What's My Why?

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When you ask a lot of photographers why they do what they do, it’s usually something along the lines of “I love weddings” and “I love love.” These are, in fact, great answers for folks who spend their lives photographing and editing weddings, however these statements are something that feel generic to me when thinking about my own personal “why”. Like, yeah. I hope you do, it’s what ya do for a living. But, WHY, though? Discovering my “why” was not lovey-dovey. To be honest, if you told me in college years ago that’s I’d be starting a wedding business in 2013, I’d probably laugh and think you were crazy.

Ever since starting with a film camera and a dark room at 16, I was obsessed with the world’s OG photographers. They were documentary photographers, and something about those ordinary, natural moments captured in the perfect composition and energy, was extraordinary to me. So, that was that: I was going to be a photographer for National Geographic (Spoiler: Everyone and their mom wants to be a National Geographic photographer). All other forms of photography didn’t seem to be as “authentic” as this global documentation, especially those wedding photos I’d seen and heard of. At the time, I didn’t pay much attention to wedding photography aside from friends’ weddings. They looked stiff, posed, and traditional with a flash pointed at them at all times. For what it’s worth, I tried shadowing a few wedding photographers, but I picked the older style ones because I didn’t know of anything different. Those days felt like a photo shoot, a production, like the only thing the couple would remember from their day was taking photos. I left going, “Wow, if this is what it means to photograph the happiest day of someone’s life, I will never do this.”

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It wasn’t until a few years later when I was fashion jewelry photographer that I discovered the new “lifestyle” wedding photography on the internet. It was beautiful, it was real, and it reminded me of the documentary photographers I loved so much. As soon as I realized I could incorporate the style I loved and allow a couple to actually enjoy their wedding, I was hooked. This was documentary, but not in a magazine, it was in the hands of people who would treasure it on the most personal of levels and look back to it for the rest of their life, in both the good times and the bad. It’s the documentation of the first day you officially commit to a life partner. Can photography and having a meaningful job get any better than that?

So, what’s my why?

My “why” lasts longer than the 8 hours you have me shooting your day. I don’t do it because wedding details make me giddy or to get an epic bridal portrait featured in a high end wedding magazine. I do what I do because of marriage and honest moments. Because I value photos you want over what the wedding and photo industries deem trendy and “must-have”. I do this because I want to take photos a couple will value many anniversaries down the road. My "why" is grandpa crying, grandma on the dance floor, mom and dad holding hands during the ceremony, and two grooms exchanging sob-inducing vows and the words "I never thought I'd be standing here, marrying someone I love". The ugly cries and the laugh that’s so hard you aren’t concerned with how you look…the images you can look back on and say “look how happy we were, look how far we’ve come.”

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Personal, BusinessAmy Ellis