Forget making weird heart shapes with your hands. Fern Edwards wants to capture the in-jokes and little quirks that make a couple’s relationship theirs. It may seem like a daunting task, but Fern’s start as a wedding photographer was no less formidable. Asked to photograph her mum and step dad’s wedding while still a student at art school, Fern’s candid, intimate photos ended up impressing more than the stilted family portraits taken by a professional photographer.
In the second instalment of our interview with Fern, we talked about what love looks like, stopping random couples in the street and being a big romantic after all.
Do your photographs represent a more modern approach to wedding photography?
I definitely think they do. Ten, fifteen, maybe more years ago the only option was to have a traditional photographer doing the dreaded, stuffy, cheesy old school way. The 'arty' photographers were definitely in the small percentage. I feel like it has shifted almost entirely now. The 'modern' approach possibly outnumbers the more old school, traditional way.
Love is so personal. It's so subjective. We all show love and express love in different ways.
It's not just a trend to be a contemporary wedding photographer who specialises in reportage, candid style. It's not just this quirky trend that young people are doing. It's something that's very honest. At first, it was a little bit outside the box but now it makes perfect sense for everyone to do it that way.
What do you think has driven this shift?
I think social media might be a big influence. Going back to the days when we were all on MySpace and the very early days of Facebook. The kinds of photographs everyone was sharing were day to day shots of their mates on nights out or out and about. And, of course, the classic selfie as well.
The kind of images we were surrounding ourselves with constantly were natural shots. We always had our crappy little digital cameras. Then, our crappy little camera phones. Now, our really amazing quality camera phones. We're documenting everything to a point where it's almost too much. I think we want that reflected in wedding images. We want to document things the way that they happened because that feels right and natural to us.
Maybe I am a big romantic after all.
And there's probably also the fact that we look at 'old style' photos and our immediate response is: 'cringe' and 'awkward'. Maybe it goes back to our memories of being a kid and going for family portraits and kneeling on a fake hay bale. Or even just having your portrait taken at school. That feeling of everyone watching you while you have your picture taken. It's so mortifying. Maybe it's subliminal. We'd rather just avoid that kind of photo at all costs.
I hated my school pictures so much.
There's nothing more awkward than being sat under a hot lamp, it's not fun no one wants that. Natural light for the win.
I love that on your website you say that you, 'won't get couples to make weird heart shapes with their hands.' It made me think about traditional representations of love and romance. How do you think we should represent love?
It's such a hard question to answer and I'm trying to put into words.
I guess the biggest thing is just portraying it honestly because that's the only way you can. You've got to look for moments and details and frame those with your own kind of creative spin in an honest way. It's really difficult to explain.
It might not just be about what pictures you share online as well. Obviously, we like to show off our favourite shots on our Instagrams and our websites. But, if I went to a couple and asked them which were their favourite photos for all we know they might have a whole other different selection.
Romance for me isn't like roses and chocolate.
I think that love is represented in so many different ways. It might not even be immediately obvious to you the photographer. You might think you've captured something in a particular frame. But, in actuality, you're taken a photograph of someone in a way that really means something to somebody else. Love is so personal. It's so subjective. We all show love and express love in different ways. It's impossible to have a simple way of portraying that because it's an emotion, a feeling.
I sound like a massive hippie I promise I'm not!
Are you a romantic person?
I think I am but with a massive, massive dose of cynicism. I'm always contradicting myself. I'm a very, very emotional person. But, I'll only reveal that side to certain people. That sometimes at a wedding it does get broken down. If I'm listening to a speech that's hitting me right in the feels if I feel like I need to weep a bit behind the camera I'm not going to be embarrassed. I'll pinch one of the guest's napkins and wipe that tear away.
I'm constantly aware of relationships and love, more than before
But as for romance, it's like what I was saying about love it's so different for everyone. Romance for me isn't like roses and chocolate. It's so many of the little things that are personal to me.
A nice example is that I had just turned 30 and my partner surprised me with a trip to Iceland. He knows I've always wanted to go there. I was completely taken aback. Obviously, that is a textbook romantic gesture. But the bit that made it personal and romantic for me was that he'd bought a Moleskine notebook to be my own personal trip advisor book. Inside he'd written all the suggestions he'd been given by our friends of where to go in Iceland. I had no idea he'd been talking to them about it.
That for me is an insanely romantic thing. I started weeping with happy tears I was so touched. And that for me, this little doodled notebook, that's my favourite kind of thing.
I wept like a baby. [laughter]
What does love look like to you?
Just being in this profession when I'm out and about I see other couples and I think about their relationships. Not in a creepy way! I'll see an old couple on the bus and I wonder how they met. Or I'll look at a couple hugging on the beach and I think that would make a beautiful photo. I'm constantly aware of relationships and love, more than before, the old me would have been like, 'PDA, gross' and now I'm like, 'isn't love beautiful?'.
We're always making each other laugh. We don't take life too seriously. We're just a couple of goofs.
I stopped a couple on holiday in Iceland. They were having this hug and looking at this amazing view and I took a photo of them. I went up to them after and I was like 'I just took your photo and I'm going to email it to you can you give me your email address?'. They were in their early twenties and I could tell they were well in love
It's slightly creepy but it's just the kind of things you look at now. It's the same as if you worked in the beauty profession you notice people's makeup. If you're a hairdresser you look at their hair. If you're a wedding photographer you look at relationships and couples. It’s something you're hypersensitive to. Rather than it being just a job, it's something you're always thinking about.
Thank you to Amy + Toby for climbing up ruins, and clambering down into dried up rivers and generally sneaking into places we shouldn't be! Engagement shoot rebels 🤘 #alternativeweddingphotographer #negativespace #goldenhour #wesandersoncolours #winterengagement # #windswept #engagementphoto #nikonD750 #winterlight #backlitportrait
What would you like a photographer to capture about your relationship?
When you lose your inhibitions and you are just completely yourself. You don’t really know what you look like. I think I'd be pleasantly surprised, like, 'I didn't know my face did that when I laugh at his jokes!'.
You never should be content just existing with somebody.
I think that's actually one of the most important things about our relationship. We're always making each other laugh. We don't take life too seriously. We're just a couple of goofs. We're very pragmatic. We never have big rows or big public displays of affection, we're really chill. We've been together nearly 8 years and we're like best friends.
I think for a photograph to reflect that kind of vibe I guess, it's really hard to describe. It's easier said than done.
Working as a wedding photographer do you still want to get married yourself?
He knows I'm in no rush. If we were to ever get married it would be just something that makes sense rather than a complete surprise. We've been together nearly 8 years and we've lived together since 2013. It would just be a case of taking it [our relationship] to the next stage and throwing a party.
If we did choose to get married I wouldn’t even know in what manner we would. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Have you picked up any seasoned advice from anyone about relationships or love?
To keep that romance burning and to never lose that spark that first drew you to that person. Because, otherwise, you're coexisting and where's the joy in that?
I've always felt that every couple I've worked with radiate love to the point where I'm getting emotional
I also hear a lot of speeches about never taking each other for granted. It's so true. You never should be content just existing with somebody. You've constantly got to strive to be a better person and to just keep making that person happy but also making yourself happy.
Are there any couples you've met that and you've thought that they were meant to be together?
I’d say that about nearly everyone I shoot. There's not been a couple where I'm thinking, 'really...? Those two...'
I've always felt that every couple I've worked with radiate love to the point where I'm getting emotional when I'm photographing them.
Maybe I am a big romantic after all.
Words | Naomi Southwell & Fern Edwards
Images | All images courtesy of Fern Edwards
See more at www.fernedwards.com