What The Photograph Takes, What the Photograph Misses

The Fantasy World of Wedding Photography

The Fantasy World of Wedding Photography

Fujiazhuang Beach in Dalian presents a dizzying array of of activities and actions, social and personal trajectories of participation and involvement—all jostling up against one another on a small strip of sandy shore. My first day there, as I walked its length I saw a huge group of Russian children having a squirt gun fight next to Chinese couples cuddling nearly fully clothed on beach blankets. While some young men fished at the shore, a large group of retirees sat sunning themselves in blue bikinis collecting and drying kelp. A few kids ran around at the water’s edge collecting miscellaneous sea objects.

By far the most bizarre thing, however, were the couples on the beach having their wedding photographs taken. A common sight in parks and at famous romantic locations, I was surprised to see them fully dressed in their whites traipsing up and down the beach. Like visitors from another dimension they went about their business, moving and posing while their photographers’ bodies contorted into various positions to get the right shot.

“…even when the production of the picture is entirely delivered over to the automatism of the camera, the taking of the picture is still a choice involving aesthetic and ethical values:  if, in the abstract, the nature and development of photographic technology tend to make everything objectively ‘photographable,’ it is still true that, from among the theoretically infinite number of photographs which are technically possible, each group chooses a finite and well-defined range of subjects, genres, and compositions.”—Pierre Bourdieu (1996: 6)

I doubt very much the final wedding photographs gave any hint of the variety of activities taking place on the beach that day. The genre contains only the two romantic subjects caught in the timeless time and placeless places of generalized romance.

I thought it fitting to capture one couple’s timeless shot at a specific moment—as the retirees looked on amid their drying stands of leathery kelp.


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