Dear Weddings Unveiled,
After 10 years of shooting weddings, this year, 2013, was the year I decided to purchase my first-ever print ad — a half-page in Weddings Unveiled magazine. WU has always been one of my favorite wedding publications. I love the photo-centric spreads and clean design; I love the beautiful, uncluttered covers.
My e-mails and phone calls back and forth with your editors were exciting! I felt like you were really happy to have me join the “team.” I signed my advertising contract and sent my credit card info over. I started putting together the artwork.
I could’ve chosen any number of lovely pictures of a smiling bride with her tuxedoed groom, or a clever detail shot of brooch bouquets and feather boutonnieres, or one of those dancing photos with the lens flare and the motion… but I wanted to publish a photo that says something about me as a photographer; about my philosophy; about my heart for photographing these momentous (and often wonderfully ridiculous) celebrations.
So I selected my image, and I submitted this ad:
I chose this picture because, to me, it says love. It says home. It says joy.
I sent this ad to you on Valentine’s Day. That afternoon, your editor called and said:
Is there possibly another photograph you’d like to use in your ad? We just don’t feel comfortable publishing an ad featuring a same-sex couple. These aren’t our personal beliefs, of course, but, you know…
In the seconds that followed, a little part of my heart broke. And all of me grew, with quick awareness, exponentially wiser and sadder.
“No,” I said. “No, I don’t have another photograph I would like to use.”
We chatted for a few more minutes, your very apologetic editor trying to explain and reason and justify. Me expressing my disappointment, but ultimately also my acceptance that you certainly have the right to choose what Weddings Unveiled does and doesn’t publish. The editor said she would have another conversation with her team and call me back.
The callback was unremarkable. There was no further discussion. “We haven’t even run your credit card yet,” she said, “so we can just move on without your ad. We’d still love to have you in the magazine, though, so let me know if you want to advertise in the future.”
As I write this, I’m shaking.
A friend of mine asked me, “Aren’t there other publications who would be happy to advertise to the gay community?” And, you know, yes, I’m quite sure there are. But I chose Weddings Unveiled because I’m not trying to advertise to “the gay community.” I’m advertising to couples who are getting married. This couple didn’t get “gay married.” They didn’t have a “gay wedding.” They got married. They had a wedding. They share their lives, their joys and sorrows, and all the mundane daily things that we all share with our partners. They are just people. In love. Committed to one another.
I don’t shoot gay weddings or straight weddings, Christian weddings or Jewish weddings, good weddings or bad weddings. I photograph PEOPLE on their wedding day.
I’m shaking because I’m so angry. I’m shaking because I’m so hurt. I’m shaking because I was so, so naive.
Are there people who might have been offended or put off by this ad? I’m sure there are. But this ad wasn’t for them. This ad was for people who love black and white photography; this ad was for people who love a portrait taken in a warehouse stacked with bags of coffee beans; this ad was for people who love big puffy dresses; this ad was for people who love love.
My heart breaks because you could not see that this couple’s wedding
portrait is every bit as beautiful and valuable as any other couple’s.
My heart breaks because you could not see beyond your fear, and into the warmer, brighter future that WE are responsible for building.
Someone has to be first.
Someone has to forge ahead.
Someone has to march.
Someone has to refuse to move to the back of the bus.
Someone has to see these two beautiful, brilliant women in love and know that there is nothing more right in the world than this couple.
Dear, dear Weddings Unveiled, my heart breaks because you could not find it within yourself to be that someone.
Before we finished our last phone call, your editor told me, “I’m not saying we won’t ever publish a same-sex wedding. It just isn’t the right time.”
In Dr. King’s words:
The time is always right to do what’s right.
I hope you will read this and really take it to heart. I hope you will see your decision through the eyes of someone who is gay. I hope you will see it through the eyes of someone who has dear friends and family members who are gay. I hope you will see it through the eyes of history, for surely someday very soon your decision will seem archaic and absurd.
And if, as you said, your decision was not a reflection of your personal beliefs, then I hope you will examine your personal beliefs and find them worthy of full and honest expression.