Designer David McCandless of Information is Beautiful has created a fascinating world map called International Number Ones. “Because every country is the best at something,” McCandless also offers the caveat that this accolade is “according to data,” which makes perfect sense once you study the map. Being the number one at something isn’t necessarily a compliment. Many countries are the “best” when it comes to issues that are morally reprehensible.
Twin Lens is a very talented husband and wife team whose artful documentary style wedding photography is absolutely breathtaking. As photojournalists, they’ve worked for well-respected publications like the New York Times, USA Today and Time magazine. In fact, both have been honored by the Pictures of the Year International (one of the oldest, largest and most highly respected photojournalism contests in the world) and husband Craig Fritz was the 2004 National Press Photographers Association regional photographer of the year. (You can find Craig’s amazing editorial work, here.)
While their gift for capturing news-related stories has landed them prestigious awards, over the last decade, they’ve turned their attention to shooting weddings, capturing authentic and unexpected moments in a unique and incredibly moving way. When two of my closest college friends recently got married, they flew Twin Lens out from Santa Fe, New Mexico to shoot their downtown L.A. wedding. Arlene, the bride, found them online and instantly fell in love with them.
As a guest and performer (Korean dancing, you’ll see below), I was lucky enough to experience this wedding firsthand. There were so many creative details throughout – the food trucks, the TV or movie-inspired table names, the photo booth that I couldn’t possibly describe them all. Even better, Twin Lens and the couple gave me permission to share these personal moments with you. The photography team also graciously answered some of my questions so that others could be inspired not just by their beautiful and artistic photos, but by their wonderful story. Read that interview, below.
Can you give me a little background about Twin Lens…how your company was formed, how long you’ve been in business?
Twin Lens is a company that has slowly come into being over the last ten years. We made it official with a business license six years ago, but it was always a goal of ours to have our own creative outlet where we could shoot exactly what and how we wanted without editors or publishers trying to steer us in a different direction. We met at the Santa Fe New Mexican, Santa Fe’s daily newspaper, where Craig had a staff position as a photojournalist. The D.O.P. agreed to let me do an informal internship (I didn’t have enough experience or skills at the time to warrant the official internship they offered), and so Craig and I met in the photo lab there. Much to Craig’s chagrin, I was the newbie intern who didn’t know a whole lot. However, I had a lot of passion and desire for photography. He became one of my first and most important mentors, and I haven’t stopped learning from him since. Long story short, we both worked for newspapers (him the New Mexican, me the Albuquerque Journal) for the next 6 years. I left my photojournalism job after we had our daughter, Maya, in 2003. At the same time he moved to The Albuquerque Tribune, an unbelievable newspaper, truly one-of-a-kind, which focused on great stories and wonderful documentary photographs to illustrate them. Unfortunately the Tribune folded in 2008 (R.I.P), and, ready or not, Twin Lens then came on board as our full-time gig.
What is it like working together as husband and wife? How do you complement each other?
Working together as husband and wife is a gift. Every once in a while we have a heated editing session where we’re both passionately advocating for our own photos 🙂 However, it’s been a blessing to us that we both share a love for this art form. The fact that we can do it on our own terms, in our own home, and thereby support our own family with it is the best we could have hoped for. We recognize how lucky we are to do what we love for a living. Craig is phenomenal with Lightroom and Photoshop and anything that is technical and complex. He also has an incredibly sophisticated eye and penchant for capturing light and color. I balance the equation with my organization, doing all of the correspondence with clients and paperwork minutiae. Photographically, I think I balance him with my love for shooting moments, emotion, black-and-white film. We joke that he is the “chief technical officer”, me the “CEO” and most important to us, together we are both the “creative director”. It is very much a team effort.
What was shooting Danny and Arlene’s wedding like? What were some cool ideas that you hadn’t seen in other weddings?
Arlene and Danny’s wedding was a bit of a mystery for us. Arlene booked us after exchanging emails, sight-unseen and nearly a year before their wedding. She was sure, right from the get-go, that we were the photographers for her. While that was incredibly flattering, we were perhaps a little anxious about expectations. She and Danny seemed to have the utmost confidence in us, and so, ultimately, we just went with it! The wedding day was, in a word, lovely. Both she and Danny were so charismatic and welcoming. Each one was just themselves… we can’t ask for anything more than that when photographing clients. They had a blast. I think it shows in the photos. We hope to become very good friends with them. Things we liked about their wedding: No pretense… the emphasis was on family and friends. They made their wedding their own by incorporating their love for movies, films, ethnic food, music, oh and we should not forget good lighting. We had never seen such attention to cultural detail before… we loved the homage to both their Korean and Filipino heritage. There was a very casual vibe which encouraged mingling, fun, and enjoying the entire event. One of the best things for us, as photographers, was the degree to which they included children into their wedding day. The kids added a great layer of fun and spontaneity into the wedding day and, by extension, the images.
Who are some other photographers, wedding or other, that you admire?
The photographers we admire the most are documentarians, not necessarily from the wedding genre. The most idolized: Josef Koudelka, Eugene Richards, Henri Cartier Bresson, Robert Frank, Sally Mann, Alex Webb, Eugene Smith, Sebastiao Salgado, Larry Towell, Mary Ellen Mark.
Can you tell us more about your style of photography – what cameras you use and how that sets you apart?
Our style of photography is at its core documentary. With that we aim to also incorporate our love for fine art. The outcome, ideally, is a balance between the two sensibilities. For us the ultimate achievement in photography is to beautifully capture a real moment between two people, so photographing a wedding is right up our alley. We also regularly shoot editorial assignments for all sorts of outlets and hope to soon incorporate a family documentary photography component to our business. For 35mm we use Canon 5dmkII bodies with either a 35mm f/1.4, 85 f/1.2 or an 70-200mm f/2.8. However, what we have the most fun with are the film cameras, both Mamiya C330s twin lens reflexes and Holgas. Both of these shoot 6cmx6cm negatives. We feel they contribute greatly to the fine art, nostalgic feel of the images we deliver to our clients. Sometimes it becomes a bit of a juggling act while shooting, but it never fails that the combination of the digital and film images, in the end, create a diverse, evocative, beautiful narrative of the wedding day.
In wedding photography, you only have a split second to capture a moment. How do you make sure you get that shot?
With some aspects of weddings there are key times that you must just know to be ready, there will be no re-dos no excuses. Think, father and bride walking down the aisle, the kiss, first dance, etc. For everything else we have spent many years attempting to learn the finer points of being able to capture a fleeting moment. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we don’t. We always try to consider what might happen in order to be ready. Learning to be still while watching, listening, waiting and preparing is integral. There is another aspect to this, knowing our equipment inside and out. Oh yeah…. and having a little luck always helps.
Can you name some wedding or art/design blogs you go to for inspiration?
Our favorite place for inspiration tends to be our photography bookshelf at home where we have a fun library of documentary/fine art photography books. We love www.aphotoaday.com where we get daily visual inspiration. We also often visit www.burn.magazine.org, www.davidemonteleone.com, blogs.wsj.com/photojournal and whatever else filters through our facebook feeds that looks interesting! We live in rural New Mexico, which we both find to be endlessly beautiful and inspiring, so often just going outdoors and taking in our view or the herd of wild horses roaming our village is our best visual recharge. The other huge inspiration for us is seeing a body of work printed big and displayed in a gallery. Santa Fe has been a great resource in this respect, and when we have the opportunity to see shows we take advantage of that.
Can you tell us about any trends you’ve started seeing in weddings or wedding photography?
Right now wedding photography seems to be following the content being published on wedding blogs. Sometimes this is a good thing, when it gives couples choices, information and ideas. Often, however, we are seeing the same trends being perpetuated ad nauseum (think vintage typewriters, giant pink helium balloons, birdcage veils). As fun as a vintage-inspired wedding might be (if that were truly part of the personality and inclination of a couple), we don’t enjoy seeing these trends influence folks when it’s not true to the couple. We’re much more interested in capturing people in their element, in an environment they’re comfortable in, not just within a scenario where they’re trying to emulate something they’ve seen online someplace.
Is there any advice you’d like to give to aspiring photographers?
For those who want to to pursue a career in photography, business and financial classes are a must. This is something we sorely lacked when launching Twin Lens and knowledge we’ve come by at a cost. It’s important to know the industry, price and cost issues, and the ins-and-outs of running a successful business from a practical standpoint. Don’t put it off… JUST DO IT! (you won’t be sorry) There are A MILLION people getting into wedding photography right now, especially due to the influx of photojournalists who have been laid off from their jobs in journalism due to economic woes. Our advice is to find what moves you, and pursue that. There are certain photographic looks and techniques which are being done to death right now, so there is lots of room for innovation and finding one’s own vision. Figure out what you’re passionate about, what’s original about your vision, and go full steam ahead! A big thanks to Danny and Arlene, as well as Twin Lens, for letting us share in their experience. You can find Twin Lens on their website or on their Facebook page.