Featured | Interviewed by an NYU Grad Student

Last fall I received an email from an NYU grad student, who politely asked if she could interview me for her class project. The assignment was to “write about someone who fascinates and inspires you”. At first I didn’t believe she was serious… but before long, I found myself sipping cappuccino in a hotel lobby, babbling into a tape recorder as if partaking in an animated discussion between two friends.

A couple months later, she sent me the final piece. My initial reaction? ‘Oh my god, do I really talk like that?!’. I know I do, though. But that’s the best part of the whole thing: it’s completely raw, and completely me. It may not be an interview for the Daily News (yet!), but I wanted to share it here anyway.

Through Her Lens

By Elizabeth Vulaj

The American wedding industry rakes in more than $40 billion a year, which makes it tough to carve a spot in it that’s all your own. Yet Lindsay Buckley, a wedding photographer from Brooklyn, has been creating a niche that is the antithesis of the glamorous and more-is-more take on nuptials — just call her the ‘anti-princess.’

It’s an unusually warm and slightly windy November afternoon, and Robin Tesuaro and Stephen Merritt are heading into the typical location for an engagement photo shoot for a quintessential New York couple: Central Park. Accompanying the couple is their wedding photographer Lindsay Buckley. But today, there are no high heels or forced smiles or pressed suits. Instead, the couple are wearing dark jeans and black jackets, and asked to be photographing doing what they love the most: rock climbing.

[pullquote_right]She is a perfect match for her clients and seems to be everything they are looking for: quirky, different, and most of all, low-key – a rarity[/pullquote_right]Buckley, a relative newbie in the wedding industry (she has been a wedding photographer for all of two years), was there to shoot their engagement portraits, and will be the photographer on their big day, in May of next year. She is a perfect match for her clients and seems to be everything they are looking for: quirky, different, and most of all, low-key, a rarity that strikes a different tone than the over-the-top, glamorous, and more-is-more elements that represent the current tenor of the U.S. wedding industry, which takes in more than $40 billion a year.

“[Robyn] didn’t want traditional photos so we were like, why not climb in the park,” Stephen said as he unloaded his backpack.

“I’m excited to switch it up a little bit” said Lindsay, who seemed appropriately dressed for the occasion: green hoodie, form-fitting black pants that almost looked like leggings, and her brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. She could have passed for any experienced climber in the park, natch the huge black camera with a long lens clasped firmly in her hand. As we walked from the entrance on 59th street to the inside of the park, I asked how she envisioned her own wedding unfold.

“Well, I hate attention so if I got married it would be very small and very low-key,” she said as she stepped over the yellow leaves that were scattered on the concrete path. “I’m not into the little details.”

[dropcap]L[/dropcap]indsay is an anomaly in the wedding world, an industry that seems, lately, to be defined by frivolous matters. “Matrimania”, a term used by some to describe the manic, rushed insanity that some couples wreak upon themselves when planning a wedding, seemed to arrive at its fever pitch this year. There are currently over fifteen shows on mainstream American television dedicated to all things wedding, and most of them, like Say Yes to the Dress, My Big Redneck Wedding, and Bridezillas, target women as their main demographic group. There are currently over 15 bridal magazines on the shelves now, ready to offer advice from everything from the dress (want to look like Kim Kardashian? Go for an intricate headpiece!) to tips on scoping out the honeymoon locale (forget Anguilla, Bali is in!). Then of course there are the actual weddings—first, the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William, which drew in a reported over 2 billion television viewers. Then, the wedding of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries, and their subsequent divorce, which drew in eye rolls and plenty of laughs.

Girls have always yearned for the day when tulle, taffeta and true love all comes together and they say their “I Do’s”, but only in recent years has the media and corporate America become obsessed with this business. As the years go by, the standards are raised and brides have adopted a more-is-more mentality about their nuptials, which makes Buckley so unique. She had only ever been to two weddings before she began shooting them, and said she would prefer a quickie ceremony rather than an elaborate show.

“I like how you can see people’s personalities in their wedding,” Lindsay says as we she says as we sit in two plush red velvet chairs in the lobby of the Ace Hotel on an October afternoon. “Someone like Kim Kardashian is the epitome of glamour, high-maintenance, all the finer things in life and that is exactly what the wedding was. Exactly what I would not want my wedding to be like.”

On paper, Lindsay Buckley seemed destined to become a wasp. She was born in Connecticut and had an Ivy League education (went to Cornell for undergrad, where she studied information of science) and got an IT job at an investment bank shortly after.

“I worked there for two years and I hated it. Hated every minute of it,” she says in a matter-of-fact way. “The environment at an investment bank is very stuffy, it’s all about conformity and appearance. It just wasn’t right for me.” The last straw came in June 2009, when one of her superiors asked her to take down the photographs that were hung around her cubicle because they were too “colorful.” Buckley, who was always counted photography as one of her hobbies, had seemingly harmless pictures of scenic imagery and landscapes hung up and didn’t think it would be a problem. She gave in her two weeks notice shortly after that. She took a year off and her interest in photography grew. She started out photographing events for free and found out she loved being a “fly on the wall.” Eventually she got into wedding photography, and since she had only been to two weddings her whole life (an amount that seemed so minute to me I had to ask her a few times to make sure the number was correct), her curiosity about the industry grew. In August 2009, she began looking on Craigslist for any opportunities she could find, and responded to an ad to someone who needed a second shooter (a back-up photographer).

“Then for the remainder of the year, I did a couple more second shooting gigs and at the end of the year I booked my own wedding, it was a very quick low key ceremony in the park,” she said. She booked the job on what she says is on the extreme low end for wedding packages ($1,800) and charged her first few wedding after that the same way. “I was working really, really hard and not getting paid a lot,” she says as her cappuccino arrives. “But I was paying my dues, I was getting experience, I kind of knew I was getting into it. I knew once I got enough experience and added to my portfolio, I could raise my prices and charge more appropriately.”

Then, at the end of 2009, she began Lindsay Taryn Photography and established her blog, which features recent engagement, wedding, and other event photography she has done. One shoot featured a couple who won a contest to get married at the Empire State building on Valentine’s Day; another wedding, when it rained, the couple improvised and did goofy poses in front of a graffiti clad brick wall; another one where the groom wore a white fedora and his wife hula hooped in front of their guests.

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e all know why people (at least, most people, hopefully) want to get married: so they can declare their love for one another to the world, so they can now they are eternally bound to that person forever, and to go on and live their lives with that person in hopes of one day raising a family (at least that’s what companies like Zales promotes in their commercials). All of that makes sense – Lindsay has even photographed numerous couples getting married in City Hall. The bride wears a short white dress, the ceremony takes all of one hour, a short quick peck, and it’s done – that seems to be Lindsay’s forte. The love makes sense, but what about all the hoopla that some people want to take along? What is it about weddings? Like other phenomenons and fascination with New Jersey and wives of mobsters, she thinks reality shows are partly to blame.

“I think it probably has to do with just that type of show, just any reality show, you take average people and give them opportunities… so why not do it for weddings now?”

But, she continues, “I also just think it’s an ideal that girls have ever since they were little – they have it in their heads ‘You find your dream guy, have this big beautiful wedding and you can be a princess and it’s your special day,’ which is funny to me because I was never like that growing up. I was never one of those girls. It’s weird. Like, I don’t really see myself married, ever.”

“That’s ironic, I mean, look at the job you ended up choosing,” I say.

[pullquote_left]Lindsay is an anomaly in the wedding world – just call her the anti-princess[/pullquote_left]“It kind of is in a way, so I guess this is like maybe a way for me to experience weddings without having to do it myself. I like photographing it but for myself, I’d rather put that money into traveling. So my current plan is if I ever get married it’ll be a destination wedding, somewhere cool and I’ll fly out my immediate family. It will be just us, very small.”

“That’s good that you know what you want right off the bat,” I say. “A lot of people get caught up — I mean, I saw the Kim Kardashian thing on TV, I caught a little bit of it—”

“Oh I saw the whole thing! Let’s be real!” she says. We both burst into spontaneous laughter, so much so that the man sitting next to us looks over and then I fear we will be kicked out of the posh hotel with the red plushy chairs. She said she has not shot a celebrity wedding yet, and not encountered too many divas, but I couldn’t resist asking her thoughts on such couples.

“I mean, I totally respect that and I like looking at it, but for me, I’d be like what is this? This napkin holder is here, I don’t need this. There are specific ways of doing it that are not over the top that and it all goes down to who the couple is. If they’re the type of couple that likes nice, fancy things then that is a reflection of them. If you’re not like that and you like to keep it simple, your wedding will probably be more simple.”

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]oco Chanel once declared a statement that seemed to serve as a foundation one of fashion’s now most cardinal rules: Wear the dress, and don’t let the dress wear you. Her exact version went something like this: “Look for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman, there is no dress.” With the maniacal view that some people have started to take on with weddings, it has started to become easier for people to be overtaken by the concept of what they want in a ceremony or reception and let the bridal magazines and shows speak for them, in the same way that a dress can wear them, rather than figuring out what they want. Buckley seems to be unconsciously combating this ever since she began photographing weddings over two years ago.

“I’m not big on attention, I don’t like making a big fuss over myself. I also like being in control… I feel like this is my take on things [when I shoot a wedding]. A couple brides have sent me lists before the wedding of all the things they want me to shoot – like make sure you get my shoes, make sure you get the ring, and this and this, and I’m like don’t worry, it will be fine, really.”

When I ask her if she’s ever encountered a Bridezilla, she says no, almost with an immediate sense of gratification. “Everyone always asks me that… they always ask me if I’ve had that experience and what I did, and I really haven’t yet. I’m very lucky, I should probably be knocking on wood for that.”

She has one upcoming wedding in January, but until the shoulder season (when the most weddings typically occur, usually from the end of spring to beginning of fall) begins, she will have free time to travel and partake in some of her hobbies that don’t include rings and I Do’s, like biking and hula-hooping.

She said her favorite wedding to shoot so far was a couple who got married on the beach at the Jersey Shore, mostly because she said they put a lot of time and effort into their portraits. Could she ever imagine photographing a high-profile wedding?

“Maybe assisting, I wouldn’t want to run the show. It’s way too much pressure. Just everyone involved, with very high-profile weddings like if anything goes wrong it’s off with your head, I would imagine. It’s up to them… who am I to say that’s not the right way to do it? The whole point of a wedding is to celebrate each others’ love and if that’s how you want to do it with all these extra fancy things, OK that’s fine… but if you want a nice simple wedding with ten people that’s fine too. That’s not any less of a wedding.”

Published | New York Daily News | Marta & Andrew

I’m so excited – Marta & Andrew‘s wedding got featured in the New York Daily News! Marta’s interview and my photo appeared in ‘Down The Aisle’, a column they print on Sundays. Here’s a snap I took of the issue on a Polish newsstand, which is extra-appropriate since Marta is Polish :)

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Featured | Ruffled Blog | Maeve & Nate’s Jersey Shore Wedding

This week, Maeve and Nate’s Jersey Shore wedding was featured on Ruffled, a blog for vintage wedding inspiration. Check out Maeve’s writeup of her wedding planning process, along with some of my favorite photos from her wedding day!

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Featured | New York Daily News | NY Jets at the Turkey Drive

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that my photos of some Jets players helping out at the turkey drive had made it onto the Jets’ official web site. Pretty cool, right?

Well shortly after, I found out that one of my photos had been printed in an issue of the New York Daily News! So naturally, I had to get my hands on a copy of it. I didn’t find out about it until the day after though, so I had to run around checking every newsstand and deli within an 8-block radius from my office. It turned into a wild goose chase with the unfortunate end result of nobody having any copies leftover from the previous day. I suppose I could have ordered a copy from the Daily News, but I reeeeeeally didn’t want to have to wait for it.

Then, completely by chance and in true NYC fashion, I stumbled across a massive pile of tied-up newspapers outside of an apartment complex, set on the curb for recycling. They were all in great condition, so I poked through and was able to find my issue! :D

This is a quick Macbook photobooth shot of me holding up the paper:

And here’s the photo that made the paper:

I’m pretty psyched!

Featured | | New York Jets volunteering at the Turkey Drive

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Earlier this week, I photographed two players from the New York Jets volunteering at the Community Kitchen and Food Pantry of West Harlem. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who knows less about football than I do. I’ve even made a habit of referring to the championship game as the ‘Stuperbowl’ and avoiding it like the plague – and unfortunately it always seems to fall right around my birthday.

But according to my fanatical Jets fan cousin, Jason Taylor is kind of a big deal. Apparently he’s a superstar athlete and was once on Dancing With The Stars (ah, now you’re speaking my language!). He and teammate Bart Scott served breakfast at the soup kitchen, then helped unload a truck full of turkeys for Thanksgiving. They were nothing but friendly and seemed to genuinely enjoy helping out, which was so great to see. Seeing the super-fortunate helping out the much less-fortunate makes me happy.

Some of my photos made it onto the Jets’ website – check it out! :D

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