The Second Shot

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So our friend who is getting married got the photographs of their wedding shoot, and she wasn’t happy. To my mind, they were the kind of typical Korean fare which I’ve become conditioned to expect – a little too suggestive of some period romanticism which never existed except in Western period dramas or paintings – and that brought some oddities into the equation. In one shot the groom-to-be sat on an faux-antique chest of drawers while his partner stood by its side in her long white dress. Unfortunately this created the impression that he was very small in comparison to her, and even evoked vague connotations of ventriloquists’ dummies, so that set of photographs wasn’t ideal.

So our friend who is getting married got the photographs of their wedding shoot, and she wasn’t happy. To my mind, they were the kind of typical Korean fare which I’ve become conditioned to expect – a little too suggestive of some period romanticism which never existed except in Western period dramas or paintings – and that brought some oddities into the equation. In one shot the groom-to-be sat on an faux-antique chest of drawers while his partner stood by its side in her long white dress. Unfortunately this created the impression that he was very small in comparison to her, and even evoked vague connotations of ventriloquists’ dummies, so that set of photographs wasn’t ideal. In another set, the photographer hadn’t given him the wooden platform he’d stood on for most of the other shots, so he looked smaller than the bride-to-be in that set, which generally seems to be unacceptable in Korea, no matter what the realities of people’s heights might be.

The third problem was that despite our lively photographer’s repeated cries of “Don’t worry, it’s all going to be Photoshopped!”, the consensus seemed to be that they just hadn’t been Photoshopped! enough. A social network contact in Seoul happens to be a wedding photographer in the most prestigious area of the capital city, and he was dismissive of what he was shown, likening it to the kind of shots ‘we were taking ten years ago’. Truly, there can be no greater condemnation in Korea than that of being dated. So our friends asked the Seoul photographer to re-Photoshop! them, and there was no doubt they looked a lot better afterwards…

The Wedding Planner hadn’t turned up to the original shoot, even though he was supposed to, so we all went along to his office to discuss the matter before our friends had their scheduled appointment for selecting the dress and suit that would be worn on the actual day of the wedding ceremony. To his credit rather than be defensive about the work that had been produced he was instead profusely apologetic, agreeing that it was sub-par, and another shoot with a different photographer and a different studio would be arranged. Incredibly, this would mean another eight-hour session and another day of lost work for the self-employed groom-to-be, but it was arranged.

There then followed a mad chase through the streets of Seomyeon as we followed the wedding planner to the bridal dress store, where we performed our roles in giving second opinions on the various outfits that were tried. Meanwhile, our otherwise respectable suit-wearing Wedding Planner sat outside reading Manga comics, an image I couldn’t quite square with his appearance, position or role on the day.

We did not attend the second wedding shoot, as it was a weekday and we had to work. When the photos came back they were a mixed bag to my mind. Unlike the first shoot one set was outside this time, and on the principle that you really can’t do anything artificial or silly with trees, it was much better for it. However, another set had the prospective groom crouched like a frog wearing a shirt, waistcoat and… shorts, next to the bride standing formally in her full wedding dress. Perhaps it was meant to evoke a metaphor, otherwise the purpose was mystifying. There was no doubt the overall results had the impression of being more professional – for the most part – but there was still something terribly and terrifyingly Korean about them. But our friends were happy with the results, which is all that matters.

I think if there’s a lesson in this – from our friends’ experiences and that of my own two years ago – it’s to not be afraid to try and reassert some control of the creative process of a wedding shoot, otherwise there’s a very good chance of being dissatisfied and looking silly. Perhaps very silly. It’s likely that behind the language barrier Korean photographers tend towards being self-absorbed prima donnas as photographers are everywhere else. Of course, they bring a certain amount of expertise to the table which should be respected, but it shouldn’t give them carte blanche to indulge their esoteric artistic whims. It’s the couple getting married who have to live with those images for the rest of their lives – not the photographer.



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