I once almost had a sister in law. She was married to my ex's brother and we found ourselves on a path to single-dom at the same point in our relationships. We went our own ways for a couple of years. We both needed to heal and constantly reminding each other of our past was not healthy. I married. She got her own condo. Life continued and we would eventually meet up again and reconnect.
I was just starting out with my photography last winter and went to stay with my friend. After a night out catching up over dinner and drinks in downtown Toronto, we went back to her condo and did a fun and quirky photo shoot. Red lipstick replaced her normally reserved makeup palette. She absolutely loved the photos and showed her friends and family.
Who says word of mouth is not a realistic method of marketing?
Enter Vanessa. Vanessa and I met at my friend described above's sister's 30th birthday party at Ultra Lounge. She always remembered me as a "younger looking Olivia Newton John". This winter, she contacted me asking me if I remembered her. How could I not? This girl has spunk. With a voice exactly like Chasing Amy's Joey Lauren Adams and a personality and face to match, there's not a chance I couldn't remember her. We caught up over email and she had told me that she was one day walking on College street, saw what she wanted and went after it.
Proof that doing this actually works, she was engaged in New York City to an old fashioned, successful, dapper gentleman named Tom. Tom is a Bay Street banker with an intimidating and stoic presence, and dimples to melt your heart.
When I agreed to meet with Vanessa and Tom in Toronto one weeknight, we arranged a coffee date to chat and get to know each other. I explained that I was not ready to shoot a wedding on my own and that although they believed in my efforts, I would feel more comfortable if they hired a main photographer.
Coffee quickly turned into drinks, dinner and a couple of shots at a quaint Queen street bar. I got to know the two of them on a more personal level. Michael warned me of possibly crossing the line by going for drinks with my future clients. I on the other hand, thought the complete opposite. Like a first date, you cautiously start with coffee. You never suggest something more unless you are completely digging your present company. They suggested the venture out of Starbucks, so, I felt this was a good sign.
We shared laughs and stories like we were all old friends. There is something so intimate about the role a wedding photographer plays. The more you spend time with a couple, the more you really get to know them, how they met, how they feel about each other, and how in your eyes, their day will unfold. I cried that night in front of Vanessa. I'm such a cynic; a contradictory persona for a wedding photographer to have....but sometimes in life, you find something or in this case, a couple, who gives you hope. Hope that two souls are wandering through this world on their own and are guided together by love. An old fashioned love.
Yesterday, we photographed a beautiful Italian family in Woodbridge. Julia was a gradeschool friend of Vanessa's and was referred to my work. We left the house at 9 am and headed to our first stop of the day. What a truly lovely family of four they were. A family full of curls, faith and love. We finished up with them, had a half hour break to recharge our batteries and creative souls and headed downtown for Vanessa and Tom's old Hollywood themed engagement session.
The four of us weaved and bobbed through traffic, Portuguese festivals and road blocks. The light was quickly falling and I was worried we wouldn't have enough time to get enough natural light shots. Vanessa is my very particular bride. I tell her this a good thing. It's often difficult for a bride and a photographer to truly be on the same page with ideas. A couple hires a wedding photographer to tell their story in a fashion they believe will best capture them, but in that belief is also a trust factor. You have to trust the photographer's vision and sometimes what you think the couple wants, is not really what they had envisioned. Like any relationship, constant communication quickly resolves these ambiguities.
Vanessa has a very specific style. Her and Tom were listening to a jazz station the entire way downtown. Big band jazz and standard classics, not Michael Buble jazz. He adorned a suit and tie and smoked his cigarettes. Her outfits and props fit the mood perfectly. The backdrop of buildings, streetlights, rain and tree lined streets completed the old hollywood vibe. I joked she should have been an actress. She pretended to hail a cab more than once. On any given night in Toronto, you have to fight tooth and nail to grab a taxi. With her performance, she was able to hail four cabs, all in which we did not need.
We shot photos all through Toronto's financial district. Vanessa and Tom are an extremely urban couple. They both live right downtown and have ecclectic taste. Never did it cross my mind to photograph these two in a field of wheatgrass. We all went with the flow and shared laughs as we got kicked out everywhere we went. You must have a permit to shoot in various parts of the city. I'm of the mindset to shoot now, apologize later because at least you have the photos when they force you to stop.
A loudspeaker that could be heard in a few block radius shouted "SECURITY ALERT, SECURITY ALERT" and prompted the four of us to quickly flee. We were being watched and were not allowed to photograph almost anywhere.
Throughout the entire evening, the three of us were trying to stall Vanessa. Tom had secretly planned a surprise birthday party for her after our session ended but the guests were arriving later. It was pouring rain and I was excited. What screams old fashioned love, more than a rain drenched couple running through the streets? We attempted to go for drinks however everything was closed. They were worried about our cameras. I was worried I wasn't going to get my rain shot. We headed to College Street where there was an Italian festival going on. The weather did not dampen anyone's spirits and the tarantella carried on. We went to Sotte Voce and she was entirely surprised. My former future sister in law and now friend was there. We reminisced, and all laughed and drank and ate like old friends do. Our night carried on until the wee hours of the morning and before we knew it, it was just the four of us left. I cannot wait until their wedding at the fabulous Eglinton Grand Theatre, where their favourite engagement photo will be blown up into a life sized movie poster out front.
What an amazing day & night, just short of 24 hours long. I awoke this morning and danced and shrieked in joy. I love my life. I love my job. I love when the universe aligns and just gets it right.
Life is good. Savour it. Love it. See a moment and photograph it and before you know it, you just might find yourself in some sort of a real life hollywood movie ending.