F%#king Church Lady at Wayfarers Chapel
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F%#king Church Lady at Wayfarers Chapel

In terms of the story behind this image, it all began when I suggested to this bride and groom that they perform a dip during their wedding recessional. During their engagement session, they exhibited exceptional skill when I asked the groom to dip the bride and that gave me the idea. And so the couple practiced constantly over the ensuing months so that they would be able to flawlessly execute the dip on their wedding day. When their recessional began at Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes, I knew what was about to happen and I was ready to capture the photograph. As they began their dip, I sensed someone walking past me as I knelt at the end of the aisle. And like a nightmare, as the church lady walked by me, I began to whisper "no, no, no." But my whispered words didn’t stop her. I continued to press the shutter on my camera knowing that I had to capture the image regardless of the situation, even though I knew that the bride would be terribly disappointed once she saw the photograph. The church lady moved so quickly that the bride and groom didn’t realize that the church lady had interrupted their "perfect" photograph. It wasn’t until their honeymoon, that the couple first saw this image. The bride told me that when she did, she started crying. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the reason why the church lady decided to walk down the aisle. Apparently, one of the guests had decided to bring a bottle of bubbles and during the recessional, had pulled out the wand and was blowing bubbles is the couple walked down the aisle. As Wayfarers Chapel was designed by Lloyd Wright, son of the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, that sort of thing was definitely against the rules and so the church lady was walking down the aisle to stop him. If you look to the right side of the image, you can see the stocky guy in sunglasses blowing bubbles with a few of them floating in the air in front of him.

As several years have now passed since this event occurred, this photograph has taken on a different meaning both to me and to the couple. To me, it symbolizes the imperfection of weddings. Even though the postcard perfect photograph didn’t happen, I know that I love this image far more for the reality it represents that I could ever love a perfect photo of a couple dipping during a wedding recessional. As for the couple, they too look back on this moment as a unique representation of their wedding and a truly storytelling moment.

Since Google may penalize websites that use profanity, I reluctantly used symbol swearing (@#$%^&!) in lieu of actual profanity in the title of this photograph. I entered this image in the 2014 WPPI Print, Album & Filmmaking Competition with the actual profanity in the title and it caused quite a stir among the judges and the audience when it was read aloud during the judging process. Knowing that the title would be read aloud, I chose verbiage that was bold and that expressed exactly how I felt when I was capturing this image. Since the competition judges are also wedding photographers, I knew that this title would resonate with them since almost every wedding photographer has experienced a situation where the "church lady" has negatively influenced wedding ceremony coverage. In the judging, this photograph received a Silver Award with a score of 82. I feel that the image would’ve received a much higher score if the retouching had been better executed by the retouching and printing company that I was using at the time. Unfortunately, the judges quickly identified several major retouching flaws in the print and that brought the score down quite a bit. Because of those issues, I switched to an amazing retouching company for all of my competition prints. Capture to Print is the company and Rocco Ancorra is the guy and collectively they make the magic happen. After working closely with him through several revisions, he is responsible for the final version of the image that you see here.

Location: 5755 Palos Verdes Dr S, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275.

1/125; f/6.3; ISO 640; 27.0 mm.