced 35mm, film camera I’ve ever had. It has the best meter, the best autofocus, the best viewfinder, feels great in my hand and is built to last longer than I am. Everything about it is right. It’s nice to hold a roll of 35mm to the light and see nothing but PERFECT exposures staring back at you, and anyone who darkroom prints knows what this means. And the F6 is FAST. It’s also routine to hold a roll to the light and have 36 tack-sharp images staring back at you.


But there is ONE problem. The images. I simply do not make the same images with the F6 that I do with the Leica. I thought I did, and thought I would, but I don’t. Now, this is ME talking here, and I did, after all, use the Leica for roughly twenty years so it’s not like this is an accident. The Leica became a part of my photography, more than I ever imagined. I figured all this out about two months ago while shooting at The Palm Springs Photo Festival, something I do on a yearly basis. For the first time I carried two F6 cameras and not the Leica. Okay I lied, there are TWO things about the F6. They are SO heavy in comparison to the Leica. As you know, I’m not in great health at the moment, and this difference between the two, after ONE full day of carrying was substantial enough to include back pain, even with carrying everything else on my hips.
Then during the nightly presentations I watched a VERY good presentation from a New York based photographer who shot black and white, 35mm. I looked at the work and thought, “That is what my work USED to look like.” It was not only the weight, but also because Leica allows for a certain TYPE of image. Let’s be honest, if you are going to shoot runway fashion or a football game the Leica is going to suck, but if you are after a certain type of image there is no better camera in the world. I happen to want that exact type of image.
I’ve also come to realize something else…for the LAST time. Most of the great work I see, and what I’ve seen from the past, is all ONE style of work completed over a long period of time. Almost all of it. My way of working, color 6×6 and 35mm black and white, isn’t really working. It never has, but it’s EASY with the 6×6 and for a lazy photographer or someone with little time, I’ve been both, it’s the crutch I felt I needed. I need to stop this and just shoot ONE thing. This WILL not apply to my Blurb shoots however. Those will remain a mixed bag, understandably. Would I love nothing more than to descend on a Blurb shoot with two Leicas, one with color and one with black and white? YES. YES. YES. And it would make my life logistically superior but it ain’t gonna happen.
There are also a few new/old constants that have cemented themselves further into my life. I wasn’t sure that was even possible but it is. The journal is a DAILY must. This damn thing is maybe the most important thing I do. After all these years I’m still a bit afraid of how powerful this book is. Not the content, but what it sparks in me, how it opens doors, works as a companion and allows for truly flushing things out. The written word has always been a serious thing for me, something I give tremendous respect to, and this book is the anchor of it all. I also have to throw in audio here. I’ve dabbled in the past, but I now realize just how much I love the power of sound. On the contrary, after doing more video, I have LESS interest in video than ever before. But audio, oh my lovely audio, we are headed toward a serious courtship.
Finally, I’ve realized a few other things. I want to continue to explore art. Sketching, painting,etc. Just for fun. And fully understanding, learning Spanish is a must. There is NO WAY around it any longer. Where I live, and where I want to work, Spanish is the only way. I’m tired of not being able to really speak with people, in depth, with meaning, and until I can do this I can’t really make great work in these places.

To recap my current systems check….

Dan Bag(s)

Rangefinder Style

I’m not saying these are good. There are a few I’m somewhat partial to, but as a collective they are just what they are. A recording. But let me take you back. 1996. A few short years out of school and just a faint whisper of who I might become, or what I might become. A year of searching for anything, something, but coming up empty. Unwanted. Jobless. Idle days. No money to even explore. The Landcruiser gets about ten miles a gallon. A year and a half at a newspaper, shooting every single day both what was asked of me and also what I found on my own.
A seed had been planted accidentally, years before, and I had never been able to shake it. Wandering Half Price Books in Austin, discovering the photography section and landing on a book that turned me inside out. “Telex Iran” by Gilles Peress. I didn’t know images like that existed, and this coming from a guy who was nearing the end of his photojournalism degree. How could this be? I wasn’t sure what to do. I looked at those pages, those telex conversations and I just melted. There was a vulnerability there, an honesty I was not prepared for. The PJ world was covered in a residue of machismo, and maybe this guy had it to, but it surely wasn’t present in the work, the location, the book or the dialogue. Mistake of all mistakes..I left it on those shelves. I did. Regret. But in my defense it was just too much. That book was a sucker punch. A one-two combination that put me on the canvas, down and I stayed down.
When I gathered the nerve to return it was gone. Another took its place. “Mexico” by Abbas. Another feather from the same quiver. I noticed in the back of this book a small image of a camera, a strange camera. I noticed a consistency, a style, a TYPE of image, something I’d been trying to put my finger on but never quite had. At least not yet.
I slowly put two and two together. The Leica. There was a style, a type of image and this little box was partly responsible. Again, didn’t quite know this yet, but the inkling was there. An itch so to speak. The tragic part was I HAD a Leica. An M4-P. One lens. 28mm. But I didn’t know how to use it.
Yes, of course, I knew how to load it, aim it, focus it, but that means next to nothing unless you know HOW and WHEN to use it. For most assignments the Leica isn’t right. Won’t work. Doesn’t fit. Square peg, round hole. Jewelry. But then there are those things were it fits like DNA. The issue I had, up until this time, was commitment. Using this camera is a religious experience because it takes a leap of faith. Total immersion. Diving in.
The reason I can find a used Leica in short order is that MANY people buy them, never commit and then sell. The vultures like me waiting. Salivating. “Come on old man, get on with it.” Snatch.
In 1995 there was Central America for the first time. The lingering doubts about who I am, what I’m doing there and what is really possible on $300. Two systems, the Canon and the Leica, filed away, a backup. But for a few brief moments I’m separated from my main bag and I’m left with the Leica. There is the ride in the Jeep. The image through the window….it feels right. Feels like me. Feels like something I know is going to be with me for many years. There is the funeral, the house, back against the wall, ONE frame, no witnesses. Just me inside a completely and utterly foreign world.
By 1996 I knew I was f%$%$#@. Cambodia. An assignment, duties, needs and objectives to accomplish, but the lingering pull of MY work is beginning to overshadow the reality of doing what it is I was trained to do. The main system left in the hotel. The AK47 in the lobby making sure it’s there when I return. The heat. The overwhelming, soul-sucking heat that taps even me. Dust, diesel and the isolation of being so outside my comfort zone. A machine gun pointed at my chest. Money taken but the camera remains. Who cares, just keep shooting. One powerful, momentous image at a time. This was SO FAR before seeing your image was the destructive reality we see and feel today. No motor, no autofocus, no NOTHING but metal and emulsion. Dust? Who cares? Heat? Who cares? Rain? Who cares? Not even the kid with the AK-47 and my money wanted my little, light-tight friend.
A pattern developing and I can feel it as I go. I’ve begun to make a certain type of image. My type, but also the Leica type. Certain spacing, and people realize I didn’t know what the f%$# I was doing.(I have a bit more of an idea now…18 years later.) Not even close really. I could cover the bases, but didn’t know how to photograph like me. This tool was leading me to water.
There is no way to say I was blending in, or invisible, but it, at times, felt that way. As much as can be with shoulder length hair, white skin and a tattered Domke. What a joke. Sore thumb. Relief really, that I had begun to understand this thing, this photography thing. The correspondents club, along the river, old, yellow, colonial and Tiger flowing into my empty stomach. The guy from the Killing Fields is sitting next to me. The actual guy. Leica.
By the time I return I know what I need to do. Pouring rain in Laguna Beach. Boxes of transparencies sitting on the living room table but I can’t look quite yet. I need to process, not film, just information, experience and purpose. Am I really going to do this or just be another jerk with a camera and story to tell. Poser. No, I’m gonna I’m do it. The phone rings. Another photographer wanting, looking to trade. But what? “Hey, Milnor, you have a 70-200 Canon zoom?” “Ya……..” “Trade you an M6 and 35mm f/2.” “That is a TERRIBLE deal for you,” I say but there is no stopping him. Who am I to argue.
Two hours later the backdoor deal is made while the rain splatters my doorstep. Gone. In my possession. This was really the moment. I knew. My career can now officially begin. It wasn’t like I turned my back on the others, but I cheated every chance I got. My little M mistress allowed for things the corporate camera world would not. Nothing wrong with anything else, and like I said before, for most things the Leica isn’t great.
It was at this point I began to learn who I was. The next four years saw me compile at least four of my most important bodies of work. All done for myself, no one else. No assignment. Could have never done it otherwise. Too important for someone else to screw up. Take from me. Trivialize.
As I sit here today, packing, I daydream of a new quarterly magazine. Not sure I can pull if off but am game to try. A tribute of sorts to this little machine, but not as the centerpiece, just as the hint, the suggestion or push to get me going. It’s never the centerpiece. That would be counterproductive. Like a spy wearing a name tag.
After all these years I actually feel like I haven’t really started anything yet. Anything truly good, great or memorable. Maybe now is the time, or maybe I never will. This little thing is important, it is, but not as important as time, freedom, access and critical thought. Certain things have to be right, like the light, otherwise the entire machine breaks down. Gotta be in the right place too. This little machine won’t help you with any of these things, but when all these things line up, when they coincide, that is when the Leica becomes what it is.
I try not to write about equipment here. I’ve explained why many, many times, but I just thought of this as I sit here trying NOT to think ahead. I wish these images were better, stronger, but I can only wish.(And I was still new to the game.) I could say the same about everything I’ve ever shot.
For those of you interested, I’m going to start a quarterly magazine, small one, where I will feature a certain type of image. If you are interested in this let me know. I’m guessing a $10-$12 price range. There will probably be about 100 copies total.


A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to speak to a class at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. The chair of the photography department, Dennis Keeley, is a very cool cat, and in addition to his life as chair he has lived several other interesting lives, including photographer and musician. A few years back, Dennis paired me with another photographer, Patrick Hebert, and we taught a class about photographers working with NGO’s. To say that Patrick is a good teacher just doesn’t go far enough to describe what he does or how we works. In short, he’s wicked smart.
So, when Patrick, who goes by Pato, as me to come and speak to his class, I did.
We discussed photography, styles, techniques, history and of course, books. Overall, this was a fun night, but there was one thing that has been lingering in my mind. One thought. One question actually.
I showed a brief slideshow of my work from Sicily, something I do because I use that work to describe books, marketing, portfolios, etc, and not just as “Look at how good I am.”
Shortly after the slideshow a student asked me why my work looks the way it does.
“I don’t know,” I answered.
Now, saying “I don’t know” isn’t a great way of making a point, and Pato being Pato he added, “Well, it’s not that he doesn’t know….” Then proceeded to talk about style and how these things come about.
But, for a second, I really didn’t know. I didn’t have an answer, but what I did have was a feeling.

Earlier in this same exact day, another photographer sent me a PDF of a book he made from a recent trip to India. This photographer shot all color, 35mm, and as I perused his book something very odd happened. One image depicted a middle-aged man inside a house with blue walls. The image was cropped into a square. The man was wearing a red turban and had an open fire burning near him in the center of the room. Again, the walls were blue, the turban red, the man had a great color to his skin and the fire projected orange light all throughout the interior. Only I didn’t really see any of it. I stared at that image, in real time, with my eyes open and what I saw was a horizontal, black and white image that wasn’t color but was about the rim of light that lit the man from behind. My mind literally took the blueprint my friend projected on the screen morphed it into something that my brain either wanted to see or needed to see. I kept staring and literally had enough time to ask myself, “Is this really happening.”
Okay, so maybe I was Indian in past life, or maybe that magic marker I inhaled during my lunch break had lingering effects, but I don’t think so. I think I’ve either learned to see this way, or perhaps, even more interesting is that this is what my vision really is.
So when those students looked at my dark, grainy, contrasty work from Sicily and innocently asked, “Why does it look like that.” Well, maybe because that is how I see. Not how my camera works or how I prepped the files to look. Perhaps this is how my brain interprets the world?
I’ve read that many male of our species are color blind and I’m wondering if perhaps THAT has something to do with it? Trees are kinda orange right? Okay, all on the same page here.
Seriously, this has been lingering in my mind for over a week now and I’m still not sure how to explain it. My eyes were open, they were glued to this image and yet I saw something entirely different. And the image I saw was dodged, burned, highlighted and emphasized precisely what I found to be most important, the direction and quality of the light.
I think the term “vision” gets thrown around like single bills on a Friday night in Vegas, but in many cases, this is just horse%$%^ thrown around to sell something. And folks, I’m not saying I’m a visionary, or that my vision, if I have one, is incredible. What I’m saying is perhaps I HAD a vision, and this vision was reminding me of something, or filtering something for me. I for one think this is entirely real.
When I’m in the field and I enter a scene where I KNOW there are images, a place or time when I can FEEL those image forces around me, this type of vision is what I try to draw from to find my sense of clarity in the clutter of the world. (Stolen from Peter Schwepker) This internal filter takes over and I either naturally, on a good day, apply this, or on a bad day, fight to find it.
I know there could be many reason why this happened, reasons like short attention span, not paying attention, learned behavior, selfishness, etc. Again, not sure.
I’m not sure this has happened to you or you think I’m entirely full of $#$%, but I’d be curious to know.

Wedding Photography

You might be wondering what the title of this post and this image have in common. In short, everything.

Over the past few years I’ve really avoided writing much about the wedding business, industry or even the photographs that I have made in this field.

I’m involved in a lot more than just wedding photography, so for me, when it comes to writing, I typically have MORE to write about than I know what to do with. Consequently, weddings fell down my list.

But there is something very important that I wanted to bring up.

I’m forty-one-years old. It feels odd to say that because I still feel like I’m twelve, but the mirror tells me otherwise. I guess you could call me old school. Again, I don’t feel old school, but I could see you putting that label on me.

My background is varied, which I think is a good thing. Before I studied photography, I worked as a photographer. That might sound odd but it’s true. I worked as a newspaper photographer before I ever took a class in photography. I shot, edited, printed, did the half-tones and paste up and watched as the presses churned out the efforts of my labors. I heard the good and bad from people on the streets, and felt the power of a strong image as it reverberated through a community. I was NOT a good photographer, far from it. My portfolio consisted of horrendous self-portraits, high-noon landscapes and the creme de la creme of my lineup was a photo of a deer shot with a 500mm mirror lens out the door of my car. I had no trouble getting a job in photography, but I KNEW I wasn’t yet a real photographer.

After figuring out photography was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, I realized I wanted to study photography and more importantly I NEEDED to study photography. So I did.

I got a degree in Photojournalism, worked for my college paper, freelanced, assisted and studied photography full time, diving in like there was no tomorrow. I also studied how to write, how to edit, how to design, at least to a certain degree, and also dove into the art world, studying intensely and suffering through actually trying to make art myself(Life drawing was my worst class ever). Those were some of the best and worst days of my life. You see this was about so much more than nuts and bolts, so much more. It was about finding myself, my vision and my voice.

Today I run into dozens of “photographers” that are “self-taught,” and some of you are remarkable image makers. Being self-taught has always held a certain allure or charm, but never more so than today.

But I have to say, I’m somewhat skeptical about many of the modern “self-taught” photographers because often times, when I see their work, I realize that many are mostly self and very, very little taught. In the past 24 hours, all within biking distance of my house, I’ve seen THREE, “professional” photographers undertaking shoots with NO idea what they were doing. How do I know this? Because I stopped and watched. I saw a clear photographer/client relationship, and three photographers with zero understanding of basic lighting conditions. All three photographers were using digital body and 24-70 lens. All three shot FAR, FAR, FAR more images than they needed to, using the camera as a type of pacifier to make themselves, and probably the client, feel as if real images were being made. I could tell just by watching that none of these photographers had a style or real clear vision for what they were trying to produce. At times they would shoot the same person by moving around them in a circle with their lights in tow.

I realize that life has many challenges, and going to photo-school full time isn’t within the realm of many people. I get it. I got lucky. I had parents who helped with my college tuition, and I chose a school right down the road, so in-state tuition, at least at that time, was next to nothing. I lived in an efficiency apartment, with a roommate, and we split most everything. I assisted for the local fire department photographer and he helped me with supplies and let me use his automated color printer when I was on deadline. I bulk rolled my film, used whatever free chemicals I could get my hands on and I lived in the school darkroom. I assisted for a still-life photographer who shot medical parts, sometimes taking eight or nine hours to make one image. I survived on cheap beer and Carnation Instant Breakfast drink(I was partial to the Strawberry). And I was very aware that many folks were having a far more difficult time making it than me.

This time of learning, of study, was invaluable for me because it was what allowed me to BEGIN to find my voice, my vision, which in my humble opinion is the most important, most valuable thing I have. Why? Because it is mine, and it is unique, just like your true vision is.

I made so many mistakes, so many false starts. I thought I was one photographer, but in reality I was another, and there was no way for me to realize this until I made those mistakes, those jumps off the photographic cliff.

Even after four years of study, I was only beginning to understand who I was with a camera in my hand. I ventured into the professional world, thanks to the help of many other people, but struggled with how to make it and how to keep true to goals. I worked in the newspaper world, I did freelance editorial work and basically shot ANYTHING that came my way. After a few years of doing this I realized that being all things to all people was not only NOT helping me find my real style, but was in many ways holding me back. So I quit. Yep, I quit and took a job with Kodak.

The first piece of paper I signed when I accepted the job was a conflict of interest letter stating I would no longer do assignment work. I signed it without a second thought. I realized then that the mainstream photography world was not where I was headed. The mainstream world didn’t offer me what I needed. I began working for Kodak, sold off all my equipment except a Leica M6 and a 35mm lens and went into temporary retirement. I visited with hundreds of photographers across the nation, spent time talking about photography, about printing, galleries, magazines, creativity, personal work, and a strange new perspective began to build in my mind.

Before long I had my camera in hand and I was making pictures yet again, but THIS time, the pictures were ONLY for me. I went into the field on my projects and made my pictures and suddenly, through the layers of my past and the stimulus of the day, I began to see the photographer I really was. Jobs couldn’t show it to me. Clients giving me their demands didn’t do it for me. School had opened the door but it wasn’t until this time at Kodak, and the shooting entirely on my own, that I found my vision, my style and my voice.

If I had listened to the industry I would have NEVER found it. Not even remotely close. The industry was telling me to go in an entirely different direction, heck the industry was telling EVERYONE to go in that direction. I knew I had to follow a different path.

So when you view the image at the top of this post and I tell you that this photograph, and many, many others, are critical to my wedding work I’m hoping that you now understand. Pictures like this are a reflection of who I am as a photographer. I don’t listen to what the wedding photography industry wants to me be. I don’t pay attention to what the wedding magazine lists are telling me I have to do, to say, to be. None of the applies to me. My goal is to put my stamp on the wedding, not the other way around.

We are a product of our past, our environment, and LEARNING photography, actually studying it, from the basics of light, timing and composition to more advanced studies of the history of our craft was critical to me finding the path I’m on.

If you are a photographer who is waiting for clients to dictate how you work then I think it might be time to reconsider why you are doing what you do. And if you haven’t ever studied photography, think about giving it a go. I think real study could be what unlocks the photographer inside you.

What’s Old is New: Return to Weddings

My wedding technique in 1999 and again in 2010

I began to shoot weddings for real in 1999. I had recently left my job at Kodak, wanted to return to photography full-time, and at the suggestion of another wedding photographer, had decided to try my hand in this field.

This was before the wedding bubble, before the days of over the top marketing, advertising, websites, blogs, social media, etc. The wedding world, at least in my opinion, was more normal, real and frankly more fun.

I was a novice, and amazed that anyone would want me to shoot their wedding, let alone allow me to do it. I was not the normal wedding photographer.

My practice was to take one camera, one lens and a few rolls of black and white film. That’s it. Nothing else. I never even brought a strobe. It was as streamlined as you can get, completely unlike most “real” wedding photographers, but for me it was completely normal. I’d been doing documentary projects like this for years, so I wasn’t doing anything I wasn’t very comfortable with.

I didn’t have any “packages.” I didn’t have a great website. I didn’t belong to a single wedding anything. I got work through word of mouth, and also by showing work to vendors. I’d visit hotels, planners, etc, and show them documentary work. Nobody else it seems was doing this.

But as the years went by, and the industry began to grow, so did I. The idea of going to a wedding with one camera became lunacy. The thought of not taking a strobe became, “unprofessional,” and before long I too was being sucked in to the modern wedding mentality.

Two years later, armed with Canon 30D’s, I was fully digital and blasting my way through locations from Europe to the Caribbean and all across the United States. People were hiring me because I was “fully digital” or “high tech” and I thought I was a total wedding stud.

I still didn’t fit the modern mold in my vision. The maximum number of weddings I ever did in a year was 10, and I never had one tad of desire to become a factory, or triple the number of jobs I was doing. I never thought of training and hiring anyone else to work with me.

One day I came home after a large wedding shoot and sat down at the computer to begin the great download and post-production marathon that had become part of my life the minute I had gone digital, and I just hit the wall. It was sudden and dramatic.

I looked at my wife and said, “For the first time in my life, I don’t want to look at my own images.” It was a terrible feeling.

I knew why digital photographers hired out their post and design. I knew why some of the top shooters never ever saw their images after the wedding was over. I knew why photographers randomly converted half their images to black and white. It changed everything for me. Again, I never once thought of farming my life out. I felt, and still do, that if I’m farming out my post, I must be shooting the same images over and over, otherwise how could someone else do my edit? Editing was sacred, not something to turn over to an intern.

I realized I needed to return to film. And return to film is what I did. But this time I went to the medium format world, choosing to shoot the bulk of my weddings with a Hasselblad and 80mm lens.

For about four years I did just this, and became known for this style of work. Other photographers thought I was somewhat nuts because using the Blad is slow and provides a puny 12 images per roll of 120. By then the insanity of modern weddings had taken full effect. Suddenly photographers were shooting thousands of images during a wedding, and then selling the concept of quantity to unsuspecting clients. I attended a trade show and listened to a speaker claim to have shot 12,000 images by himself during a wedding, and the audience burst into applause. I was shooting 200 images at a wedding.

Times had really changed.

But about two years ago began to feel as if I had done enough weddings. Like I do every four or five years, I felt the need to change my life once again. So for the past year and a half I really didn’t do any weddings. I spoke with my favorite planners, locations, and said, “You know, I’m done for a while.”

It was just what I needed. During this time I instead focused more on my portraits, and had a great time doing this. Portraits are still a big part of my life, shooting again today actually, and I hope they will continue to be a part of my life in the future.

But a few months ago I began to think about weddings again. I ran into one of my original clients and was able to look at the work I produced for him. Looking at those prints took me right back to that day, those moments. It also reminded me how simple and clean what I did back then really was.

His entire wedding was shot with an Leica M6 and 35mm. There were no proofs, online hosting or book involved. I simply processed the film, by myself at that time, and then went into the darkroom and made 20, 11×14 prints. I then made an envelope, also by hand, added the prints, then sealed it with wax.

That’s it.

The client not only still had it, but said they viewed it on a regular basis. I was stunned.

Suddenly things made sense again. I realized that one of the reasons I needed a break from weddings was that the wedding industry had sucked me in a direction I didn’t want to go. Now, to defend myself a little bit, the wedding industry had exploded to a never before seen level. With the demise of many other photographic genres, the wedding world had become the refuge for many photographers, who a few short years before, would have NEVER stooped to shooting weddings. The industry, due to reality television, editorial explosion, had become a HUGE business. By the time many clients got to me their personal, boutique events had become super structures that were over the top in every way.

The industry was racing upward and I was sucked into the vortex.

But taking a year and a half off allowed me to fall back to Earth, and also allowed me a fresh look at who I had become, and what had become of the industry.

I realized that for me to return to this field, I had to make some changes.

So, the Hasselblad and digital bodies will remain in the locker, and once again, I will return to my original pursuit.

This weekend I will shoot a wedding, and my entire rig is highlighted in the attached photo. That’s it. Two bodies, two lenses, black and white film, and yes, this time around, a strobe. What can I say, I’m splurging.

My entire setup fits in one small bag which I will leave behind once I get to where I’m going. I don’t envision back pain. I don’t envision working with someone else, second shooter, and having to be aware of their needs and content.

Now, I realize something. This return to the past is not for most clients. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this ONLY fits one small niche of client. But that is what I’ve always been. That is what I’ve always looked for.

Weddings are in interesting event. There is so much tradition and history that many people do what they think they are supposed to do, and perhaps not what they actually want to do. I need those folks that say, “You know, we just want a core group of great images and the rest falls where it may.”

Because of this I have to work harder for my jobs. I really do. The way I look at it, if the industry gets to the client before me, I don’t stand a chance. The industry tells the client, digital only, quantity, teams of photographers, high-tech, slideshows, etc. Speaking of that, I was at a location once, staying for fun, and there was a wedding going on. The wedding photographer was times three, and all three were wearing black head to toe and were also wearing headsets. It was really over the top. I ended up talking to the bride who said she felt like she was surrounded by the mafia when the photogs were around, and even the location had to tell the photographers to “tone it down.”

So recently, I visited a location I used to shoot weddings at. When I mentioned to the manager I was thinking of shooting weddings again I really didn’t expect any reaction. This person said, “Oh, that is so great, you really understand this place and now I have someone I can refer that I really believe in.” It was surprising to hear but also made me feel like I was doing something genuine if you will.

My new/old style of working provides a certain type of image, and regardless of whether you like it or not, it stand outs from the modern wedding world. The 70-200mm 2.8 is the lens of choice it seems for modern folks, although it seems that one person finally discovered the fixed lens and now everyone is using fast 50’s and 85’s, but my longest lens will be a 50mm. This work stands out. Again, you might not like it, but it does, and my best selling point over the past few years has been to ask clients, “Can you choose the other photographers work out of a lineup?” Frankly, in most cases, with modern, digital shooters, you can’t. The bulk of the work looks exactly the same.

So, I’m not choosing this old route to be different, not at all. I’m doing it because I love it. It rekindles the relationship I had with my work all those years ago. And a happy photographer, in my book, typically is a good photographer.