A Cinderella Story

Today’s Post by Mildred Alpern

Wedding photography is a lucrative business, a unique specialty in demand. Websites advertise images that evoke dreamy fairytale scenes replete with beautiful brides and handsome grooms sharing their special hitching day. A friend is marrying soon. She told me that her wedding photographer assured her that his photographs would record the “special moments,” not the standard fare. I assume this means less formal table gatherings and more off-guard captured images.

Over time, wedding photography has evolved exponentially. The turn-of-the 20th century softly toned wedding picture of my grandparents shows two straight back, side-by-side individuals, unsmiling, her arm locked in his, impeccably dressed. Perhaps their outfits were borrowed from the photographer’s studio. Both were arrivals from Eastern European countries. Today, couples are caught emotionally reacting — joy, surprise, tears. Their embraces are fervent. The setting is often panoramic by seashore or on elaborate estates. There is no limit to the creative efforts of imaginative wedding photographers.

Given the beautiful parks in NYC, rides and grooms often pose in iconic spots for wedding images. I happened upon such a couple at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil War Memorial on Riverside Drive in Manhattan. Walking down a pathway, I spied them on the top of a flight of stairs above me by a plinth incised with the names of regiments and generals that had fought in the Civil War. Attendants were preparing a shoot. Glimpsing the activity, I began snapping. They spotted me, smiled, and shared their joy. On reviewing the images I discovered a Cinderella story of sorts: He was holding one of her shoes (slippers) and looking dubious. “Would the shoe fit?” I assume it did, because once slipped on, their smiles were sublime.

Postscript: the most interesting explanation that I have found for the non-smiling wedding photographs at the turn of the 20th century attributed the staid poses to pre-existing customs in European painting and the belief that grins and smiles were uncouth and inappropriate, suggesting lewdness, drunkeness, and even madness. (Angus Trumble, A Brief History of the Smile.)

Both images, the activity and the couple were shot with the Olympus E-M5 Mark II and the Olympus M. Zuiko 75 mm f/1.8 lens at an exposure of 1/250 sec at f/2.8, +1 EV, ISO 400. I converted the couple into Black and White with Silver Efex Pro.


Mildred’s books Winter Garden and Seedhead and St. Agnes Public Library Exhibit are available from MagCloud in print or digital form at most affordable prices.