Oh vintage, we barely knew ya. Oh, wait, that’s not true at all. I think we knew ya quite well. Here’s something from the Huffington Post. Harmony Walton heralds the end of the vintage trend with a return to classicism.
Seriously, though. Vintage. Classic. Modern. Who cares? The problem isn’t vintage or mason jars, decorations or details, shoes, dresses, or any one thing. The problem isn’t brides and planners. It’s not even evil corporate boogeymen. The problem is we live in a world and work in an industry where we signal substance by pointing to the end of a trend through the birth of a new one. It may be a rallying cry, but it’s no salvation. It misses the point wholly.
Though the creation of a meaningful narrative through decor and design may lend an ersatz air of loftiness to the subject of love, these things really have nothing to do with one another. This couple has a typewriter, because they’re writers, so it’s OK. That couple just wanted it, because they saw it on a blog, so it’s not OK. Couple A is better than couple B. Really? Is that what it’s come down to? It’s the wrong conversation. Weddings are parties. Weddings are the beginning of marriage. Both may be true, but we should not confuse one with the other. The typewriter didn’t tell us anything about love. It just told us that Couple A is quite probably better at party planning than couple B.
Vintage editorial people, meet wedding photojournalists. Photojournalists, meet editorial. Shake hands. Get to know one another. Congratulations. You have now both moved one step further down the path of obsolescence. That’s alright. Everything moves there. And it’s a good start. Because warring factions, exist as they may, do nothing. As Duke Ellington said of music, good is beyond category. There are those who see, and those who don’t, and that’s what counts. Forget style. In the hands of the greater, it is a tool. It is putty, bendable and malleable, a framework to communicate. In the hands of lesser, it is a look. Something to co-opt without nod, knowledge, or reference to the influences from whence they came. Shackles or freedom. It’s up to each of us to decide.
The problem isn’t about the look or the genre. The problem isn’t even that we don’t know weddings are about love. We all do, don’t we? The problem is we live in a world without teeth. So free in form and lacking in rigor that the courage of our convictions has become less meaningful than who can get how much, how fast. We skip the journey in favor of the destination when the destination receives its meaning from the journey.
The problem is about appropriation. That we replicate without improvement. Without commitment. Without exploration. It’s not a question of shooting the manufactured pose or the synthetic moment. We all start there. It’s whether we take it somewhere. Or, instead, do we complain when the style we’ve chosen for ourselves goes out of fashion? At that point, we have a choice. We can either go on the defensive and drown in complacency as we stick to our guns. Or we can swim, further and faster, letting go of it all, until we find that place where it’s not the style that matters.
We all know weddings are about love. What we need is to find better definitions of love. Definitions that go beyond typewriters, vintage, and classic. Definitions no one but us can access. Human definitions. Only then can our pictures acquire the crystalline sheen of honesty and the insight of a life lived intimately. How does love manifest itself, to us? What is special about it, to us? What is beautiful about it, to us? These are the only things that will give us the guidance to know when to click the camera from which angle when there’s a split-second to react. Photography is an activity of razor-sharp precision, and it requires equally clear beliefs. Let’s hope the voices in our heads are our own, or else we’ll find it drowned out by the screams of a thousand blogs and a world willing to sell schlock for a dime and a buck.
We need the determination to make ourselves heard. That’s what we owe to our couples. And to ourselves. If all we try to do is show couples what they did and how they looked – to hide a double chin here, clean up a wrinkle there, and put their weight on their back legs – we are not telling a full story of love. We are not accessing the authentic. We are recording the veneer. We are telling a story of design, logistics, and generalizations, when love’s power is its specificity. We need to stop seeing the world the way our eyes see it. We need to learn to see the world the way our hearts feel it. No style or trend will ever tell us that.