Interview: Phillip Allen of Mister Phill
This week we catch up with Bournemouth based photographer Phillip Allen as part of our series of interviews with Wedding Photographers from around the UK.
How long have you been photographing weddings for and how did you get into it?
I started photographing weddings early in 2009, under extreme duress, with a threat hanging over my head. I was told that it was either me or table top disposable cameras! Have you ever seen the results from those things? Nor me. I suspect nobody actually gets ’round to having them all processed. Or maybe they do but never show the results to anyone. Or maybe they lead to lots of great results but my suspicions run deep whatever the case may be. I was highly resistant to the notion of photographing weddings on two counts. One was that I simply couldn’t see the fun in photographing endless processions of posed group photographs, a preconception of what wedding photography is that I imagine I shared in common with a great many people. The other was the fear of getting it wrong; there’d be no going back to redo it all the following weekend if anything went wrong. My first commission came with no posed group photographs bar one of the couple and all of their guests arrayed on a twin set of sweeping staircases descending from a ceremony room and the rest of the day was devoted to pure documentary story-telling. My protests with regards to the risks inherent in photographing a wedding were silenced by the threat of relying on table top disposables instead, plus when it came to it I intuitively knew to take two cameras along with me to photograph all the key aspects with first one then the other.
What do you particularly like about photographing weddings?
Spending a whole day immersed amongst happy people, engaging in a creative pursuit and getting a fair bit of exercise to boot; any one of those is a great mitigator against stress and all three combined are a thorough tonic. In an age of relentless occupational stress I find photographing weddings a truly curative process. It puts me into a zone that leaves me feeling at my very best. In addition to all of that it’s an enriching process too; if just a small proportion of what the couple are feeling rubs off on you – particularly during the ceremony where I tend to be afforded rather close proximity to the key players from a viewpoint that few, other than the celebrant, are privy to – well there’s just something downright magical about that.
How would you describe your style and approach?
I find myself describing my style as one of immersive story-telling and sometimes I have to elaborate upon that by describing it as reportage or documentary. I will also take any posed group photographs as required and of course also do a portrait session with the couple but even in that latter case my approach is highly documentary-like in manner; I set the scene and place the couple within it then get them to forget about my presence, interact with each other rather than confront the camera and only bring them around to interacting directly with the camera once I sense they’ve locked into their own zone of comfort. I immerse myself into the wedding day from preparations through to the thick of the evening party, open myself emotionally to what is going on around me and photograph everything that takes my interest, everything that in some way whether literal or abstract contributes towards an illustration of what the day is all about. I very rarely ask anyone to do anything for the benefit of the camera; there’s more than enough to be related through simply observing and documenting.
What advice would you give to couples looking for a wedding photographer?
Don’t view wedding photography as a generic one size fits all affair; in much the same way as eating out calls into play decisions over personal taste, there’s great breadth and depth in the range of styles of photography on offer and you’re going to be eating from that same dish for a great many years to come. I also believe that if you like the way a particular photographer sees the world through his or her image making work, there’s a good chance that you’ll like having him or her around for much of one of the most important days of your life. There’s potential for a meeting of minds, one might say. Like the work, like the person, most likely the client-artist relationship will work out well.
What tips would you share with couples to help their day go more smoothly?
From personal observation the best tips I could give are, allow plenty of breathing space between key events, delegate like you’ve never delegated before, let go and just enjoy the ride. The best tip I’ve received from a groom at a wedding, as the day was drawing to an end, was to not keep thinking about what the next phase of the day was going to be – next the meal, next the speeches, next the first dance and so on – as that was a sure fire way to make the day fly by quickly when you want to be able to savour it all as it passes by.
Finally… Whats the best moment you’ve had as a wedding photographer?
It’s a recurring phenomena; something that I’m thankful for. When I’m fully trusted in doing what I do and furthermore when I’m treated as though I’m a guest. These things leave me feeling gratified professionally and grateful on a human level and what better way for the clients to ensure they do get that immersive visual story of their wedding day, from the heart of it all, than to include their photographer in the day rather than leaving them in the role of an outsider looking in.
Many thanks for Phillip for taking time to give us his thoughts, you can get in touch with him on twitter @mister_phill, or drop him a message via his profile page, do check out his website for more of his great work at www.misterphill.com.