When a male actor lives like a woman to learn his role it's called method acting. And when a man dresses as a woman in Sydney it's, well, standard.
Don't panic. I'm not about to admit to going to any such lengths to get in touch with my feminine side. But just like a good method actor, I do believe that as a wedding photographer I need to fully understand the people I'm trying to represent through my work. Grooms are pretty easy (sorry fellas but it's true right? You just need to know when and where to show up and if there'll be an iron handy). Brides on the other hand are a completely different ball game. There are months, possibly years, of preparation that go into the build up to that one big day.
As a male I'm always going to be at a disadvantage to my female colleagues when it comes to understanding what that journey is like and how it feels to be a bride. Sure I can spot Louboutins a mile away and recognise Samantha Wills jewellery from touch alone. But how is a guy supposed to know exactly what the make up artist is doing to the bride's face for a whole hour? Or what it's like to go shopping for The Dress? Or appreciate how six months of skin treatments can radically transform a bride's complexion?
I consider my style of wedding photography to be photojournalistic and editorial. But those terms imply that I can read and interpret the story that's unfolding in front of me. That's not exactly the case at the moment, particularly during bride's prep which is one of my favourite parts of the day. So if I'm going to deliver photos that truly convey the hopes, dreams and emotions of a bride, I need to understand them better. I need to get my bride on.
And I've already started.
A few weeks ago I was in Bali to photograph Chloe and Jay's wedding (look out for the blog post coming very soon!). After the big day Amy and I headed to Ubud for a bit of spa indulgence and this is where I had my first ever pedi. It was relaxing, enjoyable and a long overdue treat for my feet which have never had any pampering. I drew the line at having my toesnails painted so left Amy to continue while I opted to capture the amazing view.
During the pedi I had one of those epic moments of clarity. I realised how treatments like this not only make you feel good, but are also one of those experiences that must be a lot of fun for a bride and her bridesmaids to do together. Genius! Ok, I know it's obvious to you but remember, I'm a guy! And that got me thinking about the other treatments, processes and experiences that a bride may go through and how I could learn more about them.
Once back in Sydney I decided to see if my mission to become the Louis Theroux of the wedding industry had legs so I arranged to meet up with amazing make up artist Megan Vaughan to learn about all that stuff girls put on their faces. I spent two hours with Megan while she was on set prepping three models for a shoot. Yeah, before you ask it was a tough gig but I was honestly there to learn; I had a notebook and everything!
Megan was amazingly patient with me and answered my barrage of imbecilic questions as if they were breaking new ground. I think "are you straightening her eyelashes?" was one of her favourites. But I learn quickly and left our mentoring session enlightened with a wealth of new found knowledge which I found genuinely interesting. Like how eyelids need extra layers of foundation to neutralise the blue in them. Amazing, right?!
If you'd like to hear more expert advice from Megan, stay tuned because I'm thrilled to announce that Megan will be my guest in the August edition of The Knowledge so look out for the full make up Q&A with her coming very soon!
Now I'm on a roll. But I need another experience. I need to really get under the skin of brides, so what better way than to try some LED light therapy at Milk, Paddington's premiere face place.
Light therapy has been around for a few years and unlike treatments such as botox or sunbeds it's non-invasive, totally safe and has no side effects. So it's perfect for brides who may wish to rejuvenate their skin and reduce blemishes with a few monthly sessions leading up to the big day. For maximum performance and results Milk has invested in top of the range gear from France that costs $40,000. And I thought my lenses are expensive!
Now, I've always been nervous about doing things to my skin. I had really bad skin as a teenager and through most of my adult life, and it's nothing short of a miracle that it has finally cleared up and now people mistake me for being ten years younger. Which is nice!
However, I know it's a matter of time before the fine lines that identify me as "distinguished" start to set in, so I want to hold on to my youthful looks for as long as possible. Would light therapy help? Or do I have a mutant Asian gene that will produce the first ever side effects and turn me into an oriental Yoda?
I arrived at Milk yesterday a little nervous but intrigued and still determined to experience what brides might go through. Sandra and Sarah assured me I'd be fine and within minutes I was reclining with a panel of bright red LED lights hovering over my face. The thirty minute treatment flew by and I emerged uncooked with just a nice little tingling sensation from all the electricity buzzing around in my face. The girls said it would take a day before the results start to show. So that will be today.
I woke up this morning not quite sure what I was going to see in the mirror. I had mental flashes of both Big and Benjamin Button but to my relief the results weren't that drastic! However, on close inspection my skin does look smoother and definitely feels taut. All this from just one session, so imagine what a course of six will do!
If you'd like to try light therapy stay tuned because the lovely girls at Milk are pulling together a special offer for all our newsletter subscribers! Make sure you don't miss out by joining our mailing list!
So after three insights into the world of brides I feel more in touch with my feminine side (but I still like beer and movies with big explosions ok?). I'm interested in exploring a few more areas so if you have any ideas as to what I should try next (within reason!) please leave a comment below with your suggestions!