I've been a full-time photographer for 15 years. I've shot for over 20 major national and international publications, such as National Geographic Travel, The New York Times, Time Magazine, etc. I've traveled to Hawaii, Brazil, Panama, Italy, France, Ireland, Haiti, the Cayman Islands, and all through the American South on assignment. And I've shot over 200 weddings.
There's something about photographing a wedding that I continue to find endlessly gratifying. The pace is fast, and as a photographer you have to think fast. After a typical 6 or 7 hour wedding I will have walked or run nearly 10 miles, slinging two heavy cameras, a couple of flashes, and other bits of gear. The rituals are similar enough from one wedding to the next, and yet like snowflakes, each one is unique. And I approach them that way. Working with a good assistant and a radiant bride, the whole process takes on the character of a ballet. We move lightly, quickly, with smiles on our faces, light on our minds, and music in our hearts. We sprint, we squat, we stand on railings, whatever it takes to get the shot. I've been known to get belly-down in the sand, just to get the right angle.
From a photographic standpoint, the challenge and fun of shooting a wedding is that you get to wear so many different hats. One minute you are a fashion photographer; next you are a photojournalist. Then a food photographer. An action photographer. A portrait artist. A con artist. (I kid). A landscape and architectural photographer. You tell a story with details, panoramas, closeups, gestures, and split-second expressions. It takes all your attention, and as such takes on a certain Zen quality when things are really moving. I'm always on the lookout for the moment -- and there are so many moments at a wedding, with friends and families gathering from all over, the painstaking preparations, the nervousness, the tears, the heartfelt toasts and the crazy school friends cutting up. Everybody is looking their best, even the kids. Somehow the little ones know, once they put those dresses and little-man suits on, that they are part of something important, something very special, and they are always on their best behavior. And they've never looked so cute. Getting great shots of the flower-girl and the ring-bearer is something I feel I can never take credit for. They are already picture-perfect. A monkey with an iPhone could get a good shot of the flower girl. But presumably you want a little better coverage of your wedding than a monkey taking pictures of children with a cell-phone, else you wouldn't be on my site right now.
As I've moved on into other aspects of my photographic career, I have continued to shoot weddings. Now, shooting weddings feels like coming home to me. It's where I cut my teeth as a photographer, and it's a constant reminder of the simple joy of creating beautiful photos for people who will be looking back on them for the rest of their lives. The value of that is incalculable. I feel honored, privileged, blessed, to be the hand and the eye behind so many cherished memories on desktops, coffee tables, walls, and refrigerator doors. I've got some of my favorites from weddings past still up on my own fridge. They speak to me just as strongly as the work I've done on assignment photographing surfers and musicians, countrysides and cityscapes. In the end, the emotional value of great wedding work outweighs just about any other kind of photography there is.
So, tell me about your childhood....
I grew up in a happy home in Norfolk, Virginia. I was a good kid for the most part, the kind of kid who usually gets recognized for being an exceptional lad, though inevitably I would do something foolish to spoil my standing among the elders.
I went to boarding school at age 16. I had some great teachers and great friends, and through long nights of reading, writing, and discussing the nature of reality with my bunk-mates, I developed a love of art and music, literature and philosophy, and most of all, vinyl records. REM, Johnny Cash, The Clash, The Cure, The Velvet Underground--my roommate Jeff and I had over 300 albums by the end of our senior year. Divvying them up at graduation was one of the saddest days of my life. I went off to college, an Echols Scholar at the University of Virginia, and continued a self-directed and somewhat meandering intellectual exploration through the Art, Anthropology, Philosophy, English, and Drama departments. It was at U.Va. that I developed my first photographic film, which I printed in black-and-white and proceeded to color over with acrylic paint. I graduated with honors, clutching a rather worthless "interdisciplinary" degree, packed up my guitar, and hopped on a plane for Ireland.
After a decade of wandering, in and out of graduate programs, bands, cities, towns, continents, and relationships, I landed less than two hours from my birthplace, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I didn't really choose to live there, but somehow it suited me. The surf, the light, the wild weather, the sense of being one step removed from the rest of the world -- it kept me there, as much as I threatened to leave. I borrowed an old Nikon FM2 camera from my dad, outfitted it with a variety of cheap lenses and filters, and began to photograph the ever-changing seascapes and sandscapes and cloudscapes of my new home. I soon started getting work taking pictures. I bought my first digital camera. Another awakening. I was on me way.
The rest is current events, touched on by the first couple of paragraphs.
To view my professional editorial/commercial/art photography website, visit www.chrisbickford.com.
To check out my book Legends of the Sandbar, an ode to the surfing culture of the Outer Banks, visit www.legendsofthesandbar.com.
Oh, and I like long walks on the beach, etc...