Amen and Joe’s wedding was fraught with undercurrents and symbolism that elevated it beyond simply being a beautiful and modern wedding at The Chase Toronto. Throughout the wedding day there were numerous elements that represented a piece of both the bride and groom as individuals , the nuances of their partnership and the evolution of their relationship. Combine that authenticity with the beauty of the Campbell House Museum and Osgood Hall, and you’ve got the makings of something truly remarkable in the realm of wedding photography.
When we first grabbed drinks with Amen and Joe at Boxcar Social in our old neighbourhood of Riverside, I vividly remember Amen’s idea of doing the bride and groom portraits at the Campbell House Museum in downtown Toronto. She explained how Ryanne’s editorial shoot at the Campbell House inspired her to the point that she specifically carved out the wedding timeline to guarantee we had the opportunity to use the beautiful and vintage aesthetic the Campbell House has to offer. Knowing we’d be using one of the most authentic and vintage photo locations in Toronto, shooting 35mm and 120 film was the natural choice for this wedding day. The timeless aesthetic and slow methodical process of shooting analog film was ideal to create wedding photos that went beyond our initial visions and went into the realm of nostalgic. It was also the perfect tool to capture the bride and groom as we explored the grounds of Osgood Hall before heading over to The Chase for the wedding ceremony and reception.
Before heading out to the Campbell House, the groom got dressed in their apartment back in Riverside , right across the street from where Ryanne and I used to live. In the meantime, the bride used the beautiful rustic and vintage space of the Kimpton Saint George Hotel to prepare for the wedding day. It goes without saying, but we were unbelievably spoiled that day as photographers. Shooting film in both the Kimpton Saint George Hotel AND the historical home of the Campbell House Museum in downtown Toronto, we were given every single opportunity to capture timeless portraits of the bride and groom while still remaining true to themselves.
The atmosphere and ambience were set by the Campbell House, and the first look presented a cinematic moment as Amen slowly descended the vintage staircase to her awaiting groom, who was awestruck by the modern vintage elegance the bride was showcasing. They couldn’t hold back the emotions or smiles, incapable of resisting temptation and kissing each other in-between candids moments of flaunting their wedding day style.
Once the first look was done we had ample time to explore the beautiful vintage Campbell House, using the natural mood and aesthetic of the environment that so perfectly matched the bride and groom. The editorial flare of the images is almost unintentional, Amen and Joe just have a natural modesty and seriousness to themselves that creates the perfect character for portraits within the Campbell House. It was also a happy coincidence that The Campbell House was hosting a Contact Photography Festival Exhibition by photographer Ayana V. Jackson titled “Fissure”, which added a poignant and beautifully unique context to work within for the wedding photos and portraits.
The wedding ceremony and reception were held on both floors of The Chase, with cocktail hour expanding to the outdoor rooftop patio, giving friends and family a beautiful view of the sunset over the Toronto skyline. The ceremony was full of laughs and tears as Amen and Joe exchanged vows in front of their closest friends and family who travelled from all corners of the world (literally) to see their bond unite and evolve to its next stage, including Amen’s father who came to Toronto from Nigeria to walk his daughter down the aisle.
The dinner was one of the best I’ve ever had. The Chase Toronto has some of the best food I’ve eaten at not only a wedding, but throughout my time living in Toronto. To match the food, the view from the dining room where immediate family were gathered for speeches, provided a stunning view of the golden hour and blue hour light spreading through the rifts and mazes of the buildings in downtown Toronto. As the bride and groom stood to speak to their guests, and to one another, there was an ethereal element of that early summer sunset light breaking through the windows and surrounding them as they spoke.
Amen and Joe are two of the most intelligent and sensible people I’ve ever met. Listening to their speech to one another opened my eyes to a level of sincerity that I have not ever seen from a bride and groom on their wedding day. Their understanding of the hard work involved in a relationship, their ability to push one another to be the best version of themselves, these two unhypocritically inspire one another, and in turn, evidently have a strong bond and it was apparent in every gaze, every considerate movement and every compassionate whisper or smile. As a wedding photographer, those are the minuscule human elements of connection that I look for when taking a photo, and Amen and Joe’s ability to be vulnerable with one another created a window into their spirit that is rare to experience.
The wedding was as much about the bride and groom, as it was also about their families, their heritage and personal cultures. With Amen’s Nigerian background and Joe’s Ukrainian roots, there was a beautiful blend of both culture’s traditional wedding practices, including various dances to honour the bride and groom’s new journey together. From there the party started and energy levels were sky high as everyone partied, danced and grubbed on late night snacks provided by the Chase.
I spoke to Amen on Instagram recently as I provided a sneak peek of the film scans I was doing of their wedding day. With my recent travels to Los Angeles and Canmore to photograph some weddings, I mentioned to Amen that the analog film and edits took longer than I had hoped and I apologized about it, to which she responded “Don’t apologize, the longer the better, seriously!”. I guess that’s part of the beauty of shooting film, it’s that you HAVE TO wait, you got no choice to live through the experience, walk way from it and let the memories sink in and develop naturally. By the time the film scans and edits are complete, you’ll have the images to fill in the gaps and reignite the deep rooted emotion and memory tied to every candid moment, every portrait and every detail.
I’m still blown away at how lucky Ryanne and I are to work with such like-minded individuals, it’s truly a privilege. With the pair moving to the U.K. in a few week where Amen will be completing her Doctorate, I’m heart-warmed that I have these photos and this experience to forever connect us.
Hopefully it was worth the wait.
Song of the Day
Dark and Handsome- Blood Orange ft. Toro Y Moi
Having grown up in Ottawa I’m always excited to get the opportunity to head back to my hometown to photograph a wedding, especially a beautiful cottage elopement in nearby Chelsea, Quebec. Driving through my old hometown, listening to the soundtrack of my teenage and young adult years, I felt a certain level of calm driving over to Quebec from Ottawa, remembering the endless trips I’ve made in the past with old friends as the setting afternoon sun gave me a glimpse of what was to come. Somehow, unintentionally, I was put in a documentary wedding photography mindset, hoping to tether my past life and emotional experiences growing up in Ottawa to this incredible cottage wedding I was about to photograph and document.
Galen & Elisha wanted to keep things simple and beautiful, hosting a private ceremony and dinner for themselves, a couple of close friends and immediate family only. The entire afternoon and early evening was laid back and the epitome of a low-key and intimate cottage wedding. Their wedding was a total collaborative effort between both families with everyone doing a little something to make it all come together. Galen’s father was BBQing some of the best homemade duck I’ve ever seen (likely prepared by multiple individuals), Elisha’s mother along with Galen’s sister helped the bride prepare her wedding dress, while everyone did a little something to help set the atmosphere and ambiance through minimalist and thoughtful decor to enhance the mood within and surrounding the grounds of the stunning cottage.
The bride and groom exchanged vows in the backyard of the cottage at the edge of a wooden balcony while standing on a beautiful rug, overlooking the forest and landscape of beautiful Chelsea Quebec. As the sun began to slowly set in the horizon it provided a cast of glowing light as their families gathered nearby to embrace the sentiment and major milestone in Galen and Elisha’s lives. There was something so incredibly honest and deeply beautiful about the ceremony and I think it mostly had to do with the little connections happening between everyone in attendance ; a soulful glance, a sincere smile, holding the person next to them as they fight back emotions and tears, it was this powerful energy that resonated throughout the cottage and surrounding forest. Elisha and Galen were intertwined as their eyes locked to one another’s throughout the entire wedding ceremony, taking in every single word and moment as the fleeting nature of the wedding wasn’t lost on them. After their first kiss they held each other briefly for a moment in what was a sincerely genuine and candid moment.
That nostalgic feeling I got while driving to the wedding was bursting through me like a patch of wildflowers in a heart of a forest as I got to spend the last few moments of golden hour alongside Galen and Elisha to take some beautiful, natural and editorial style wedding portraits on analog film around the forest and cottage.
There was something about their connection, something in their eyes as they looked at one another for a brief moment before collapsing into each other’s arms due to an overwhelming spectrum of emotions washing over them like a subtle rainfall in the middle of spring. Their ability to be completely connected to one another was incredible, their souls were aligned and they were essentially in their own world during that suspended moment in time. It was that deeply rooted and spirited connection with poignant elements of the coyness of young-love that connected with me. It was as if they were falling in love with one another over and over again, appreciating every gentle touch, spontaneous kiss and embrace in silence as they embraced one another’s energy. As the wedding photographer, and somewhat sensitive human being, I was engulfed in these emotions myself by sheer proxy, bringing me back to my youthful days when falling in love or being in love wasn’t so blasé and we enthusiastically cherished every single moment in that very feeling.
These two gave me everything I could ever ask for as a wedding photographer; they let go and lived in the moment, at that point, I simply had to be a documentary photographer, pushing the button at the moment everything comes together.
Add this intimate elopement to the list of amazing wedding photography experiences in 2019.
Song of the Day
Lessons For Later- Slow Hollows
This isn’t my first go around photographing a wedding at Graydon Hall in Toronto. The beautiful manor and landscape has an incredibly authentic vintage aesthetic and mood to it. A real gem of a wedding venue to have as a playground for photographing a wedding, especially somewhere so central within Toronto.
Coincidentally, both times I’ve shot a wedding at Graydon Hall it’s rained, and if you ask me, that’s not really a bad thing since 1) it usually only rains for about 20 minutes in Toronto and 2) it create a beautiful atmosphere and mood that Mark and Jenn got to take advantage of to create an ethereal wedding experience for themselves and their closest friends and family. The combination was the perfect storm in order for me to use put some classic Kodak black and white medium format film through my 6x7 camera. There was something utterly timeless by the entire event that was just screaming to be photographed on analog film, so I trusted my instincts and couldn’t be happier that I did. Wedding photos at Graydon Hall have that potential for timelessness, so a shooting a wedding on film was the natural choice (but I say that a lot I’m sure).
I felt a bit of pressure to exceed my own expectations at this wedding for a few reasons. Mark and Jenn work at the Canadian Olympic Committee here in Toronto, and I’ve personally photographed a few projects for the COC over the years, so naturally I wanted to put my best foot forward to uphold my reputation, but most importantly, I was highly recommended by a close friend of mine who works with both Jenn and Mark at the COC and I wanted to be sure to live up to the honour of being recommended. Although I say I was a bit worried, I really quickly got over it since both Jenn and Mark are some of the most down to earth and easy to get along people I’ve ever met, making the entire process seamless and genuinely enjoyable for me as a wedding photographer.
Rain or shine the wedding was full of love and genuine exchanges between everyone involved in the wedding day, from the bridal party to invited guests, everyone was so quick to share a prolonged and deliberate hug, a soft smile, a gentle kiss on their partner’s cheek as a kind reminder of the love in the room and no one was afraid to show their deeply rooted love through the form of tears, and there were many.
Although the rain moved us inside the beautiful space of Graydon Hall, it wasn’t a downgrade in any way, shape or form. The ceremony space was intimate, everyone completely involved and present throughout the entire process and the proximity added a level of energy that couldn’t be achieved in the large outdoor space on the Graydon Hall grounds.
Like I said before, rain doesn’t last long here in Toronto, and by the time the dinner and reception began the rain had ceased and slowly morphed into a light mist and eventually settled into a delicate fog, creating an undercurrent of ambiance that was seemingly otherworldly, and Mark and Jenn had a front row seat beneath the clear tent to watch it all unfold and the blood orange sun began to sink behind the horizon as they toasted to their new chapter.
What followed was truly special. Watching the bride and groom engulfed in fog share their first dance on the grounds of Graydon Hall while all their guests held sparklers and sang along to Coldplay’s “Green Eyes”, was one of the most naturally beautiful collective acts of love I’ve ever witnessed at a wedding.
The party continued with high energy and dancing, but not before having almost everyone checking in on Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals where the hometown Toronto Raptors captured the W to propel them to their first ever NBA Finals appearance. The serendipitous events led to a larger than life celebration with the bride and groom at the core and people danced the night away as Mark and Jenn snuck off to make the most of the foggy evening sunset.
As they stood in the foggy distance, I saw this haunting beauty that was a combination of the atmosphere but mostly because I was witnessing a pivotal and instantly memorable moment in the wedding day. I think the bride and groom felt it too as they took a few extra minutes to embrace and share in an intimate and quiet moment to take in each other’s energy and feel one another’s heartbeat.
The day was special and memorable on its own, but ultimately having that personal connection with Mark & Jenn is what really brought the experience of creating images to life for me. It’s insane that I can personally get sentimental and nostalgic over someone else’s wedding photos but somehow I can, and am as I write this journal entry out. It’s amazing how much you can learn from other people when you take the time to observe them in highly emotional situations, but Jenn and Mark really let us in and by doing so, I understood them, their relationship and I was allowed to feel the incredible passion and the potency of the love they had for each other and every single person in their lives.
I’ll be thinking about this one for a very long time to come.
Song of the Day
Green Eyes - Coldplay
B-Side track of the day
Put You First - Tyler Burkhart
A Toronto City Hall wedding is something I’ve become quite familiar with over the past few years. I’ve photographed roughly 15+ weddings and elopements at Toronto City Hall in my short career as a Toronto wedding photographer, hell, in 2019 alone I’ve photographed a handful so far! I can openly admit though, that no two City Hall weddings have ever been alike. Sure, the beautiful and futuristic architecture of Toronto City Hall remains the same over that time period, but it’s never truly about that anyway, what has truly made each experience unique is the people involved in the intimate experience of eloping or getting married at City Hall. I think in order to be one of the best Toronto wedding photographers it’s key for me to be able to revisit the same places with a different outlook and perspective. Overtime I quickly realized it’s not about where people get married, but WHO is getting married, the nuances between them and the space, that is the key for me as a wedding photographer and I can thank my 5+ years of experience working as a photojournalist to acquire the patience and mind’s eye to anticipate the images I envision, but more importantly, I’ve learned how to connect with the couples I work with in order to create a catered and unique experience through the images to tell THEIR story, which the wedding venue only plays a partial role.
Dana & Marc reached out to me roughly a year before their scheduled wedding at Toronto City Hall, we grabbed a few beers along Queen West and they explained to Ryanne and I their ideas and vision for their wedding. Their enthusiasm and excitement for working with us on the wedding day really propelled my own excitement and vision for what we could create.
The bride and groom opted for a late spring City Hall Wedding, with Marc’s family and close friends travelling from Montreal for the occasion. It was nice to be around other French speaking people for a change, since moving to Toronto from Ottawa I often miss speaking French in my day to day life so that simple notion of language allowed me to bond and connect with Marc and those in attendance.
But before any of that happened, Dana and Marc opted to have a first look within the grounds of Toronto City Hall. The first look was the perfect combination of surprise and overwhelming emotion as both Marc and Dana took a moment to appreciate one another’s wedding attire before naturally embracing for what seemed like a minute suspended in the infinite. A striking moment for me as the wedding photographer was when they both took a minute to step off and to express some unrehearsed personal vows to one another. I opted to give them the space they needed to allow themselves to live in the moment and really dig deep in what was easily the most intimate and deeply emotional moment of the entire wedding day. That quiet and emotional moment between the bride and groom opened up a level of natural emotion that easily translated to the portraits that followed. I could feel their happiness and love as I watched them through my camera, an incredible privilege and something I never take for granted as a wedding photographer.
Something I love about weddings at Toronto City Hall, and something that isn’t often talked about, is how there is a limit to the number of people that can attend the actual ceremony. Due to the small space and limited numbers, the ceremony always feel intimate and private, the energy and emotion is felt by everyone and it’s impossible not to be present in the moment since both the bride and groom’s family and friends are within touching distance throughout the entire experience. The ceremony was simple but extraordinarily beautiful at its core. A mixture of humour, laughs and tears, Dana and Marc exchanged meaningful vows before sharing in their first kiss as husband and wife.
Another key benefit of having their Toronto City Hall wedding in the late Spring was the fact that the cherry blossoms were in full bloom at Osgoode Hall where they opted to capture some beautiful and intimate portraits following the wedding ceremony. Who knew that you didn’t have to fight off crowds at High Park to appreciate mother nature’s transformation and make the most of them for your wedding day photos! Once again, Osgoode Hall is a place I'm quite familiar with, but the subtle changes over the course of the year, and the people in front of the camera made me feel like it was a completely new space to work with altogether. The combination of nature and old architecture aren't something common within Toronto's downtown core, but Osgoode Hall gave us the diverse landscape to help tell Dana and Marc's wedding day story in a natural and stunning location that few wedding venues in Toronto could ever provide.
This wedding was memorable for many reasons, but something I absolutely loved was the editorial vibe and route that Dana took with her bridal fashion and look. Ditching the idea of a traditional wedding dress and opting for a white jumpsuit, Dana had the glow and essence of all things editorial and fashion, straight out of an Aritzia fashion ad. The contrast between her wedding jumpsuit and the vibrant florals around Osgoode Hall create an epitome of perfection to capture, combined with Marc’s ability to naturally express his connection to his bride, I was presented with every opportunity to create timeless and cinematic imagery that wasn’t forced or staged.
Weddings at Toronto City Hall aren’t boring or typical, far from it, and this wedding day was all the evidence I could ever need to disprove that misconception.
Song of the Day
Tuesday Feeling (Choose To Stay) - Blood Orange
2019 has been a whirlwind so far, but when I step back and take in all the weddings I’ve been privileged to photograph, I realize how amazing it’s been to be part of some exclusive and ultimately, intimate moments between two people and their closest friends and family.
Maria and Scott crossed paths with me thanks to a humbling referral from Mary & Pascal, an incredible couple I photographed last year on Toronto Island. I love working with friends of former brides and grooms because it creates an initial trust and familiarity that isn’t easily achieved in normal circumstances. I was able to walk into the wedding day as if I was photographing old friends which helped us achieve natural and candid moments to manifest before my eyes without hesitation or discomfort. I never take for granted how important that sort of connection is to the brides and grooms I work with, it’s a key element in my photography and process, so to be able to create this sort of parallel with Maria and Scott was truly special as it allowed me the confidence to capture them with the editorial and photojournalistic eye that I naturally bring to the table as a photographer.
I was excited to be included in their private and intimate wedding at One King West Hotel in downtown Toronto. It’s one of the few authentic / best wedding venues and locations in Toronto (especially downtown). With their classic and old architecture intact, including an underground bank vault that we used for family photos and portraits, it gave us an incredible atmosphere to capture Maria & Scott’s life milestone. The large windows and old wooden details created a beautiful and natural mood that we took complete advantage of, and their wedding ceremony was done in a private room on the rooftop of One King West Hotel, providing a breathtaking view of the Toronto skyline as the bride and groom exchange their vows in front of their immediate families. This sort of intimate and private setting really allowed everyone to be 100% present in the moment, often being overcome with emotions, there was really no fear in anyone expressing themselves because they were surrounded by trusted loved ones and everyone shared in on the experience of the wedding day.
Although it was a windy Spring day, the bride and groom took the time to embrace and appreciate the views from the One King West rooftop after they officially became husband and wife. There was both a sense of relief and excitement in their eyes as they stared off into the distant Toronto skyline, holding one another close to stay warm in each other’s embrace. Those little fleeting in-between moments, the quiet moments between the two of them that really stuck with me.
It was a beautiful experience and reminder to me as a wedding photographer that all weddings and elopements, big or small, have natural and striking human connections and emotions that are the real things worth capturing and those to me, are the essential components of a wedding day worth capturing and it’s no surprise that those are the moments that engrain into my mind’s eye.
Song of the Day
Good For You - Blood Orange