Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Marriage

With the recent ruling in California, that all couples can marry, some discussion (here) and (here) has emerged about the impact that photographing gay weddings will have on a photographer's business. This all seems a bit strange to me.

It's ridiculous to think that I'd judge any of my clients on any factor of their personal life. No aspect of their lifestyle, political beliefs, indulgences, food tastes, music likings, dog vs. cat, tall or short, rich or poor, Republican/Democrat/Libertarian/Independent, Catholic/Muslim/Jew/Protestant/Taoist, Yankee/Red Sox, Civil War or War Between the States (I did live in the South for a while), Pat's or Gino's, w/ Whiz or w/o (but really, how can you not?) or family background should or does come into play in my decision to photograph a wedding. More importantly, are you easy to work with? Do you respect and like what I do? Are we a good match?

My job is to document an important event in their lives. I've photographed plenty of situations in my life, some I felt very connected with while others repulsed me. Through it all, it's my job to fairly and accurately portray the situation for what it is regardless of my personal beliefs. I've spent intimate personal moments with racists, bigots and anti-Semites and documented what mattered to them, not me (full disclosure: not wedding clients but in my journalism/documentary work). I could, fairly, jump up and down with personal preferences about whose wedding I will or will not photograph. I could only document people who are attractive in one particular way because I believe they'll help me draw in future business. I could only show weddings from certain high-dollar venues because I only want the well-to-do, or wanna be well-to-do, clients. Or only photograph same-race couples out of fear that I'll loose all my same-race business. This stuff is just dumb.

I used to have a VW Fox. It was the first new car I bought right after college in 1991 after my 1979 Honda Civic's clutch died at Carl's Corner, Texas and I decided the car wasn't worth enough to fix. Anyway, I used to take it to a mechanic who was a proud Evangelical Christian. He displayed Bible versus in his shop. I am not an Evangelical Christian. But what mattered to me was not that he displayed his very personal spiritual beliefs in his place of business but how he conducted his business. He was a great and honest mechanic who was a nice guy. Nothing else really mattered to me. Should he have not displayed those thoughts out of fear of losing business? I guess he could have but he never asked me to pass a morality test before changing the oil. I could have taken my business elsewhere to someone who didn't display such personal feelings but as a business owner I can respect his conviction to run his business the way he wanted to. We never discussed religion or political stuff just cars and the weather and the community. Pretty much the foundation of all small business transactions.

I've photographed weddings where the vows include the bride "obeying" her husband. Should I have walked out at that point because these views are from the dark ages? I've shot weddings where one spouse was downright mean and awful to their partner. Should I have sent Whitney and Maury packing because they're of different races? Should I, Mayor John Street and the Penn Museum of Art and Archeology have turned down Ryan and Micah? What about couples who are of mixed faith backgrounds? Divorced? The differences among us are vast and profound and it ain't my place to judge. There is no standard culture, belief system or way of living that is a model against which all others are judged. It's a big world and there's room for all of us. If you wanna get married, I'd be happy to document it.

2 comments:

Sean McClintock said...

Scott, I know you don't know me but I subscribe to your blog and read every post. This entry is why I will always respect you. You're an incredible photographer and man who stands by his convictions as a fair and impartial person. There are a lot of people in this country who could learn from you.

Keep up the good work.

Scott said...

Wow. Thanks Sean.

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About Me

I'm a veteran photojournalist with 20 years of experience telling stories with pictures.