This PAFA wedding at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is as aesthetic and divine as it gets, but timing was among the tightest I’ve worked with. Let’s see what I pulled off on the fly.
Shooting engagement sessions and weddings in the cultural centers is always an exquisite treat for me. You may know I loved to draw and paint, and take a load of inspiration and techniques from the fine art, like these portraits created past summer in my home studio.
I’ve been blessed to shoot engagements and weddings in the museums like The Metropolitan Museum or Art, MoMA, Museum of the City of New York, a few theaters like St. George Theatre and United Palace (check out these epic portraits there!), and even Boston Opera House.
Yet, I’ve never had a wedding fully immersed in the museum galleries. Museums usually have an adjacent hall so when you shoot a ceremony, for example, you may not even see any exhibits. To get a sense of the artistic ambiance, you may be allowed to take your couple to a gallery for portraits, that’s all. This was not the case with this PAFA wedding.
PAFA, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, is a museum and private art school in Philadelphia, PA. Founded in 1805, it’s the first and oldest art museum and art school in the US. It is also unique in a way that it opens doors to events like weddings, offering the Historic Landmark Building just steps away from Philly’s City Hall. That building is a timeless classic, one of the finest surviving examples of Victorian Gothic architecture in America.
As noted, there was one challenge: time. “It’s always a challenge”, you may say, but look: we needed to do the full routine—getting ready and details at a hotel nearby, bridal portraits, first look, bride and groom, bridal party portraits, formals with the families, ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception with cake cutting and dancing—under 6 hours. I often do the same in 12 hours. Sometimes longer, sometimes less, but can’t recall the full program so short! Many of my couples set aside at least 2 hours for portraits alone! With this art-loving couple, I think I had a total of 10-15 mins throughout the day for meaningful portraits, but it worked, too.
I shot with Lara that day; she did video. We left Veya with her freindsister Olivia and drove about 2.5 hours to Philly. Jumped into the hotel room, got the basics, snapped a few bridal portraits for Haley, and ran out with her bridesmaids to PAFA.
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Ruben was waiting inside for the first look. The guys had a phenomenal room for that, filled with statues made by PAFA art students, small and gigantic, like almost the life-size David of Michelangelo. Then, the Greco-Roman statues offered me an ideal backdrop for a dancing shot. Both the dynamics and lighting worked perfectly into the scene.
We then did quick portraits for the couple, bridal party, and the many members of the family (traditionally omitted in my blogs). That wacky bridal party group shot not only looks crazy… Sounded, too! See, it produced no sound in the making and felt like a scene from a silent movie. Out of respect for the fine gallery we were in, I kept the noise to the minimum (otherwise so encouraged by me!!!). I asked the guys to pretend they were quiet clubbing (heard of a silent disco?)
Quick, into the ceremony!
The breathtaking staircase that greets you as you enter PAFA is framed by the marble sculptures and magnificent floor-to-ceiling oil paintings. The jewel becomes the center of attention when the wedding guests fill the three balconies. That’s where the PAFA wedding ceremony takes place, in the full view before their eyes. It’s like enjoying a theatrical performance from your posh balcony!
As a sad sign of our times, the couple kept the number of their PAFA wedding guests to the minimum.
This image will answer why Haley chose PAFA for such a significant day in her life…
The cocktail hour and reception followed in the adjacent gallery. Good times, as expected!
I was aching for at least one killer shot. I try to always get it from any wedding, whatever its style is. And now, to be in such a rare location and not create anything magnificent?! Our time was almost over, so I pulled the couple away from their meal, crying for a few minutes of something spectacular. Haley was all game, and thankful, so no hesitation here. I had a few minutes and jumped the stairs like crazy to play with the dramatic light. It was well worth of capturing the striking essence of a PAFA wedding. Relieved, we left them and drove into the night through a torrential downpour.
It’s been a month since my last post about an expecting beautiful lady and a Delta pilot who comes from an F-16 fighting squadron. I cannot blog as usual these weeks. End of summer was packed, including the busiest weekend of the year when I planned 7 back-to-back shoots including 2 Indian wedding functions, a dudeoir shoot (might blog that), underwater engagement session, and a sunrise surprise proposal on a hot air balloon, followed by another wedding and Indian engagement session after a 2-day break. Turnaround times for these primary tasks are already extended. I still hope to catch up with blogging (a secondary task) at least a few of the cool projects I’ve been doing recently.
In April of next year, we’re down to shooting a same-sex wedding in Philadelphia again, this time at the Penn Museum! Go Philly!
Wedding Planner: Rachel Hanson, Creative Eventology
Hair and Makeup: Paulette Torres
Venue: PAFA Weddings
Officiant: Rev. Tom Davis-Shappell
Catering: 12th Street Catering
Music: DJ Byron
Photo and Video: Ed and Lara Hafizov, Zorz Studios