The Photographers Blog interviews Kevin Mullins – Documentary wedding photographer
Kevin Mullins is a UK based wedding photographer specialized in wedding documentaries. Here is an interview with Kevin Mullins to find out the concepts of photo journalism and the inspiration behind creating a new main stream genre with documentary weddings.
Gaurav : Starting from the roots Kevin, can you throw some light on the concept of wedding photojournalism ?
Kevin : There are a few terms out there for wedding photojournalism; documentary wedding photography, wedding photojournalism and reportage wedding photography – they are all essentially the same. They mean to take photographs at a wedding that tell the story of the day through candid images.
The whole idea of wedding photojournalism is to deliver a set of images to the clients that are formed not through direction or posing, but through the use of light, composition and moment.
The moment the photographer starts to interact with the subjects (such as asking them to move to good light, or move their arm etc), then I don’t believe it can be honestly called wedding photojournalism.
The art of shooting like this has gone back many years and people such as Dennis Regie in the United States really started pushing the boundaries of this style back in the 90s.
Gaurav : Your favorite subject is documentary weddings, How is documentary style wedding photography different from candid photography ?
Kevin : I don’t think there is much difference between documentary and candid styles. They are terms and labels really and essentially I think the technique of shooting should be the same.
The word “candid” is an adjective. This means you either shoot candidly, or you don’t. There can be no middle ground. The moment you even move the dress on the bed to make it look nice you are no longer shooting candidly.
However, there are some people who consider documentary wedding photography can reach beyond the realms of shooting candidly. And that’s fine of course. Whilst I would never stage a moment, people do it, and as long as their clients are aware of how the photographer works then that should be acceptable.
For me, however, I work in a candid way and it’s my responsibility to observe and identify then record moments. It’s not my responsibility to make those moments happen in the first place. I always want my clients to remember real moments in time, not moments that the photographer set up for them.
Gaurav : How much is a camera gear important to you in your work, what attributes of a camera gear are significant for your style ?
Kevin : Gear is important, but also its not important. Firstly, I have to say that when I moved away from my Canon DSLR system to the mirrorless Fuji system it made a huge difference to the types of images I could get. I love to get really close to my subjects and using tiny cameras allows me to do that without compromising the emotional situations.
I like to shoot weddings from “the inside out”, rather than as a voyeur shooting from the outside in.
That said, whilst I absolutely couldn’t work without my X-Pro2 and X100T cameras, I do believe that anyone can learn how to use a camera. Our challenge as a photographer is to be the observer and I believe that my clients book me because of my observational skills, rather than because I can operate a camera.
Gaurav : If you have no choice but to shoot a wedding with your mobile camera, what would be your reaction ? would you do it ?
Kevin : Yes. I’m currently shooting a lot of weddings with the Fuji X70 which is smaller than my iPhone 6. As I mentioned in question 3, I do believe it’s a case of observation rather than technicalities. Of course, some of the very fast paced work that I do would be difficult to achieve but I believe I could tell the story of a wedding using an iPhone or a small point and shoot.
Gaurav : You have a big following here in India and many want to know how was your experience shooting an Indian wedding ?
Kevin : I’ve shot several Indian weddings now and I absolutely love them. Such vibrancy and each one, though often following the same path, are very different.
When I shot my first one back in 2011 the bride kindly gave me a booklet with all of the information I needed to know about the mini-ceremonies and rituals. I still have that and use it each Indian wedding I shoot.
In the UK, less and less Indian couples want any sort of posed or formal photography (sometimes they will do this on a separate day) and I simply love being able to roam a large Indian wedding looking for light, looking for characters and looking for moments.
I tend to shoot a lot more at Indian weddings, and I think that’s simply down to the fact that there is usually more people and more going on. In the UK, a typical wedding may have 80 guests. I’ve shot an Indian wedding in the UK with 800 guests! I love them.
Gaurav : Your style of photography is creative in so many different ways. What keeps Kevin Mullins inspired ?
Kevin : Street and Social Documentary Photography. Whilst there are many people in the wedding industry that inspire me, I find that I am drawn more to good street and social documentary when looking for books or websites. For example, I love the work of Rui Palha, Tom Stoddart and Alex Webb. I’m also fascinated by the work of Martin Parr who’s work I pour over constantly. Ellott Erwitt too is somebody who I draw amazing inspiration from in terms of his perception of humor and humanity.
Any form of social, candid photography, that illustrates humanity is something I can be inspired by. It’s all around us.
Gaurav : You often talk about “people being people” and “photographing humanity”. What do you mean by this ?
Kevin : As mentioned earlier, I see myself first and foremost as an observer. I love to watch people and I love to document them…well, just being themselves. For example, outside of weddings, I also shoot “day in the life” documentaries for families. And I simply photograph them being themselves; having breakfast, brushing teeth, playing together etc.
None of it is set up and its really, honest and integrity filled images that I think are the types of pictures people will look back on in fifty years time and smile.
When I’m shooting weddings I’m always looking for humanity elements. I concentrate very hard in spotting eye contact for example. A very benign image can become a very powerful one simply by the shift of an eye. I’ll always be looking for human touch and lots of humor. All of these things combined to become a study of the humanity elements at a wedding (and beyond). I really see myself as a curator of these memories, rather than a fabricator of them.
Gaurav : One piece of advice you would like to give to aspiring wedding photographers who look up to you for motivation ?
Kevin : My advice would be this; be true to yourself. In the beginning I got a lot of resentment because I wasn’t shooting weddings “traditionally”. Instead of being influenced by the industry, I remained strong to my beliefs and shot weddings the way I wanted to. If you ever find yourself not enjoying your job, then you need to change the way you do it. If my job was a whole series of formal portraits and group shots for hours on end then I would hate it – so I do it my way, and I love it.
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