How Loss Changed The Way I Photograph

In eighth grade, I had a poster above my bed of a peaceful ocean, the sun peeking out from white pillowy clouds on the horizon and the caption, "A picture is worth a thousand words" scrolled across the top. That single phrase resonated with me as a lover both of words and pictures. But a picture, as it turns out is worth so much more than words, it's worth thousands of irreplaceable memories and experiences. With just a glance, an image can bring you right back to thousands of otherwise forgotten stories. 

I know this first hand, after losing my mother to suicide just this past December. After my mom died, I found myself digging through boxes of old photographs as a way to remember her, to hear her laugh again and to feel connected to her. Whenever I was having a particularly rough day, or I found myself really missing her, I'd riffle through that box of photos and relive all the memories.

how death changed the way I photograph weddings, how loss changed the way i photograph, old black and white photos from the 1960s-www.rachelsmak.com1.jpg

Polaroids, film negatives, and professional portraits became my way back to my mom each time I felt her memory fade. As a photographer of people, I've always understood the significance of photographs, but I couldn't appreciate the magnitude for just how important they become until I discovered personally that they're the only tangible way back to those precious moments after you lose someone you love. My job on a wedding day is so much more than being a creative director, sheepherder, detail curator, and lighting master. My job is to help you bottle up all those special moments celebrated with the people you love so dearly so you can uncork those memories of that special once in a lifetime experience years down the road. Unfaded and unchanged.

You pay for so many things when it comes to wedding planning. Your dress, your cake, your decorations. These are things you and your guests will see and appreciate on your special day, but when you hire a wedding photographer, you are essentially paying for them to capture all the things you don't see on your wedding day from the tearful expression on your ninety-year-old grandma's face when she sees her beloved brooch in your bridal bouquet to the emotion in your otherwise stoic father's eyes as he walks you down the aisle. 

Having death occur so close to you changes you. It has changed my life and it has changed the way I shoot everything now. When you lose someone you love, you realize the importance of memories and how we should treasure them and spend as much time as possible making them with the people we love. My photography has become less about the "pretty details" and more about capturing those hidden moments that a couple misses on their wedding day so when they look back at the images from their day, they're able to relive that once in a life-time experience over and over again.