Tale of an encounter with headless bride

John Ward
John Ward
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WARD’S WORLD: By John Ward

A story caught my eye recently of police being called to weddings and funerals due to assorted disturbances, and this brought back a few memories, although not involving the Boys in Blue as far as I am aware.

During my illustrious career, depending on your outlook, was being a wedding photographer, or rather a Social Golden Moments Recorder, as one bright spark I came across a few years ago, who was doing the job, called himself. Another told me he “painted muriels in light and shade”, although I never saw Muriel, but I said I used a camera as it was quicker. I also believe a man can fly based on that one.

I have always had an interest in photography since my schooldays and with, if I say so myself and I suppose as there is nobody else here, I will have to, with some success. It started by accident as a friend was let down by a photographer and at the virtual last minute I stepped in and did the business and after that first event, only the laundry knew for certain how I felt, but the results saved their day, I am pleased to say. I later teamed up with a friend who aspired to take up wedding photography and together we set up shop and we were reasonably successful –although “certain elements” as it’s trendily called these days were to mark our demise.

In one case it was a bit daunting to be engaged – as in taking the job, and not with the intention of shacking up together in the foreseeable future with someone – and about a week or two later the party concerned ringing up to say they had engaged A. N. Other photographer to do the job instead ... as in “a man in a pub” who had a mate/knew someone/ was let out at the weekends on good behaviour, who would do the job cheaper than we could (allegedly). This was to prove slightly embarrassing, as about three weeks afterwards, the party who had cancelled our services came round (other shapes are available) and he showed me the “proofs” he had received from Cheap Jack Services of his and his other half’s wedding, and could we help?

Sadly, I was not able to stick heads onto photographs that seemed to have been chopped off. Most of the photos’ subjects seemed to be headless, apart from school-age-children-and-under in size, and he asked what I thought was wrong (!)

I replied perhaps if the person taking the photos was, say, about six inches taller or had stood on a box there would not have been a problem. The bride’s dress was wonderful, but as to the bride herself and how she looked from the neck up, no idea, but nice dress all the same. I felt sad that this was their day and it had been messed up big time, but it seems he wasn’t shown anything of past work by the said individual concerned, whereupon we always did. But the price was cheap, and the old saying ‘you only get what you pay for’ proved to be right in this case, unfortunately.

As well as the weddings side we also did the social side, as in portraits of humans and animals –although at times it was borderline as to which was which, or who would sit still long enough. I photographed friend Lindy and her husband who had not had any recent photos done – as in years – and they decided that he wear his dinner jacket and dicky bow and Lindy wore her ‘little black number’ in velvet, as left to her by her grandmother, and all went well, The last shot on the roll – remember rolls of film? – was one of her that shone, if I say so myself, although others thought so, too, as when I was asked as to my proficiency with the lens, I unveiled Lindy’s shot and this was the “clincher” so to speak, but it also posed other questions, such as “Cor! – do you have her number?” (I replied she was a size 12) and “Can you make my other half look like that then, Guv?”

I tactfully pointed out I could get most things on film, but I was not a miracle worker, and he shrugged his shoulders. Tact wins, you see.

Going back to the intro – it’s the bit at the beginning for late readers – while we never saw the police at any of our bookings or rather they didn’t figure on the guest lists, some events did have certain elements that sort of made them stand out from the rest, such as the fight we attended where the wedding broke out during the proceedings. Unless you have seen a bride’s father on the floor the reception, looking under tables at for his missing top set of false teeth, asking: “Henny boggie sleen moy teef athall?” you have not lived, believe me. Another was where the bridegroom’s father asked me to take a photo of his best side, to which the bride’s mother added: “Come on – the photographer would like to be home before Tuesday...”

One gem overheard was: “There is no way he is choosing the wine for our table – have you seen what he chose to marry?”

These were mentally filed under T O M – as in That Ouch Moment.

Some events went very well, of course. In one case I did the wedding and for the next 15 or so years I also took the couple’s children’s photos for the family, and it was amazing to see the grandparents’ home where all the photos, year by year, were lined up the stairs in sequence – from babes in arms to teenagers – and they became friends up to the present time.

The end was in sight when people were going into major High street photographic outlets on a Friday teatime and buying the latest “all bells and whistles” featured camera, and by 9.30 the next morning they considered themselves skilled wedding photographers, having taken a picture of their cat, ingrown toenail, etc, and were out touting for trade outside Register Offices – I had this happen a few times when my clients were approached.

This was the last straw and we decided to call it a day as we clicked our final shutters.