May 21, 2016 via Instagram (@robertjhillphotography)
Overwhelmed by Sarah & Lukas’ wedding today in Austria. One of my favorites of all time. One quick story I feel the need to share because it was one of the most unbelievably humbling moments of my career shooting weddings.
My main approach with every image I take is to shoot it to the best of my ability but above all, I aim to be as discreet as possible in doing so. This also goes along with when it comes time to eat at a wedding depending on my circumstance. It may not be how every photographer works, and that’s ok, but I strive to build deep rooted relationships with the clients I choose to work with. It plays a huge role in my work and it’s the core of my brand. At every wedding I’m a part of, I feel one small tangible “success” of the effort I have put into the relationship with my clients is brought to light when it is time to eat. Most of the time I have a seat at a table amongst guests but sometimes I sit in a back room. Sometimes I sit in a back room even if I am assigned to a table just due to the timeline not really allowing me the freedom to sit down for a while and because ultimately I’m there to work and capture the moments that are happening. All in all, a seat at a table, whether I can sit there or not, is a massive success for me and its when I know I have done well leading up to a wedding and I have something deeper than a client/photographer relationship with my couples, which is what I strive for every time.
Tonight, something very different happened. I walked in and was told I had a seat at a table amongst guests (all of whom were amazing – why can’t everyone in the world be more like Austrians?). I sat down, talked with the table for a few minutes, had an amazing personal charcuterie board for the appetizer and then it was time to shoot some group shots outside. This turned into Sarah & Lukas’ portraits which we had an hour and a half for. By the time we finished, dinner was over, the guests were done eating and they were all mingling about the reception. Sarah, Lukas and I walked in from our shoot, and grabbed plates. We were served food and then they went to the main table (which in Austria consist of the Bride, Groom and both their parents rather than the wedding party) while I snuck out back to the courtyard to eat quickly so that I could continue shooting. I felt being discreet in this moment was best as I didn’t want to sit amongst guests that were already finished eating.
I got a bite or two in and all of a sudden Lukas’ father comes running through the door followed by Lukas. They grabbed my plate, silverware and napkin and told me to follow them. As we are walking, Lukas’ father explained how the back courtyard is not where I was going to be eating dinner and how that isn’t how they do things. He leads me inside and straight to the main table to sit me in between Sarah, Lukas and their parents. This was the table at the head of the room in front of all of the guests. I was stunned. They ran over and grabbed a drink to serve me and then sat down and started eating with me as the reception continued on.
The image above is funny enough, literally the very first image I shot today. It’s sitting on Sarah & Lukas’ kitchen table. I didn’t even realize when I shot it that “humble” was distorted by the glasses. I never retook the shot to fix it. I feel it’s a representation to what life can be like when all you are doing is working hard towards something. I know I forget often to remind myself about why I’m doing what I’m doing because I’m running so fast towards the future. This act of selflessness that Sarah, Lukas and their parents showed me tonight was unbelievable and I know now coming full circle that this isn’t just a print to look hip or cool but it’s the principles and values their parents have instilled in them growing up to help make this world a better place. Words won’t do it just to explain my gratitude to these families and all of their friends tonight. Austria has been a dream and I’m leaving reminded even more how relationships change everything.