The Wedding Industry and Homophobia

Today I'm taking a break from blogging pretty images and instead speaking out on something that bothers me very much. I've been in this field of wedding photography for closing in on nine years, and this hot-button issue is coming to a head with the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Photographers who could kind of "slip by" in the past are now revealing to the world that they are homophobic. Wedding vendors of all types are discriminating against couples who don't fit their ideal of what acceptable love should be. And the conversation is getting nasty.


In many of the photography groups I'm in, people's disapproval and intolerance of queer love is shocking and hateful. From dislikes on images of gay couples and rude comments like a puking emoji, people's true ugliness shows when they fight against the reality that they are living in a world that is not 100% straight, 100% white, 100% how they would like it to be.

How do I turn down a gay wedding respectfully? Should I have something on my website about how I don’t do LGBTQ events? Is it right for me to turn down gay couples?

The above questions are all ones I've seen over the years. And before I get going let me be clear: I'm not here on this blog post to say a quick, "f*** these bigots" and be done. One, throwing around screw-yous does not do anything for us except keep us divided and fighting. Two, I understand these questions better than a lot might. Here's the truth: I used to be homophobic and bigoted. I used to hope and pray I didn't get a gay wedding inquiry, because I didn't want to have to reveal that I in fact wasn't as loving and accepting as I liked to think myself to be.

Sean & Jeremy's first dance as husbands. Not a dry eye in the room.

Sean & Jeremy's first dance as husbands. Not a dry eye in the room.

Obviously, I've changed, grown, and come to a place very far away from where I used to be. It's hard to talk about who I used to be, but important to share here. I was raised to be homophobic and so were very very many other people. Thankfully I credit my core character of empathy, curiosity, and ability to grow for bringing me out of those dark ages. But man, the person I was back then was brainwashed. I said things like, "I love my gay friends!" (and yet I had no close gay friends, only acquaintances/classmates who didn't want to be my friend because I was a judgemental jerk who didn't "support their lifestyle." How can you love someone and condemn them at the same time?) I honestly was uncomfortable with gay people because I didn't understand them, didn't approve of them, and had been raised to be fearful/judgmental of them. I think it's very much the same for a lot of my generation and the generations before. I hope to see this all change. The first step is people recognizing that their actions of denying services to the queer community is discrimination - that it's nothing but harmful and unloving, that faith isn't a good excuse, and we've got to step up to the plate on a personal level and decide to be decent to others. Gay people are humans and deserve the exact same dignity, respect, and kindness as anyone else does. STOP TREATING OTHERS LIKE THEY ARE LESS.


The biggest problem here is that people feel that they can use religion as an excuse for their discomfort and discrimination. They don't want to have to adapt their viewpoints unless it directly benefits or affects them. But it's always wrong to treat people like they're lesser than, and if you're decent at all you know it. Forget an old book written in ancient times, do your personal morals say it's okay for you to make a person who is just living their life feel unworthy, broken, worthless? Do you sleep fine at night knowing you contribute to people wanting to end their lives? Are you totally fine with shaming people simply for being themselves? Well, dig this: If you enjoy and contribute to making others feel bad about themselves, time to get the hell off my planet.

These days I'm super far removed from my old belief system. I seriously don't for a SECOND understand why someone wouldn't shoot a gay wedding based simply on the fact that the couple is same-sex. Okay, so you don't "support" these people? That seems kind of shitty of you. You don't "agree" with their choices? None of your business and shouldn't even be a factor when it comes to conducting work.

This is a good example of the issue at hand, I think: I'm now a secular lady - an atheist to be precise! Most of the weddings I shoot are protestant Christian weddings. I have a lot of personal problems with that religion specifically after my personal experience with it, but I am fully capable of keeping that off the table completely, and choose to. Can you imagine if I got inquiries and the second I learned people were of faith I turned them down, told them why, and threw in some rude judgements about their "lifestyle choices"? That would be so needless and offensive, not to mention stupid and narrow-minded of me. I set aside my personal feelings and opinions when I am working. I respect and love my clients from a very genuine place and would never demand they be a certain way for me to be comfortable working with them. I focus on delivering awesome images to them to remember every moment by - I stay in my lane, do what I do, and that's that. I would never let something like difference in opinion control my ability to photograph every kind of event with excellence.


Please think about this, people who will not photograph the LGBTQ+ community: See that when you refuse to shoot a gay couple, you are effectively practicing shunning, shaming, and arrogance. You are saying one kind of couple is more acceptable than the other, you are refusing to get over yourself and your discomfort, and you are practicing exclusionary bullying. You're keeping the divide firmly in place. You're treating others horribly so that you can live in a whitewashed version of reality. Don't be that guy. This cycle of hatred and fear ends one person at a time. Get to know some gay people and challenge yourself out of the bubble and false preconceived notions you're living in. The queer community are people exactly like you and me - with hopes, dreams, the need to be loved and be free.

If you love people like so many photographers who practice anti-gay rhetoric and actions claim to do: BACK IT UP. Talk is cheap. Treat all people with genuine dignity, kindness, and respect, regardless of who they are. Treat them well because that's who you are.

The ROOTS project | River travels: Detroit, Nevada, WPPI | Atlanta Wedding Photographer and Visual Artist

So let's take a moment today to talk about roots. Everything grows from something. For me and photography, my roots are in two places: storytelling (a pursuit and pastime I've loved since childhood), and black and white film. Even though I hold a degree in English literature, I studied photography in college as an elective because I was intrigued by the visual aspect of storytelling I felt represented by images. Now, college happened about a million years ago for me. So long ago that digital was just becoming commonplace. I started with an SLR film camera and black and white film. I remember long hours spent in the darkroom - the smell of fixer on my hands long after I left the darkness of that place. It's sad to say that I was a half-ass student and approached all the photography assignments from a place of laziness and barely-there inspiration. I had yet to find my voice and to take the bull by the horns, so to speak.

These days I have been shooting for almost nine years professionally. Always growing, learning, failing, and working on becoming the photographer and storyteller I have for so long yearned to be. And this year, I am returning to my roots a little bit. Shooting more for myself and for the sheer joy of seeing things differently. Preserving life, but in a way that makes you look at it differently. I purchased a little Pentax Q mirrorless - a digital camera that gives very film-like results. I left it on black and white and took it on its first trip a week ago. I took photos that speak to me because they're gritty, and real, and nothing created/manipulated.

It is so important as artists to do things for yourself. Create things you want, not just create for those who hire and pay you. This year I'm doing that and will be sharing along the way. xoxo

Old Car City USA | White, Georgia

What a cool place to spend the day. With or without a camera, this multi-acre vintage-car wonderland is a really quirky place filled with not only cool old busted cars and parts, but a lot of personality (displayed in many of the hand-painted signs you'll see as you explore). Take a gander.