Combing Through the Outtakes of Wedding Photography

The Photo Blog
June 12 2013 11:30 AM

Strange and Enchanting Wedding Photo Outtakes

Jean-Christian Bourcart weddings

Courtesy of Jean-Christian Bourcart

Is there any single event in most people’s lives with more photographic documentation than their wedding? In the aptly named project “The Most Beautiful Day of My Life,” photographer Jean-Christian Bourcart combed through the remnants of outtakes collected from the studio where he had his first job as a wedding photographer.

Speaking with Bourcart via email, he shared his method for picking through the outtakes: “The ones that are funny, innocent, tragic, veering towards the fantastic. The ones that fluctuate between the depiction of happiness and the accidents of life; they all talk about the vicissitudes of the human condition.”

The studio Bourcart worked for in the 1980s photographed dozens of weddings each weekend in the suburbs of Paris. He described photographers working from start to finish, noting they “... covered the entire day: preparation at the house of the bride, civil ceremony, religious ceremony, pictures in the park, the couple alone, then with their guests. At that point we would drive to the lab, wait a few hours for pictures to be developed and printed in 8x10, then go back to the party to sell them. We would go back home at 3 or 4 a.m., pockets full of cash and checks. We would keep 20 percent of it."

Jean-Christian Bourcart weddings

Courtesy of Jean-Christian Bourcart

Jean-Christian Bourcart weddings

Courtesy of Jean-Christian Bourcart

Jean-Christian Bourcart weddings

Courtesy of Jean-Christian Bourcart

Jean-Christian Bourcart weddings

Courtesy of Jean-Christian Bourcart

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Today, almost every moment at weddings is shared through social media since most guests use smartphones to capture and transmit events. However, a recent New York Times article mentioned the growing trend of “unplugged” weddings where the bride and groom insist guests relinquish smartphones for the duration of the wedding. No photos can be taken or posted by guests, putting the responsibility of documenting the wedding back in the hands of a professional photographer, placing greater importance on the role.

Bourcart addressed the pressures of being a wedding photographer:

“Being the photographer of a wedding is quite an interesting vantage point because you spend the entire day very close to the heart of the action, from the moment the couple gets dressed until late at night when everybody is drunk. You are a total stranger, but you are kind of a specialist, an official like the mayor or the priest, and you are constructing the memories of that day for the generations to come. It’s a big deal.”

Jean-Christian Bourcart is leading a workshop in Arles, France, in July for his non-wedding photography.

Jean-Christian Bourcart weddings

Courtesy of Jean-Christian Bourcart

Jean-Christian Bourcart weddings

Courtesy of Jean-Christian Bourcart

Jean-Christian Bourcart weddings

Courtesy of Jean-Christian Bourcart

Jean-Christian Bourcart weddings

Courtesy of Jean-Christian Bourcart

Jean-Christian Bourcart weddings

Courtesy of Jean-Christian Bourcart

Jean-Christian Bourcart weddings

Courtesy of Jean-Christian Bourcart

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Alyssa Coppelman is a freelance photo editor based in Austin, Texas, who spent most of the aughts as assistant art director at Harper’s.