Photographer Interview: Yervant
Yervant is internationally celebrated as ‘The Most Influential Wedding Photographer Of Our Time’ – WPPI, 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award. He is a Fellow of the AIPP, Honorary Fellow of Master Photographers’ Association of UK and one of 12 CANON Masters within Australia.
Can you briefly tell us a little about your life, where were you born and raised?
I was born in Ethiopia (East Africa) as a third generation Armenian. I lived there with my family until I was 17 years old, then I went to uni in Venice (Italy), lived there at boarding school and learn nothing at school but learnt a lot from living there and chasing beautiful girls all those years. I love Venice, its unique, the vibe, the history, the culture, there is truly nowhere in the world like Venice. To this day, its home away from home for me, I go there every year to spend time and rejuvenate creativity.
Have you always been a photographer? What was your path to photography and specifically to shooting weddings?
I followed my father's footsteps and naturally fell into Photography. From a very young age, I spent a lot of my after school hours, holidays at my father's studio in Addis Ababa, I learned photographing people and dark room printing techniques from an early age. I used to accompany my Dad on many assignments during school holidays, specially to the royal palace when he was called to photograph the Emperor and his family.
I actually won an award as best landscape photographer at a pro awards event in Africa, they did not know I was only 11 at the time and judged the print same as all the others, then were surprised that it was from an 11 year old kid. I received special audience with the Emperor Haile Selassie who heard about the award and he also gave me a gold medal to encourage me to do more in photography.
After Venice, I joined my family here in Australia and went to PSC in Melbourne to pursue a photography diploma, when I told the owner/principal Roger Hayes that I wanted to become a wedding photographer, he told me to not waste money at his school and just go and take pictures.
After many many years, she I received my Fellowship with AIPP in recognition of creating milestones and changing traditional wedding photography, Roger was the first to jump off his chair, love in his eyes and hugged me like I have never been hugged by a man in my life. He was proud. I cherish that moment.
Initially I thought I would pursue a career in Fashion photography, but Im not a conformist, I don't do so good listening to directions, following instructions, so working with designers, art directors, stylists would be their nightmare. I love spontaneity and surprise and I love people photography, so wedding was the perfect platform, lots of unexpected moments, no second chances, lots of happy people, lots of beautiful dresses and suits, it was perfect.
Many years ago I said something like " A wedding photographer, in any five minutes of a wedding day, I need to be portrait photographer, fashion photographer, photojournalist, landscape photographer and nail it each and every time, no second takes" this has become a popular quote now worldwide.
Do you remember the first moment or time a camera/photography jumped out at you as something different/interesting/worth pursuing?
My dad gave me a Pentax as my 5th birthday present, before that he has given me a tape recorder. I love music and I love taking pictures of people. One photo that I took at I think around the age of 7 or 8 was one on my cousin, a little naughty boy called Van, he wore his grandads pants and pulled them up right to his eyes, I took a photo and when I printed it, I was amazed at the result.
That print is somewhere at my mum's house, all this time, I keep saying I must find it....
Do you have a style or widely understood approach to shooting weddings ie fine-art, documentary?
'Fashion meets Wedding', a fellow photographer joined this about my style and I think its suits it perfectly. I introduced street photography, low angles, and a fashion approach to brides, moved around them and created action images, unposed images and real moments whereas wedding photography has been traditionally very stiffly posed setups, usually in some garden or park, that really did not resonate with me, I wanted cafe's and bars, I wanted shop windows and couples having fun in the city. Hence my style was created.
In 2010, WPPI honoured me with the Lifetime achievement Award - Most Influential Wedding Photographer Of time. It seemed that my iconic images were emulated so many times all over the world. I take that as the best compliment on earth.
What/who do you look at for visual inspiration? It could be a favourite photographer or blog?
Movies, I love European cinematography, I see angles and lighting that are uncommon in still photography. Movies inspire me the most. Music inspires me as well, I listen to all types of music of any language and year. Music makes me imagine scenarios, those scenarios inspire me to shoot them at weddings.
What would a perfect day shooting a wedding look like for you?
It's hard to say, each one is a blank canvas for me, I don't plan the day, this usually scares my clients, but I like to just feel the day and go with the flow, feel the people and get their personalities then just let them be, I guide them a little for correct lighting as I prefer natural and available light 90+% of the time, so I am open to any element and work fast to see and capture. I suppose to answer the question, the perfect day is with a couple who have not planned a highly controlled schedule, a coupe who let me be creative and deliver something new for them.
Do you have any sort of routine before a wedding to get yourself into the right frame of mind to achieve that perfect day?
Yep, I drink V, I eat a Mars bar, I listen to fun music loud in my car and get in the mood.
Generally speaking, what do you focus on when you are shooting a wedding, by which I mean, what (this could be anything eg your own artistic satisfaction, the couples emotion, people, details) about a wedding is important for you to prioritise while your shoot?
For me its light. I see light and shadows more than a picturesque landscape background, then its emotion, by this I look for happy and fun emotion not the sombre moods that bring tears to people eyes, I like happiness, and celebration and fun. Weddings are celebrations and a party, I capture those and not the sad looking moments.
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?
A celebration of life and commitment to your best friend to have a fun filled life no matter what life experiences bring you. You make a promise to your best friend to live a life together no matter what happens and enjoy life, work through problems but most of all live life to the fullest. Its a short life, for me, it needs to be lived well and happily with a positive attitude. The worst thing is being 6 foot under, the rest is about fun, laughing and living, taking nothing too seriously.
In the feedback you've received from wedding clients over the years, would there be one word that keeps popping up again and again?
Yes, "we had so my fun with you" Fun is that word.
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?
Don't plan the day like it's a theatre show or a circus. Its about having fun and celebrating and not showing off with what money can buy.
What three pieces of advice would you give young photographers starting out?
Print your images!
Print your images!
Print your images!
I do not believe in keeping images as digital files nor being enjoyed on any technical machine. Photography must produce photos, photos are printed results not files.
How can couples get in touch with you?
I have a studio based in Dockland in Victoria from where my small team and I cater for clients within Australia and overseas. My Instagram page is important for me, we upload numerous pictures each day to stay relevant and always in sight.
Tel +61 3 9670 1170
website : http://www.yervantphotography.com
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/yervantphotography/