Monday, October 17, 2011

A marriage proposal

I've been thinking about a wedding I went to a few weeks ago. The setting was spectacular, a ridge overlooking the foothills of the Colorado Front Range. Where it widened into a flat grassy knoll someone had built an 8-sided prayer house. After mingling outside, we removed our shoes, went into the house, and sat in a circle around the interior. The guitar player plucked a tune, the groom and bride and their families entered and walked to the center. A hush fell over the crowd as the ceremony began.

The wedding location, photo found in someone else's wedding pix

It was a picture perfect moment, which was exactly the problem. As I looked on all I could hear was the steady din of cameras going off. Click Click Click Click Click! Do you take Click Click Click Erica to Click Click be your Click Click ever loving Click Click Click wife? I do Click Click Click Click!

Does this experience sound familiar? Maybe I'm more tuned to camera noise than some people, but to me it was obnoxious. The act of observation was altering the thing observed. Call it the Heisenberg wedding principle.

It made me wonder what a wedding ceremony would be like without cameras. I realize a total ban would be impractical. Everyone brings a camera to weddings, and perhaps they could still use them for pre- and post-ceremony photos. But what about keeping the actual ceremony camera-free? It worked fine 200 years ago. Why not revive the idea?

I think the benefits would be threefold:

First, no camera noise.

Second, wedding guests would find themselves more engaged in the experience of the ceremony.

Third, the memory of the event would take on added significance. You had to be there. In this case it would really be true. Each person at the wedding would remember it in their own way, and taken as a whole the collective memories would form the lasting document. Which to me seems more meaningful than 500 separate photos of the bride and groom kissing.

There could perhaps be one exception, a professional photographer with a silent shutter who would remain unobtrusive. That person would serve a sort of ATM security camera role, documenting events for the official record, and I suppose they could post a few public images for everyone to share. But for all other guests, no Click Click Click.

Of course I've already had my wedding so it's easy for me to foist this idea on others. But maybe some young lovers out there want to consider it? Has anyone ever attended a wedding ceremony without cameras? Is such a thing possible now?


Anonymous said...

I sort of did. My wife and I got married in a planetarium, and we dimmed the lights at the start of the ceremony. I don't remember anyone trying to take pictures, but if they tried they surely failed (we don't have any photographer friends who would have brought D700s or the like).

Our intent had nothing to do with cameras, but your post made me realize that although the wedding likely had about as many cameras present as people, it went unphotographed.

j.e. gomez said...

It intrudes on all of life's events.

The "click" isn't the only thing annoying, the illumination of the LCD screen provides a nasty distraction.

I personally find it odd that some people would rather experience the event by watching it on a LCD screen six inches away from their face while the live event is within twenty feet. Although the picture might be important, I would at least like to view the actual event though optics than a digital rendition, and some events I want to experience without any distractions, including those caused by others.

CJ said...

Nothing better than Uncle Jim blocking my shot as the bride comes down the aisle - clueless.

I always see the priest/rabbi, etc., before each ceremony and they always have rules - which we respect and understand. The majority never consult the guests, and every rule is instantly broken. Flashes during prayers, etc. No one cares. The guests have their snapshots on Facebook before I even get to the edit. It's turned into the parent on the sideline with a point and shoot trying to capture their kids playing soccer. They miss the whole game. Everyone can do it. It's digital.

The great ceremonies are when they announce "no picture taking" - it's like a breath of fresh air.

Great post. I'm going to advise this to all future brides. Now, back to street photography.

chuckp said...

Yup. I think weddings were among the first events to lose any connection with the here and now. I've been to so many weddings where the official photographer so controlled the traditional components (cake eating, bouquet throwing, garter toss, bla bla) that they were not only completely divested of any experiential value, but they were also almost completely invisible to the guests.

Here's my favorite example, courtesy of Elliott Erwitt, of self-imposed degrees of separation from experience:

Michele said...

This would definitely be a good place for a marriage proposal too! I am a Wedding Proposal Planner and would love to have that as a backdrop for one of my proposals.