Cam of Cam Grove Photography takes pictures that you feel you can jump right into and be in the moment. They have a sense of the place and the time, and also of mystery – what are they thinking during that quiet couple moment, whose hand are they reaching out for, what are they talking about? No complicated poses, no manufactured emotion. Just clear, seemingly simple images of couples living the moment of the most significant day of their lives. As Cam says, “I love what I do. I provide my clients with memories that they didn’t even know they had. It’s gold.”
What was the catalyst for you becoming a photographer?
I guess in a sense I’ve always thought of things “photographically” however I didn’t really begin to actually photograph the world around me until I inherited my father’s old Nikon FM2 upon his death. The first photograph I ever took was of a tin of pencils that had been left on his desk. I remember getting that first roll of film developed and finding that print and being struck by it on an emotional level that I hadn’t expected. Photography, and the printed image (as opposed to the digital image) especially, is such a powerful force. I still have that print today.
How have you learned your photography skills? How do keep learning?
I completed a Bachelor of Fine Art at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2004. I learnt quite a lot about critical, artistic thinking and very little about photography. So I’m largely self taught from a technical sense. I keep learning by being constantly blown away by film makers and photographers. And having two young, artistically minded daughters helps me appreciate the less obvious aspects in any scene; children see things where adults no longer can.
You say you are “photographer of weddings without being a ‘wedding photographer’.” What does this statement mean to you?
Well I think I probably wrote that when documentary style wedding photography was in its infancy. It’s become so popular now. I’m happy to tell people that I’m a wedding photographer now without the fear of them imagining bridezillas, smoke machines and 1000 white doves being released to the sky!
I read your stories in your Journal and feel your sense of honour to be photographing each occasion. This, I feel is reflected in the images you take. As a photographer, do you feel you can’t help but imprint a little of your soul into each image?
Anaïs Nin once wrote – “we see things not as they are, but as we are”. I use this quote throughout my marketing and pricelists. I’m not sure if soul is the word I’d use necessarily, but my work is obviously a record of how I see the events of the day – sometimes I find meaning in less obvious things.
What does photographing weddings mean to you – artistically, professionally, personally?
I don’t differentiate between the three. Being chosen by a couple to document their wedding is an honour; their choice is a validation of my work, both from an aesthetic, artistic point of view, and from a professional point of view. To feel this validation and belief each time I begin a wedding makes for a happy workplace!
What are the things that catch your eye when photographing a wedding?
I like silence and gesture, faces turned away from camera, how hands hold each other, the way a groom will look across a room and watch his bride while she’s oblivious to his gaze, the way children stare at the spectacle in amazement, the history in a grandparent’s smile as they think “without me none of this exists” – weddings are hours of these beautiful moments all heading into the ether. The trick is to catch these bubbles before they pop!
Your images are seemingly simple but tell a story within each image. Is this a signature of your photographic style?
Perhaps it is – it would be nice to say that it’s intentional but I’d be lying! Sometimes a single image just makes up part of the continuing dialogue as a whole, but there’s certainly times when you take one frame and you’ve captured a world within a world.
There are very few ‘posed’ shots in your weddings. Do you believe that the best shots are of people being themselves?
Always. There are few posed shots, but that’s by choice. I’d rather aim for a few really strong posed shots than 30 different ordinary ones! If a couple is comfortable in front of the camera we can push things a little further, but basically I just want them to concentrate on each other. I rarely ask people to look at the camera, I just want to observe.
Do you always have a plan when photographing a wedding?
Yes, absolutely, we always begin with a plan and then see how quickly it ceases to exist! Weddings are perfectly imperfect; the smallest thing can quickly send things off schedule. You just have to role with it, think on your feet and use your experience and people skills to make sure everyone remains calm; stress and panic are contagious.
Do you scout the area to find the best place for photographs, before the wedding day? How do you choose the locations?
I choose the locations in consultation with the couple. The first question I ask is whether there are any locations which have significance in their lives. I’ll choose a location with significance over a prettier, insignificant location every time. If it’s a location I’m unfamiliar with I’ll scout it in the days leading up at the same time as I imagine I’ll be shooting there on the wedding day. Working out the direction and quality of light is key.
To maintain creative and job satisfaction is it important to you to photograph only a certain number of weddings in a year?
Definitely. The wedding day itself is probably only 1/4 of the total time spent on delivering the final images. I’m not sure people realise that… I’d love to shoot 2 weddings every weekend of the year, but the editing and album design time associated with those weddings would burn anyone out!
How do you balance the long hours involved in photographing weddings, and weekend work with maintaining a normal life?
What’s a normal life these days! Wedding photography actually allows me to lead an incredibly fulfilling life. I get to be at home during the week with my two beautiful daughters. I do the school drop off and pick ups, watch them learn to swim, dance and grow into incredible little individuals. Few fathers get the opportunity that I have to be such a constant and active part of their children’s formative years.
Do you travel to photograph weddings?
Absolutely; one of the best aspects of what we do as photographers is that “the office” is constantly changing.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Probably to be true to yourself. I think this holds true both professionally and personally.
What is your favourite place to visit in Australia?
Port Douglas is always nice in Winter, although it seems to be full of wedding photographers on holidays! I also like getting down to Tasmania when I can, it’s so incredibly beautiful, I really believe it’s one of the most underrated places on Earth.
Favourite way to spend a Sunday?
At the beach with my family – isn’t that the great Australian dream 🙂
Thank you Cam for sharing your story. For moments in time to treasure always. For more information about Cam Grove Photography visit the website.