Interview: Ian Weldon
Photographer Interview: Ian Weldon
Can you briefly tell us a little about your life, where were you born and raised?
I was born in a small town in County Durham, in Northern England. I was the youngest of four brothers and was dragged up rather than brought up, spending most of my younger years in foster, and care, homes. I was never given any guidance, or direction, in my life and I had to figure it all out myself. Which, in hindsight, was a wonderful gift.
Have you always been a photographer? What was your path to photography and specifically to shooting weddings?
It was through a series of unusual events really. In the past I've been in the army, worked as a civil engineer, been a double glazing and driveway salesman, a car salesman, a long distance lorry driver and a lecturer (I still do a bit of that). None of which I found particularly interesting. In my late 20's I thought that it be a good idea to do something I liked rather than something I just did.
As side note: I think that we, during our lives, do things ‘just because’. This is apparent in relationships as well as our job choices. We just do things, just because, and there’s not much thought behind it.
My first experience of photography was, ‘just because’, too. I had always enjoyed photography and growing up I was always interested in family photos. Probably because I didn’t have a family of my own. I was drawn to the off hand snapshot kind of photographs and I thought the Polaroid was magical, but that's as far as it went.
So, on thinking on a new career move at the young old age of 29, I thought it’d be fun to peruse photography. Understand a little more about the process. But, in keeping with a student lifestyle (that I missed out when I joined the army) I got drunk, and high a lot and didn't learn a thing.
While I had no idea what I was doing I somehow managed to open a studio and convince myself that I was awesome. After 3 years of white background family portrait photography nonsense, not only was I bored with my photographs, the relationship I was in at the time broke down. I took this opportunity to have some time off and re-adjust my sights. And by time off I mean, learning to play my guitar and being in a band and partying a lot. And by re-adjusting my sights I mean getting very stoned.
I arrived at a point where my interest in music and my interest in photography came to somewhat of a loggerhead. Each requiring the same amount of commitment, I had to give one of them up. I had to peruse photography (I was better at that)
So off I went, offering my services again as a photographer and this time I understood that I knew nothing. I was reading books like they were going out of fashion and trying to understand what it was I wanted to do.
After taking on a few commercial and portrait jobs I gave in to wedding requests. I can't say that I enjoyed it at first, mostly I was shooting in a way that I thought it had to be done, and having a plan to get, ‘the' shots, but my study had given me bigger ideas. I was making more images that were of real life, of how things really were, rather than setting things up. This is what fuelled my passion and kept me interested. It wasn't long before I was pursuing a vision and not showing the more traditional style of wedding photography. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Do you remember the first moment or time a camera/photography jumped out at you as something different/interesting/worth pursuing?
Not one specific time, but a couple of photographers that I didn’t really understand at first, started to make sense. I was trying to figure out a ‘why’ for what I was doing and the philosophy of photography became a key part in my own development. When photographers like Bruce Gilden say that they are photographing themselves on the street, or Richard Avedon stating that, “My photographs are more about me than they are about my subjects”, one has to sit up and listen. Understanding this had a profound effect on me, and ultimately, on my photography.
Do you have a style or widely understood approach to shooting weddings ie fine-art, documentary?
I suppose you could say that what I do is documentary. I do feel like I’m creating a body of work surrounding weddings, but really I’m just taking pictures. Mostly for myself, and mostly to try and understand people. Weddings are a great place to do that.
What/who do you look at for visual inspiration? It could be a favourite photographer or blog? movies? etc
As time goes on I become less and less interested in what’s going on around me, because most of it is nonsense. Obviously I’m a huge fan of photographers like, Martin Parr, Elliot Erwitt, Winogrand, Eggleston and Meyerowitz, but I think I’ve taken all that I need from those guys. I take inspiration from the work itself.
What would a perfect day shooting a wedding look like for you?
Turn up in the morning, talk with people, look for interesting or odd things to photograph, drink champagne and eat fine food (all for free of course), have more conversations, drink beer, dance, have a laugh, maybe have a couple of shots of tequila (either with the bride and groom or guests, I’m easy) and party into the night, all the while making photographs of the people I talk to and the weird and wonderful things I see.
Who am I kidding…… This is pretty much every wedding. They’re all perfect!
Do you have any sort of routine before a wedding to get yourself into the right frame of mind to achieve that perfect day?
To make photographs…..I’m always in the right frame of mind.
Generally speaking, what do you focus on when you are shooting a wedding, by which I mean, what about a wedding is important for you to prioritise while your shoot?
The people. Their interaction, gestures and general behaviour. That’s what I’m interested in.
I often think peoples experiences of marriages, theirs or their parents, can have an impact on their involvement in working in the world of weddings. Can you explain what weddings mean to you personally?
Personally, I think weddings are a bit silly, a bit expensive, and a bit unnecessary. I’m not all giddy over dresses and flowers and cakes, and there are couples out there who think exactly the same. They aren’t interested in the pomp and ceremony, or the tradition, they’re just doing their own thing because they love each other and just want to be married. I think this gives me a unique perspective on the day itself. I’m not thinking like a wedding photographer, I’m thinking like a photographer.
In the feedback you've received from wedding clients over the years, would there be one word that keeps popping up again and again?
Having seen lots of weddings, what would your advice be to a beloved family member if they came to you and said they were getting married and asked for (any) advice on how to approach their wedding day?
It’s 2018, there are no rules, do whatever you want. Also, I’ll pick your wedding photographer.
What three pieces of advice would you give young photographers starting out?
Study your craft.
Only ever be yourself.
Don’t listen to the industry. It doesn’t care for you, and it only wants your money.
Bonus advice - Don’t be a dick.
How can people get in touch with you?