It’s #MangoMonday and I want to introduce you to Melissa. Oh gosh, where do I start with Melissa? She is the heart of our studio. Melissa oversees the team working on all the post-wedding production work making sure our couples receive their beautiful images, albums, and custom art pieces. She is also an amazing wedding photographer, and our couples love her for her cool and calming personality. After studying English and Art History at UofT, Melissa went on to sharpen her Creative Photography skills at Humber College where she is now a member of their photography advisory board. As MANGO’s VP of Operations, she loves working with the production team on the day to day happenings at the studio. You can chat with her about trips to Jordan, Israel, Ecuador, Poland, France and Iceland, to name a few. Melissa’s work has proudly been featured in Wedluxe Magazine, Ruffled, 100 Layer Cake, Today’s Bride, FASHION, Dauphine Magazine, VICE, the Toronto Star and Style Me Pretty.
What or who got you started in photography?
Definitely my mom. My mom is a very creative person. Since I was a kid she has been helping me with all my creative art projects, especially anything that needed drawing. I could not draw to save my life. I remember really wanting to draw a brontosaurus in the first grade and being stressed out that one letter sized piece of paper was too small for the super long neck. My mom helped me tape six pieces of paper together on our dining room table so I could get the space I needed.
My grandpa was an avid oil painter in his retirement. His style was in the Group of Seven vein inspired by living up in Muskoka and snowbirding in Florida. I loved that his sun-room was filled with his own paintings hung basically one on top of the other, he had made so many. When I was in grade nine, my mom signed me up for acrylic painting classes after school and also bought me a Minolta X-700. In the painting class, you had to choose pictures from instructional books to paint and mimic for style, like pictures of the beach or a teddy bear still life. Terrible. I started using the camera to make better images to paint and then got hooked.
What photographer/artist are you most greatly influenced/inspired by in your work and why?
I think inspiration and influencers are layered over time. As a kid, I was really into Patterns, Robert Munsch, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, No Doubt, Mozart, Lawren Harris, Jennifer Aniston and writing out my own name.
My late teens brought in David LaChapelle, Watercolour Painting, Annie Leibovitz, Marc Chagall, Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, Terry Richardson, Emily Haines, Scarlett Johansson, and my best friend Claudia.
In my 20’s, it was Caravaggio, David Hockney, Andy Warhol, Virginia Woolf, Radiohead, Kirsten Dunst, Interview Magazine, Sofia Coppola, Nan Goldin, fashion blogs, Klimt, and the colour black.
Now, I’m loving Cass Bird, Ryan McGinley, Alexander Calder, and Patti Smith.
As a photojournalistic wedding photographer, what part of the wedding day are you most excited about?
I love floating around a reception as little moments unfold. I really love that “fly on the wall” approach. I think it’s during the reception that everyone forgets they’re being photographed and the really beautiful and genuine reactions and moments come out.
What do you like about being a wedding photographer?
I like that wedding photography is challenging. It really did not come naturally to me and that was a scary experience at first. It’s something I’ve had to learn how to do, make mistakes at, and be open to seeing things in a new way. I work really hard at it and being successful in something you work hard for is very fulfilling.
Do you have any pre-wedding day rituals?
I am a true Type-A personality so my pre-wedding day rituals involve over planning and anxiety. Just kidding! This was supposed to be a fun question, right? I like to eat a sandwich and then bang my head against my camera for good luck.
Do you create personal work often?
I shoot personally on a weekly basis, mostly little moments with family and friends. I enjoy shooting when I travel and have a few passion projects I contribute photography to. I’m not very active on social media so my personal work ends up getting sent straight to friends or printed and stuck up on my fridge. My biggest struggle with personal work is to avoid hoarding it for myself.
What do you recommend for couples who are shy in front of the camera?
I recognize that no matter how much you hope someone will act and feel natural in front of the camera that it’s not a normal experience, for anyone really, to have a camera pointed on them for hours on end. Feeling shy is natural and so common and I feel it, too! I really try to build up a friendly relationship with my couples as quickly as possible and find common ground to connect on. A great photographer is making their subject feel comfortable long before they hold up the camera. All that is to say, I think you need to trust that you’re working with someone who understands what you want, how to make you look good and feel good, and then all you have left to do is let your guard down.
At the Studio, you’re working with printed art pieces and photo albums. Why is it so important to have printed photos of your wedding day?
Printing is everything. It immortalizes a memory in a way nothing in the online word ever will. Think back to the days of history’s great families commissioning beautiful hand-painted portraits in their likeness, by their favourite artists, to forever hang on walls – that could and should be you! Printed work is really accessible, too, and we’ve streamlined our printed pieces down to what we believe are the most highly crafted, worthwhile investment pieces that will stand the test of time.
What do you love in life, beyond the lens?
I love going out to dinner, drinking gin and tonics, and trying every kind of cheese. I love talking about movies, books, and podcasts with anyone that will have me. I love shopping at the mall with my sister and tracking down buck-a-shuck oysters. I love going to see art and supporting that community. I love cooking new things for my mom. I love having company over to listen to music and drink wine. I love a good pop in visit. I love surprising my dad with small treats he likes, like new beers or his favourite pastries. I love playing Italian card games with my brother. I love talking on the phone while I drive home from work. I love those videos where they dub deep house music over 70s videos clips. I love being in NYC with my best friend just walking around. I love doing anything her son asks me to do, even if it’s to go sit in a time out.
What is something you can’t live without?
Good things! (Good people. Good food. Good conversation. Good art…)
What was the last time you laughed so hard it hurt?
A few minutes ago, Tyler played me a clip from Youtube of Dwight from The Office having a breakdown in a car. I tried not to laugh at all because he’s trying to bully me into watching The Office but I laughed a lot.
What do you love about being a part of MANGO?
We’re storytellers first and foremost and I love a good story. As a small boutique of photographers and designers, we treat each member of our team as well as each of our clients like family. I‘ve made wonderful lifelong friends both in clients and the photographers here. I’ve always thrived as part of a team – I like when you win, you win with others and when you lose, you have that support. I love collaboration and that’s what Mango is all about. Any decision, big or small, can be run by someone else who cares as much as you do about the projects you’re working on. I like when someone from the team comes up with a new idea and I can be a part of making that happen. I love watching the team grow year to year. We’re curators and creators of the most beautiful, timeless images and they’re from real life. I love that.