It has been a while since my last post. Times are changing and due to COVID-19 everybody seems to have more time to “catch up”. So here I am, catching up and sharing an amazing story about love and new beginnings.
When Nathalia (the bride) texted me in early April 2020 and asked me to “photograph an event”, I thought this was either a misunderstanding, as no events are being held in the middle of the Pandemic, or maybe this lady knew something that I didn’t. “An event?” I replied, and I could not but wonder what type of event she could be organizing in the midst of the current crisis. I added to my text a short question: “What type of event?”, and then she replied: “My wedding!, we are planning a social-distancing wedding”. Needless to say, texts were not enough to show my intrigue and excitement so I called her right away to fully understand what this family of three (bride Nathalia, groom Devlin and baby boy Javi) had in mind. Truth to be told, Javi is just a baby, so he is just playing along with his crazy parents!
The initial plan as I learned from Nathalia was to have a very small ceremony from their townhome’s balcony in East Van. “I envisioned this”, she kept explaining on the phone, “as a symbolic moment as we already live together and have our baby boy. I’ve found a commissioner who is willing to come to our sidewalk, so I just need two witnesses and a photographer”, and then she said, “food will be take-out and will be served on side tables outside and everybody will keep social distancing to make it work, what do you think?”
I must confess I felt a surge of creative energy and the anticipation that I would be documenting a historic event. Historic for them, as weddings are very important family milestones; but also because this social-distancing wedding might be the first of many events to be launched under the new world order we live in.
Nathalia and Devlin’s porch
And that’s how the ceremony was set up, two small tables with take-out food, Lysol wipes and champagne to celebrate probably the first social-distancing wedding of East Vancouver. Bride and groom would stream the ceremony via Zoom, and neighbours and closest friends would join while keeping social distancing.
For this couple, the chances of organizing a real wedding in the near future, like many other family events that require travel and gathering of 10+ people, were really slim. Nathalia’s family live in Colombia while Devlin’s parents live in the USA. Instead of waiting in these uncertain times, they decided to do something right away with the resources they had in hand. Organizing a new-world-order type of ceremony would be the perfect excuse to keep family members “together”, and give them something to look forward to. The idea of having a social event (let alone a wedding) to participate in was actually very exciting for everybody! Self-isolation has been tough for every person, so this felt as a sort of liberation, like a well deserved break in the middle of all this bombardment of figures, facts, cases, fatalities, and limited hope.
Bride, Groom and baby boy ready to tie the knot
Wait a minute, I forgot to mention that TJ was also tying the knot!
Now more than ever, the word “Zoom” has a special connotation for everybody. It is the way to get “closer”, to overcome physical distancing and to connect. The wedding was streamed via Zoom to family members in at least two different countries. My first comment when I scheduled the wedding shoot with Nathalia was that I have a “zoom” lens that would allow me to capture all details while keeping a prudent distance from the ceremony and the witnesses. So with my “zoom” I also managed to overcome the physical distancing and capture the intimate details of the ceremony, so it could be shared with those (mostly everybody) who could not be up close. The following shots capture how the ceremony was streamed via smartphone and Zoom.
Groom explaining the zoom audience the wedding is about to start
Bride giving her last words before getting married
One attendee kept zoom streaming the ceremony
We were all set and extremely excited. Guests stood on the sidewalk across the street, while the commissioner set foot about 8 feet from the couple and baby boy. She had to raise her voice quite a bit to be properly heard by the attendees. Sometimes, we had to wait for a car to drive by while drivers were wondering if this was a type of protest or demonstration happening at the porch of someone’s house. Everybody was paying extreme attention to what was happening, probably to compensate for the lack of proximity, and the outdoor noise.
As I was trying to capture the current moments, struggling to fit everybody in one frame, I could not but wonder if this is how the new social-distancing events will take place: everybody at a proper distance, friendly but not too close to others, willing to engage in friendly interactions, while being constantly aware of the need for physical space. A new complicated social dance that we are tying to learn how to navigate together.
Wedding attendees keep strict count of social distancing measures
The commissioner about to start officiating the wedding
Baby Javi could not be carried by anyone else, so the bride and groom had to take turns during the ceremony. Suddenly the bouquet was not that important anymore.
The vows were magical and very emotional. The promise of being together “in sickness and in health” never seemed more pertinent and realistic. Definitely, there was a message of hope and resilience being communicated without words. Every smile, every vow, every glimpse was magnified given the difficulties that were surrounding them, surrounding everyone of us. It felt like every attendee was also exchanging vows with the future, for the promise of a brighter world, with no virus as part of it.
Vows being exchanged
The ring exchange required also a baby exchange
The rings were not as important at this moment, given that everything that was happening was all about the intention
That is a very excited bride!
And suddenly, after a quick exchange of vows and expressions of love, a first kiss as newly weds was sealing the first social-distancing wedding of our lives. After that, the newly weds posed in the middle of the street for their first photo as a wedded couple, with their baby boy and all the attendees. Some remarks and congratulations were also exchanged via Zoom, so everybody could express their happiness to the couple.
The first kiss happened and baby Javi seemed to be wondering who all those people standing on the other side of the street might be
The newly weds and some of the attendees
The newly weds receiving congratulations via Zoom from their family members
And then something else manifested organically… Given the fact that attendees and newly weds could not pose together for a photo, every attendee resorted to selfies as a way to capture the moment and the desired closeness. Attendees posed in front of their phones, framing the new spouses and baby in the back so they could be all “together” in the snapshot.
Selfies are the new way to get “closer”
Contrary to the regular weddings, the new social constructs of this wedding did not allow for the classic wedding shots a bride usually expects from the photographer. No ring shots (I believe they did not have time to get actual rings), no bridesmaids getting ready in a hotel room with the bride, no bouquet tossing, nor were there any ornament portrayed this time.
The new classic wedding shots: isolated bouquet, bride with bouquet and baby boy, baby boy trying to start the party by tasting champagne for the very first time!
And the celebration began! There was a toast, there was take-out food, and casual chatting. It felt more like a block party. However, the sentiment was of profound happiness. There was a sense of intimacy heightened but a lack of distractions: no cocktails, no loud music, no decoration or even chairs. And when there is no distraction, the most important elements became evident. What was really important for Nathalia and Devlin was their baby boy, the close circle of friends dying to hug them, and the network of family members and friends cheering them on remotely through their smart phones. Everything else was not really missed.
One cannot but wonder, if the new social order will force us to prioritize our future interactions based on what is truly “essential”: health, love and family over everything else. The rest of the accoutrements will come back to our lives if we are patient enough.
A porch family portrait
It was a very memorable afternoon for everybody
We have exciting news!
My photo exhibition TRAVELS will be displayed for the month of November 2016 on the second floor of the New Westminster Public Library.
TRAVELS is a fascinating photography collection that spans over six countries and captures the secret messages hidden in buildings, people, local art and nature. Restricted to the black and white photo space, TRAVELS tries to portrait the beauty hidden in regular objects and landscapes by highlighting their symmetry, lines, shapes and visual impact. TRAVELS offers an universal view of different realities under the uniformity of two colours and the infinity variety of shades between them.
You can see a preview of the show in this video:
Come a visit us at the second floor of the New Westminster Public Library at 716 6th Ave, New Westminster, BC V3M 2B3, Canada. The exhibition will run from Nov 2 to Nov 30, 2016.
When I met with Sharon and Greg at the beginning of this year to discuss their wedding coverage, they presented to me a photography challenge. Sharon wanted two key elements at her wedding. The first one was getting married using the very same dress worn by her mom back in South Africa 30 years ago, which supposed a challenge for her not for me ;) The second one was that her photographer, i.e. me, had to replicate two important photos of her mom and dad’s wedding. That was my photography challenge!
In our first meeting, Sharon opened her mother’s wedding album and pointed out the first picture to replicate. It was a photo of the wedding party at the top of park in Johannesburg. The photo was taken during the summer, and showed a big flight of stairs with lion statues in every turn of the stairs. So the challenge was to find a similar scene in Vancouver, with lion statues and a panoramic view of the city. We initially considered the Lions Gate bridge, but traffic and logistics made it too complicated and even risky. As the wedding was taking place in the West End and the ceremony at Stanley Park, it seemed obvious that the lions at the Vancouver Art Gallery could be the best proxy to recreate the photo. We would not have the city at the back, but at least the dress and the lions would be there!
Their wedding took place in April in a beautiful yet windy spring afternoon. After many attempts to fight the wind, we managed to take some pictures that resembled Sharon’s parents wedding 30 years ago :). I processed them in black and white so they have the same vintage/retro look.
The second photo was all about the dress! Sharon confessed she grew up looking at one particular picture of her mother’s wedding. This picture had her mom showing off her dress, widely spread on a garden with hydrangeas at the back. She dreamed of having a very similar photo at her wedding, so this was my photography challenge number two!
Since the reception was taking place at the Tea House in Stanley park, Nohra and I scouted the location looking for gardens with hydrangeas. Guess what? There were none! April is too early for hydrangeas to bloom in Vancouver. Close enough, the Tea House had a cozy garden at the entrance that could be our backdrop. Having found the right location, the challenge was again the wind and the cold. We took the picture around 7 pm, it was chilly and the grass was very wet. We put a plastic mat over the grass, arranged Sharon and her dress in a similar fashion as her mom’s back then, and asked Sharon to show us her best “I’m warm and cozy” face. Sharon was a total trooper. She kept her smile and good disposition until we found the right pose. I post-processed the picture to making it look close to the original.
This wedding was full of incredible details. Sharon’s bouquet had the national flower of South Africa, the King Protea. Sharon’s dress – did I mention it was worn by her mother? – had the buttons of the dress worn by Sharon when she met Craig for the first time. There was a typewriter at the reception for guests to leave messages, which ended up being an antique and “unknown device” for some of the younger guests! Sharon also decorated the wedding cake a baked the best tiramisu dessert I ever had.
This is what wedding photography is about! Details, stories and meaningful moments that would be otherwise lost should not have a good photographer to capture them. It was a honour to be part of this wedding and celebration. We felt like guests and dearly friends at the end of the event.
I was commissioned by my lifelong friend Luisa to create some “executive” head shots for her. Luisa wanted portraits that say “I’m professional yet approachable; I’m smart yet sexy”. Luisa is an entrepreneur at heart, office lady on weekdays, DJ by night and make-up artist in her spare time. At least we knew her make up would be flawless, we just needed to find the right location. We decided to shoot at the seawall of Stanley Park so we could have some interesting backgrounds to play with.
I could not be happier with the results. She looks professional, smart, sexy and very approachable indeed. This is what she wrote to me when she received the pictures:
Visit this link to see all the photographs of this very hot lady: http://
When people think of taking a holiday in Mexico, they might think of a tropical beach retreat with exuberant palm trees, white sand and ocean breeze blowing their worries away. Everywhere you look for Mexico vacation packages you end up finding pictures of luring all-inclusive hotels, exotic pyramids in the middle of the jungle and explosive arrangements of tequila, margaritas and Mexican food. However, Mexico can offer not only tropical destinations for the adventure seekers, but also city landscapes filled with history, modern city lifestyle and a vibrant night life. This country, well known for its beaches, warm people, and incredible and colourful food, also offers an array of cities with historic landscapes, festivals, art and exciting activities for lovers of the urban landscape. In this post, I would like to share my amazing weekend getaway to one of the largest and most interesting cities in the world: Mexico City.
Mexico City has almost as many inhabitants as New York city, and has the vibe of a modern and sophisticated place that boasts great history, art, and food. I recently spent a weekend in this city while attending a photography workshop, and managed to visit many attractions in my spare time. You don’t have to rent a car or hire a tour guide; you can tour the city by foot using the subway, and ride one of the myriad taxi cabs available.
My adventure started on Saturday morning walking around one of the most modern neighborhoods in the city: Colonia Cuauhtémoc. This neighborhood, or colonia, as they are called in Mexico, is located west of the city’s historic centre. One of the main landmarks is Paseo de la Reforma, a wide avenue that cuts diagonally across the city. This avenue was built in the 19th century and resembles the big European boulevards where modern buildings and beautiful monuments coincide. The strip along Reforma, as Mexicans call it, is home to many important buildings such a the U.S. Embassy and the Mexican Stock Exchange, among many others.
Reforma offers very pleasant walkways covered with trees offering shelter from rain or extreme heat and showcasing numerous sculptures along the way. Main intersections display magnificent fountains or roundabouts with monuments related to important milestones in the Mexican history. The avenue also has several metro stations connecting to the subway network and taking you, virtually, to any corner of the city core. I hopped on the subway and arrived at the second stop of my weekend getaway.
At Reforma, I entered the “Chapultepec” metro station on Line One, headed east, managed to connect with Line Six and got off at “Villa Basilica” station, a few blocks from Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica. I walked a few blocks and found a huge village of churches and chapels that commemorate the Virgin Mary’s appearance in Mexico, among other religious themes.
I found this site fascinating. Here one can witness the coexistence of two Mexicos: the old and the modern. Right at the same square, you can see both the old Basilica and the new one. The old temple is a traditional Spanish colonial building erected in the 1700’s, which is sinking as many buildings in the city. Mexico City was built on a former lake and land is unstable in several sections of the city so it is common to see historic buildings under repair to counter attack the erosion of the ground. This temple had been closed for many years and recently reopened after undergone major repairs. You can quickly appreciate, like in the picture below, the tilt of the building when compared with other adjacent constructions.
Right at a 45 degree angle, making a corner, you can find the new temple. This is a very modern concrete building completed in the 70’s constructed when the old temple became dangerous due to its unstable foundations. This shrine is one of the holiest places in the western catholic world. Millions of pilgrims come to visit especially in December, when the day of Guadalupe’s festival takes place. The new church shows a circular shape and the iconic image of the virgin that can be seen from any angle of the building.
I believe the most impressive thing I saw inside the new church was the very image of the virgin. The legend says circa 1500’s a virgin appeared before Juan Diego, a Mexican man, asking for a church to be built in her honour, very close to where the church is nowadays. Juan Diego established several conversations with whom he believed was the virgin Mary. He also talked to Catholic church authorities at the time and was asked to provide proof of his interaction with the virgin. Following the virgin’s indications, Juan Diego took a piece of fabric, his “tilma” (apron), and with it, wrapped roses from the site where the virgin appeared. He went to see the priests and when he unwrapped the flowers, the image of the virgin was miraculously imprinted on his “tilma”. This very same “tilma” is displayed inside the church, protected by bullet proof glass and hung in the centre of the altar.
After walking for hours in the Basilica village, I had a quick snack and headed to the historic centre. I managed to find the subway connection and get off at the “Zocalo” metro station. Believe me, you can spend hours touring the historic district, looking at museums, theatres, sculptures and more. This time, I narrowed down my visit to the activities that were taking place at the Zocalo: the main plaza or square of the historic centre. As luck would have it, it turned out that the city was celebrating the Historic Centre Festival that very weekend with several free concerts held on a stage at the Zocalo. This part of the city, again, shows two Mexicos, this time though, it was not about the old and the modern, but about Spanish vs. Mexican indigenous. The Spaniards built the city on the ruins of the pre-Hispanic city, the former Aztec Empire in fact, following a European model that had to be adapted to the canals and rivers previously built by Aztecs and other prehispanic groups. The historic centre, including the Zocalo, contains most of the city’s historic sites from both eras, a fascinating contrast.
After enjoying a couple of concerts at the Zocalo that Saturday, I learned that Lila Downs was performing as a closing artist that very night. I have been following Downs for quite some time and even saw her in Vancouver, so this was an opportunity that I was not going to miss! The concert was superb, people were all in high spirits. After the concert was finished everybody returned home in a very organized and polite fashion. You could see police officers everywhere, even at the metro stations. Next day, the Zocalo was sparkling clean awaiting the second day of free concerts.
Since my photography workshop took place in the Cuautémoc neighbourhood, I decided to take a final stroll on Reforma early on my second day. I didn’t know the avenue was close to vehicular traffic on Sundays so pedestrians could jog or bike along. I was pleasantly surprised by the myriad of activities that took place on the avenue; from a fair-trade ecological product expo to Zumba classes! Reforma was alive, vibrant and full of good vibes or “vibras” as Mexican say.
I started my day at a Starbucks close to the Angel of Independence Monument, right at the heart of Reforma. While zipping my coffee, I noticed a very heavy traffic of bicycles. With Reforma dedicated to bicycle and pedestrian traffic, you could ride a bicycle for several kilometres from the west side of the city to Zocalo. The city has a bicycle sharing program, but I was not subscribed, so I decided to walk and see what was going on. I have to say, it was not easy to cross Reforma! Mexican bicycle riders do not seem to stop at lights and they evidently enjoyed the fast ride. A few meters from the monument, I found many fair booths on the Reforma strip. They all belonged to ecological and sustainable products expo. Ranging from bio-degradable cleaning products, mobile vertical gardens, and recycled fiber products, the expo showed very modern and advanced green ideas. Even the furniture dedicated for meetings and press conferences, setup on the street for everybody’s access, was made of recycled cardboard! I kept walking and heard a loud voice through speakers given breathing instructions and conducting a meditation-like practice. I was in awe when discovered a massive yoga class was taken place right by one of the sidewalks of Reforma. There were about 300 people all lying down on mats, stretching, breathing and enjoying a warm spring morning. This yoga group was like an oasis in the midst of bicycle riders, dance classes and product expos. Reforma seems to offer something for every taste on Sundays mornings.
After all the excitement, I had to return to the hotel where my workshop was held at, the Hotel Casa González. This place was a jewel! Located a few blocks from Reforma, this boutique hotel is an oasis in the middle of the hectic city landscape. The hotel has about 30 rooms only, and its architecture style is rather European, with French doors and stained glass windows. The food was homey and rich. The service was as usual superb. Mexicans know how to make you feel right at home.
After spending a quite night, reviewing the notes of my photography workshop, I was ready to head back to Vancouver. A friendly cab driver took me to the airport in a very congested highway. It can take between one and one and half hours to get from the city core to the airport, so you have to plan accordingly. I had several takeaways from this trip, but what I enjoyed the most was being part of this hectic, complex and very vibrant city for at least a weekend. I was pleasantly surprised by the safety measures displayed around the city festival, the architectural diversity, and how “alive” everything seems to be. I will definitively come bask to explore more of Mexico city!
A Chinese New Year Sky Lantern Festival was held in Spanish Banks, Vancouver, on the night of February 7, 2014.
Thousands got together on a very cold night to light lanterns and launch them into the sky. Some have wishes written on them, some others have heart shapes symbolizing love and harmony. It was a very organic and magical event. People came in groups, and helped by the lights of their smartphones and cameras, lit their lanterns and patiently witnessed how they magically flew away defying gravity. As a photographer, I was very much drawn to this event. Initially, because of the challenge of capturing images in a very low-light context; and secondly, and most importantly, I was totally mesmerized by the expression of people when releasing the lanterns. Some people seemed to be very invested in the process, showing thoughtful and deep, almost religious expressions. Some others seemed hopeful and thankful like wishing the lanterns would come back as new gifts or opportunities. Nowadays, the mass release of the lanterns is a symbol of peace and good fortune. I, for one, felt very fortunate to be there, capturing that magic and being able to share it with all of you.
I had the opportunity to meet Adriana and Leticia through my beloved Nohra – second photographer, admin start and love of my life. Leticia and Adriana got married seven years ago and never had the opportunity to have professional photos taken, not for the wedding or even their engagement. They had in mind a very intimate, casual and not “too-uptight” photo session that captures the urban side of Vancouver along with the beautiful landscape that the city offers especially in the fall.
We started in Gastown, actually in one of the main parking lots where we “warmed up” and looked for funky shapes and urban landscapes. I particularly love how natural, easygoing and fun the session was. We started with some killer shots, showcasing sun glasses, cool jackets and places with geometric lines. Then we moved to the historic district looking for old buildings and character alleys. We finally drove to English Bay just by the sunset time to have playful shots by the water with a stunning backdrop.
After editing all the batch, I realized that this could represent their be-lated engagement session!!!!
Adriana and Leticia were as excited, playful and hopeful as any newly engaged couple, so I guess it is never too late and there is not right or wrong time when it comes to express your moments through photography!