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 thatâ€™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 â€” just call her the â€˜anti-princess.â€™
Itâ€™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.
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 rarityBuckley, 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.
â€œ[Robyn] didnâ€™t want traditional photos so we were like, why not climb in the park,â€ Stephen said as he unloaded his backpack.
â€œIâ€™m excited to switch it up a little bitâ€ 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.
â€œWell, I hate attention so if I got married it would be very small and very low-key,â€ she said as she stepped over the yellow leaves that were scattered on the concrete path. â€œIâ€™m not into the little details.â€
Lindsay is an anomaly in the wedding world, an industry that seems, lately, to be defined by frivolous matters. â€œMatrimaniaâ€, 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 weddingsâ€”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 â€œI Doâ€™sâ€, 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.
â€œI like how you can see peopleâ€™s personalities in their wedding,â€ 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. â€œSomeone 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.â€
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.
â€œI worked there for two years and I hated it. Hated every minute of it,â€ she says in a matter-of-fact way. â€œThe environment at an investment bank is very stuffy, itâ€™s all about conformity and appearance. It just wasnâ€™t right for me.â€ 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 â€œcolorful.â€ Buckley, who was always counted photography as one of her hobbies, had seemingly harmless pictures of scenic imagery and landscapes hung up and didnâ€™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 â€œfly on the wall.â€ 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).
â€œThen 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,â€ 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. â€œI was working really, really hard and not getting paid a lot,â€ she says as her cappuccino arrives. â€œBut 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.â€
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 Valentineâ€™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.
We 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 thatâ€™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 itâ€™s done – that seems to be Lindsayâ€™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.
â€œI 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?â€
But, she continues, â€œI also just think it’s an ideal that girls have ever since they were little – they have it in their heads â€˜You find your dream guy, have this big beautiful wedding and you can be a princess and itâ€™s your special day,â€™ which is funny to me because I was never like that growing up. I was never one of those girls. Itâ€™s weird. Like, I donâ€™t really see myself married, ever.â€
â€œThatâ€™s ironic, I mean, look at the job you ended up choosing,â€ I say.
Lindsay is an anomaly in the wedding world – just call her the anti-princessâ€œIt 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, Iâ€™d rather put that money into traveling. So my current plan is if I ever get married itâ€™ll be a destination wedding, somewhere cool and Iâ€™ll fly out my immediate family. It will be just us, very small.â€
â€œThatâ€™s good that you know what you want right off the bat,â€ I say. â€œA lot of people get caught up â€” I mean, I saw the Kim Kardashian thing on TV, I caught a little bit of itâ€”â€
â€œOh I saw the whole thing! Letâ€™s be real!â€ 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 couldnâ€™t resist asking her thoughts on such couples.
â€œI mean, I totally respect that and I like looking at it, but for me, Iâ€™d be like what is this? This napkin holder is here, I donâ€™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 theyâ€™re the type of couple that likes nice, fancy things then that is a reflection of them. If youâ€™re not like that and you like to keep it simple, your wedding will probably be more simple.â€
Coco Chanel once declared a statement that seemed to serve as a foundation one of fashionâ€™s now most cardinal rules: Wear the dress, and donâ€™t let the dress wear you. Her exact version went something like this: â€œLook for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman, there is no dress.â€ 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.
â€œIâ€™m not big on attention, I donâ€™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 Iâ€™m like donâ€™t worry, it will be fine, really.â€
When I ask her if sheâ€™s ever encountered a Bridezilla, she says no, almost with an immediate sense of gratification. â€œEveryone always asks me that… they always ask me if Iâ€™ve had that experience and what I did, and I really havenâ€™t yet. Iâ€™m very lucky, I should probably be knocking on wood for that.â€
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 donâ€™t include rings and I Doâ€™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?
â€œMaybe assisting, I wouldnâ€™t want to run the show. Itâ€™s way too much pressure. Just everyone involved, with very high-profile weddings like if anything goes wrong itâ€™s off with your head, I would imagine. Itâ€™s up to them… who am I to say thatâ€™s not the right way to do it? The whole point of a wedding is to celebrate each othersâ€™ love and if thatâ€™s how you want to do it with all these extra fancy things, OK thatâ€™s fine… but if you want a nice simple wedding with ten people thatâ€™s fine too. Thatâ€™s not any less of a wedding.â€