The soil they took would be moved to some other spot along the Chesapeake, there to be utilized in some new fashion for perhaps a thousand years, after which the waves would borrow it again, using and reusing until that predictable day when the great world-ocean would sweep in to reclaim this entire peninsula, where for a few centuries life had been so pleasant.James A. Michener. Chesapeake.
I’ve been photographing weddings for well over a decade now. I’ve done hundreds of them, I’ve honestly lost count. I often times have to remind myself that I have essentially with the career jackpot. I’ve detailed this before, but there’s a constant internal dialogue with the side of me that has been raised by a blue collar family on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and the side of me that has morphed into a professional artist. It’s a pretty weird territory to occupy. The blue collar side tends to treat weddings like “work days,” as if I was just going to a new job site today. “Pull on your boots, drink your coffee, punch in, work hard, punch out. Repeat.” The professional artist side tends to live in a state of constant angst. I know that my job, my livelihood, my career, and my family depend on me performing and if I don’t, I’ll be out of a job with not much of a backup plan. What else will I do? What else could I do? I tend to tell that side of me to sit down and shut up more often than not. “Quit being over dramatic. It’s out of your hands. What will happen will happen, and there’s nothing you can do to change it.” Ahh, welcome to the cage match that is my world.
I like having both perspectives though. One hand washes the other. The balance tends acts as an internal compass when you’re lost in the fog. What I’ve found the most beneficial is that they’ve afforded me more perspective than the average person could ever hope to find in a life time. I hate to be constantly ringing the Covid bell, but for most of the weddings this year or next (and probably beyond) it’s ripple effect is profound and it’s a large part of just about every persons on earth story for the foreseeable future.
Most of of the people who regularly read this blog are from rural areas. Slower-Lower (that’s slang for Southern Delaware, my home base, for the uninitiated) & the Eastern Shore of Maryland probably make up the vast majority of regular blog stalkers with some Philadelphians and a small Baltimore and D.C. contingent sprinkled in to keep me on my toes. The pandemic for us was largely one big barbecue. We kept our distance, we wore our masks, but most of us have backyards to relax in, we have trails close by that we walk our dogs or take our kids on a regular basis, we have beaches to spread out on, and there’s no shortage of safe neighborhoods to ride our bikes through. We had tailgate parties and parked 6 feet away and threw beers to each other instead of walking to each others cooler. It was scary, but if I’m being totally transparent it was kind of peaceful. We were forced to stop, we forced to stay home with our families & to not spend those extra hours at work, in short, we were forced to slow down.
Matt & Lara are New Yorkers. Let me be more specific, Matt & Lara are life long New Yorkers and residents of Manhattan. Matt has a loft. I don’t even know what as loft is, but I know it’s something cool that you only get in New York. They have jobs in finance. They live the city life which means that the pandemic for them was very different than it was for me. Social distancing in Manhattan is more or less like asking birds to stay out of the sky. It’s an impossible concept. I could leave my house and drive a square mile and not see a soul. Manhattan has nearly 70,000 people in a square mile. How’s that for perspective? The only way to social distance in New York is to sit in your apartment all day and night, or to distance yourself from New York. Which they did… In epic fashion.
I bring this all to you because I want you to understand exactly why I say with conviction that this was as an emotionally charged day as I have ever had that privilege in which to take part. I want you to understand that for the last 15 months there are people in this world that didn’t see their family and friends. They didn’t gather, they didn’t have cookouts or take bike rides together because their exposure was too likely, their risk was too great, and yes we can (and will) debate the virus for years, but if you think there’s a chance you could hurt someones Grandma, would you risk that to have cocktails with a few friends? Probably not. So as the world slowly comes out of its cocoon, people are starting to gather again and Lara & Matt took full advantage of that.
I knew from the the moment the first guest gave Lara a hug at the welcome dinner that this wedding would mean something different for them than I’m used to witnessing. As the guests rolled in the energy only picked up more and more. The hugs never stopped, the smiles never went away, the speeches were hilarious, and they stayed, talked, and caught up late into the night.
The next day they gathered under the sun on the Choptank River with zero council given to the 92 degree sun overhead. The Tish & Bedeken was a sight to behold. The music, the crowd, the traditions, the authenticity of it was something I have rarely experienced and can only be described as electric. They danced under a hot setting sun only breaking to have a few bites to eat, enjoy another set of complicated emotions rolled into a speech, or something to drink until darkness came, the cool breeze came off the water, and that’s when things really turned up.
If you think about it, it’s pretty analogous to the experience Lara & Matt provided for their family & friends. For a solid year they walked through the flame alone, but also together, only to be rewarded with one of those pleasant nights on the Chesapeake where life slows down and presence isn’t something that you have to practice, it’s something that is forced upon you.