Documentary Wedding Photographer: Michelle

It’s Monday evening! It means it’s time for another #MangoMonday. In this series, I’m bringing one of our awesome wedding photographers into the spotlight. Our team has grown a lot in recent years, both professionally and personally, and I can’t be more proud of their achievements. Everyone here at the Studio has become one big family, and I find inspiration in their work every single day. This time I’d like you to meet our documentary wedding photographer, Michelle.

Michelle is an award winning designer turned photographer. A graduate of OCAD’s Graphic Design program, she is the heart of Mango’s talented design team. Her images are admired for their clean, modern, and photojournalistic look. An Indonesia native and extremely avid traveler, Michelle specializes in South Asian and Caribbean locations. She has also travelled across Canada for weddings, recently working in Ottawa and Calgary. She’s calm under pressure, versatile, and loves to collaborate. These qualities have helped her excel with high profile clients like the NHL, Bell Canada, and the University of Toronto. Michelle’s work has been featured in the pages of Wedluxe, Wedding Co and Style Me Pretty among others.

What or who got you started in photography?

I took a photography course in high school where one of the assignments was to develop a roll of film in a dark room. We developed our own photos, and I just loved the whole process! It’s a really cool feeling to see a moment in real life pop up in a photograph. That’s how I first started in photography. Both my dad and my older brother are also into photography, so I guess it had some influence on me as well and kept me going.

What photographer/artist are you most greatly inspired by in your work and why?

I don’t really follow a lot of photographers or artists on a daily basis. But when I try to get inspired, I usually go back to those classic black and white documentary style photographers (Sally Mann, Jock Sturges, Frank Horvat, etc). Why? Because it was the time when photography was at it’s purest. When producing a photograph took a lot of thought, time and process. Then, photography was purely about the captured moment, not what’s added on top. I try to imagine myself in this situation when I work. I think it allows me to be more aware about my surrounding, the moments and emotions that go with it.

Design also influenced my work a lot. Paul Rand, Michael Beirut, Herb Lubalin, El Lissitzky are among my favourite classics. I believe design and photography go hand in hand! I believe being knowledgeable in design helps to see better composition, be aware of lines and shapes. It really does open up your creativity more!

Why you decided to become a documentary wedding photographer?

I love the challenge and I like to be a part of something important. I know that the wedding photographs you take are going to be cherished by someone for their lifetime. To be able to produce something meaningful is a big deal you know! Oh and not to sound cheesy at all, I really like the feeling of being surrounded by love. Don’t we all?

As a documentary wedding photographer, what is your favourite part of a wedding day?

My favourite parts are getting ready and a first look. I believe these are the times during the wedding day when everyone is being themselves. It’s a great opportunity to take photojournalistic and candid moments. It’s almost like being behind the scenes on a Broadway. People are running around not aware of your camera. Anticipation and thrill are in the air. Rawness and genuinity of emotions. During the times like these all I have to do is to snap, snap, snap!

What is your favourite wedding day memory?

I don’t really have one particular, favourite moment. I just love when as a photographer you can really see and feel the couple’s love and tenderness towards each other. When the bride and groom are being themselves and are not afraid to show their real emotions. It allows you to step back and let the day to unfold naturally, without forcing and creating moments artificially.

What is your photography approach at the wedding?

I try not to look at a lot of other wedding photographers’ work. My approach is to try to understand and read the people I’m working with and who they are as a couple. I get inspired by them and by their personalities. I don’t try to create something that is not there. I just want to shoot as genuine as possible. My aim is to depict their true emotions and their wedding day on photos, so they could relive it and feel like themselves.

What do you think of the wedding photography industry at the moment and where do you see it in 5 years from now?

I think that there are a lot of great resources nowadays that allow you to take great images. No wonder there are a lot of amateur photographers and many of them are really good at what they do! At the same time, though, I feel social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest have created a certain photography trends that everyone tries to mimic, because that’s what’s popular. Because of that, most of the time images end up looking the same. However, in my opinion they will not stand a test of time. Think of the photos that stand out in your memory. Usually it’s not about they way it was shot or processed, but the emotions in these photos that makes them memorable. Often, the greatest photographs depict powerful and strong emotions. There’s some raw authenticity about them. So when it comes to wedding photography, I try to forget about trends and what’s in fashion. I’d like to depict their day as it unfolds, with all the genuine and authentic moments and emotions that comes with it.

Do you create personal work often?

I like taking photos when I travel. I like waiting when the right moment presents itself, not trying to look for it. I think wedding photography changed my personal work as well. I try to be present at the moment and not living it through camera.

Some might describe your style as design-conscious, documentary and authentic. Is that a good characterization?

I guess so! What I love about documentary style is it will stay true and authentic even 100 years from now. It’s less about the photography and more about the moment.

Do you have any favourite locations in Toronto to shoot?

I like taking engagement and family photos at our clients’ homes and neighbourhoods. I feel it makes photos more personal and intimate. I love exploring their neighbourhoods together, visiting their favourite coffee shops and streets. It tells a lot about the couple and I’m able to incorporate that story-telling aspect into my work.

What do you recommend for couples who are camera shy?

My number one advice is to be in the environment where you’re most comfortable! It could be your own house, or your favourite restaurant. You could do some activity, like biking or skating if you’re into it. Being yourself always translates best in photographs!

At the Studio, you’re working a lot with website and print design. Have you noticed any photographic trends lately and what are they?

I believe all creative industries link together. It all starts with fashion and goes into design. Then photography adopts to it. Stripping down the fluff and leaving bare essentials is really in design right now. I believe photography is also moving in that direction.

What do you love in life, beyond the lens?

Anything that get’s me going. I love to create and experience new things. I love travel, sports, music, food, design, my dog, family, friends – anything really!

Name one thing you can’t live without:

I can’t live without my phone! I don’t have a problem with putting it down. But everything is there. I can call my family in Indonesia when I feel like it. I can take some pictures if I want to. I can listen to music. So much stuff you can do with your phone! On a more serious note, I can’t live without my family and close friends. They are very important to me.

When was the last time you cried?

Watching La La Land!

If you were in a pop band, what would its name be?

Uptown girl!

What do you love about being a part of MANGO?

I love that I can do different things, everything from photography to graphic design. I also love people whom I work with. I like working in an environment that allows me to challenge myself and my skills. Working with some seriously talented people that keep pushing me to be better at what I do is what keeps me on my toes! I love Mangoes 🙂