(a) Tricky Relationships and (b) Henna

My relationship as a photographer with brides and grooms is a tricky one. It requires a careful striking of balance. First off, and obviously, its good to get along on friendly terms. No-one wants to hire someone that they don't like, least of all for their wedding. Maybe brides/grooms would want someone they might be friends with, outside of wedding context. After all, not even everyone a couple knows is invited to a wedding, and here I am, a stranger, who gets to intimates watch and document every single move on wedding day. There's a huge amount of trust put in my hands when a couple hires me. Trust that I'll show up, and capture every moment. It's a big responsibility.

While I am afforded access to things like bridal/groom changing rooms, handing rings and other valuable items, asked to zip up dresses - things usually only permitted the closest friends and relatives of the B&G, I still must leave a wide berth of personal space. For example. I've recently taken on a trainee photographer for weddings, and she in attempt to capture a more natural photograph, she asked the bride to Relax. The look the bride gave my assistant clearly told her she'd stepped out of place in making such a suggestion.

So on the other hand, we do have a status akin to hired help. I once photographed a baby birthday party, the adult invitees of whom were mostly Asian American, and the same age as I. I recall guests coming in and greeting everyone. One turned to me and introduced himself, I shook his hand and said: I'm Jennifer, the Photographer, and he immediately dropped my hand and turned elsewhere, as if it were a faux pas to socialize with the hired person. Of course, other times, people are very friendly and chat with me like a normal human being.

Perhaps I am on par with the wedding DJ. The DJ is respected and liked, cool to associate with but not for too long. In fact, one of the first things I do at weddings is to befriend the DJ, because (1) the DJ booth is a great place to stash stuff, (2) the DJ knows the itinerary best, so it's nice to have the inside story and (3) to have someone to empathize with. I am in an upper echelon relative to catering staff, whom people take for granted (like restaurant staff, really). But in any case, I have to find a happy medium between customer service and being a friend.

Henna comes out of a little squeezey tube, much like a mini icing bag. It has the consistency of puffy fabric paint. The henna artist follows an illustrated pattern, but it seems that there is room for personal touches. The henna sits on the skin for 3 -4 hours, during which the bride holds her arms out to either side so that they don't touch anything (Afterwards she washes and the henna pattern has been dyed on her skin.) As she took a break to go to the bathroom, the bride commented to me: This is what sisters are for!

Traditionally, the groom's name is incorporated into the detailed design. It serves as an icebreaker to the bride and groom (in an arranged marriage, when alone for the first time) - the groom is asked to find his name.