I understand first hand how hard it can be choosing a wedding photographer, there is so much choice, so many styles, so much inspiration. It is important that you then gel with them, that they ‘get you’. If I were choosing my photographer now, I honestly don’t know how or who it would be. One potential candidate would be Jason, I have been working with him from So You’re Getting Married’s inception. We clicked straight away and our emails are always light hearted and fun. I thought it would be interesting to ask him a few questions, a little bit about his photography, obvs, but also about him, what he likes, what he doesn’t and what super power he would have. Because we are all about the important stuff at SYGM.
photography | Alexander Leaman
Hello Jason. Um, who is Alexander Leaman BTW?
Ha! Well that’s easy – I’m Jason (everyone knows me as Jason) – Alexander is my middle name, so I’m Alexander too. I have to explain it a lot!
There are a few reasons I started using my middle name, one of them being that my father in Law always used his middle name for his graphic design contracts so it was a nice tradition to continue. Also I used to be perhaps over-sensitive about people I used to know ‘finding’ Jason Leaman on the internet and judging my work negatively. Probably a bit paranoid there, but in any case it stuck and I kind of like being able to separate workfrom home a little and it’s definitely helped with my brand. I couldn’t change it back now if I wanted to, even though I’m not scared of criticism any more anyway.
When did you first find your passion for photography?
I was always going to be an artist – always obsessed with little competitions at school, and occasionally winning them too, but it wasn’t clear that photography would light such a spark until I was about 17. We had to specialise in a subject at art school and I was really torn between fine art painting and photography. I was very lucky in that I had a great teacher at the time who introduced me to the idea of a body of work and narrative and I was hooked on the alchemy of photography from then.
What is your favourite part of the wedding day?
They’re all different of course, but photographically speaking, my favourite time is when the B&G get to spend a little time on their own, usually just after the ceremony. We’ve already had our pre-wedding shoot by then, so there’s no anticipation about what I might be expecting them to do or anything like that. It’s usually a time when I ask them to get everything that’s brought them to this moment in the forefront of their mind. That’s where I find the best ones.
Is there anywhere you would love to shoot a wedding in particular?
There seems to be a lot of great photography coming out of Iceland at the moment. You know when you have that fantasy place where you just have to go? You don’t know exactly why, but it’s got to happen as soon as possible? Iceland is that for me.
Who are you inspirations?
I’ve grown up looking at the Photography of people like Sally Mann, Henri Cartier Bresson, Capa, Robert Frank – all the old favourites. Today, everyone seems to call themselves a photographer, so it’s hard to keep up but I think there are a fair few contemporary artists pushing wedding photography right now – Jonas Peterson is great to watch because he’s brave, very real, and a natural storyteller but also because it’s fun watching a bunch of other photographers trying to imitate him.
I try to keep myself to myself really, but I’ve got a handful of friends, photographers, artists and musicians who never rest. If I ever get stuck, they’re great for getting me fired up. Carrie (my partner is so many ways) is really all I need to know which direction I’m going in.
What do you order at a bar?
Usually a Guinness, but depending on the bar I’ll go for a bloody Mary if they know how to make it. If any of that works, I’ll be ordering a taxi!
If you could have one super power for the day, which would it be and why?
What do you like to do when you are not working?
Sorry? When I’m what?
What are some things you cant leave the house without?
I’m probably supposed to say my Camera here, but I’m like everyone else – I have one in my Phone. Wallet, keys, a lighter. I’m a bit of a crisp aficionado (read: I eat too much junk) so I need a few pence on me in case I find a shop with some Cheese and Onion Frisps in stock. I try not to forget the kids if I’m going out.
Have you got a favourite photo that you have taken?
A few! But not the ones you think. I’ve got a picture of some Herdwick Sheep up in my bathroom, and a picture of a mountain in my bedroom. Once I took a picture of my niece when she was a baby – I kept it on the wall for years because it just happened to be a picture that made sense to me. It told a story, had a narrative, and changed the way that I thought I could take pictures from then on. That was 20 years ago.
As far as Wedding Photographs go, I always remember a picture from Steve and Chrissie’s wedding in 2006. They really loved the painter Jack Vettriano, and they wanted some pictures of them dancing on the beach in Brighton in the style of a Vettriano. It was June,and it hurled down with rain all day until about Sunset, when we had a break in the weather – just enough time to get the shots we wanted. This one was after the actual dancing on the beach bit, but it’s always hit the button for me. They sent me a lovely book of Vettriano works and it’ll be their tenth anniversary next year.
Favourite food of all time?
I used to be a chef (photography hasn’t always been the endless streams of cash that I’m used to today, you know;) – I ran a kitchen in London’s fashionable west end. I was taught how to cook by an amazing guy from Columbia, and Argentinian Steak was on the menu. That’s where I’m going with this, but it has to be a ribeye, and it has to be cooked just the right side of medium rare. Failing that I can rustle you up an amazing Fig, Caramel, & melted Brie Tart if you’re prepared to never be able to go back to what you used to call food once you’ve tasted it.
How do you achieve work/life balance?
I don’t think I’ve managed that quite yet.
Is there a famous person dead or alive, you would like to photograph? And why.
I’d love to photograph Tom Waits, but without the theatre. There are a couple of people – Kate Moss has been photographed in every way – she’s the ultimate muse – but I’d love to see if there was a different angle. Michael Jackson? Madonna maybe. Something honest. I’d be interested in photographing somebody who has been shot a bazillion times to see if I could get something different. I worked a lot in studios before becoming a wedding photographer and you kind of get used to celebrities coming and going to the point where real people start to look more intriguing. There’s a whole load of real at a wedding! When it comes to portrait, I find it’s more rewarding photographing someone without any preconceived expectations.
What advice would you give to a budding wedding photographer, and what advice would you give to a newly engaged couple?
Wedding photography has changed massively in the last 10-15 years. I shot my first wedding in 2003 on 5 rolls of film and really no idea about why I was doing it! I was in fear for the whole day, and for a long time afterwards – it’s a really horrible feeling. The pictures were fine, as it happened. Not my best, for sure, but there must have been something in there that lit me up because I’ve been doing it since!
I continued shooting film through converting to digital, but really got up some speed when I bought my first DSLR. My climb was sure, but slow in some ways, and I’m really glad of that. It’s nice to know that I’m probably the last generation to have spent most of my education in dark rooms, processing, and understanding film. Digital was always going to happen and it’s now become a part of all of our lives that we can barely exist without.
I’m not sure I’d know where to start if I was starting over today. A large part of what photography means to people is the tech and the gadgets. It’s rapidly changing and it’s very easy to get caught up in ONLY that side of things – and there’s a LOT to learn with cameras, software, lighting, and so on.
But you don’t have to be that photographer. What you do have to do is know why you want to be a photographer – know what it is you want to say about people. Why do you feel the need to tell the story of two strangers getting married? It’s a bizarre question that you need an answer for!
Don’t try to be like another photographer. Don’t copy, and don’t be the same as everyone else. In fact, stop following superstars and start finding your own voice. Find out how to run a business, and get good at that fast, and Never, Ever undervalue yourself or ‘Work for Free’ – it screws up the industry and will take you an awful long time to recover.
Brides and Grooms to be – you have your story before you. Focus on where you’re headed, and look at what defines you. Know why you’re getting married, and know that thing is all that matters. When you’re looking for your photographer, don’t get caught up in buzz words and googlespeak. Don’t get sold into gimmicks in technology, and shortcuts to trends that will likely never last. Don’t get your mate to have a go at it – Wedding Photography is hard to get right, and this is that one time when you need it to be right. Go for the slow burn.
All you really have to know is that your photographs are going to be good and honest and a true testament to who you are, right there, in time and place. (And that feeding your photographer a nice steak and chips, though not mandatory, is always a very good idea!)