In 2005, photographer Thea Dodds was hired to shoot a wedding in Massachusetts. She spoke to the prospective bride on the phone and drove down to meet the happy couple.
Dodds: I went and met them and it was two women (laughs). So I didn’t even know before I met them that it was a same-sex wedding.
That two-brides no groom job led to other same-sex weddings. And as she gained more experience, Dodds began to realize that she was falling into the same trap.
Dodds: And a lot of times I felt like my couples were starting to look like friends? Or even worse, siblings…because I was sort of posing them in the way that I knew how to pose two women – which was as friends. Or siblings. And it wasn’t communicating love and intimacy.
Dodds began to search the web for answers. For how-to guides, books, seminars. Anything. But…
Dodds: Photography education focuses a lot on how to pose a man and a woman, but there’s absolutely no information on how to pose two women or two men and that just seemed like such a missed opportunity.
Dodds waited for one of her fellow photographers to see what she saw and make something of it.
Dodds: So I kept waiting for somebody to do it. Somebody’s gonna pop up as the gay wedding photography expert, somebody’s gonna do it and I would attend their workshop and wouldn’t that be great?
But there were no workshops. And nobody popped up until Thea Dodds herself did. She started by reaching out to Kathryn Hamm, who runs a popular gay wedding website.
Dodds: And she said she saw a lot of good photography, but not a lot of great photography. And she felt like something was missing. And so when I called her up and told her my feelings about photographing gay weddings, she said, “That’s it, that’s what’s missing – people don’t know how to capture intimacy between same-sex couples.”
And so Dodds and Hamm began to work on “Capturing Love” the first ever photography book on same-sex weddings. The first question she always gets – how is a same-sex wedding different?
Dodds: At the beginning attire is a major difference. So generally you don’t get a white dress and a black suit at a gay wedding. Sometimes you do!; But generally you don’t.
Emily Keenan is one of the brides featured in the book. She says that her same-sex but still very traditional Vermont wedding presented Dodds with a particular challenge.
Emily: What we wore was definitely important to me. I always knew I wanted to wear a white dress. And I think it was the same for Kristen. She wanted to be a bride as well.
Two brides. Two white dresses. One photographer’s headache.
Dodds: So there are different approaches a photographer needs to make if you have two white dresses. Cause there’s no natural contrast in that attire.
That’s when Dodds saw the red pick up truck.
Dodds: As soon as I saw it, I thought we are going to do something great here. And I photographed that red truck all through the night.
The image of Emily & Kristen Keenan embracing in the back of that red pick-up truck went viral, appearing in wedding blogs, Newsweek, Yahoo, and CNN.
While the book provides practical instruction on finding solutions to such problems as two men of similar height or two women in white dresses, the real revelation is found in the pictures themselves. Dodds opens the book to a photograph taken by Tammy Watson.
Dodds: So this is one of my favorite images. It’s a sunset silhouette taken on the desert. And it’s just two men simply holding hands.; And when I saw this I really had an “a-hah” moment. Where I felt like, wow, here’s two men and they are both strong and masculine and connected. And intimate. And isn’t that obvious? Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? But in my experience I had never gotten that photographing two men. And this is where acceptance is going to come out of. It’s out of people seeing that these are real couples, regular people, who just happen to be in a same-sex relationship. And that’s why this is “Capturing Love.”