Note: the following is re-posted with permission from The Compass, the official newspaper for the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Original link here.
A video on YouTube is making the rounds on photography websites and blogs. I decided to join the discussion here because it relates to photography in a religious setting.
In the video, a minister is leading an outdoor wedding ceremony. As he speaks, one can hear the sound of a camera shutter firing away. The minister abruptly turns his attention to the wedding photographer and videographer standing behind him. He tells them, “Please, sirs, leave. … This is a solemn assembly. Not a photography session. Please move.”
The expressions on the bride and groom’s faces are of sheer horror, probably thinking about that huge check they wrote to have their special day recorded and photographed.
As the camera is removed from its tripod and the video loses its focus, the minister is heard ending his sermon to the photographers: “This is not about photography. This is about God.”
What a terrible ending to what should have been a magnificent, memorable day.
Who is to blame for this incident and how could it have been avoided? First, both the photographers and the minister share the blame.
As a Catholic press photographer, I have covered religious ceremonies and witnessed other photographers who seemed to operate with complete disregard for the sacred environment in which they were working. They see no difference between shooting a prayer service or a sporting event. Whether it is the attire worn inside a church (T-shirts, blue jeans and tennis shoes or sandals) or the way he or she distracts the congregation by moving around at inappropriate times, unprofessional photographers can give their colleagues a bad reputation.
At the same time, some church officials (whether it’s a priest, sacristan or master of ceremony) need to understand the importance of capturing the moment for posterity. While covering the ordination of several priests at Milwaukee’s St. John the Evangelist Cathedral several years ago, I received an unpleasant look from the master of ceremonies. Apparently another photographer got on his bad side and he restricted my movement at the liturgy.
I’ve photographed weddings at churches and know that each priest or minister has his or her own opinions about wedding photographers. A photographer’s first task is to meet with the minister, ideally at the wedding rehearsal, and discuss limitations or concerns for taking photos. Priests are usually fine with photographers moving around the church to get the right shot, but some don’t allow flash photography. The use of a motor-driven camera, which sounds like a muffled machine gun, can also be a distraction and should be avoided in churches.
Catholic weddings, especially ceremonies that take place within the celebration of Mass, are indeed sacred, sacramental events. But this should not prohibit capturing the event on camera.
The outcome captured in this video should never have happened. The photographers and the minister could have prevented it if some preplanning had taken place. The obvious losers were the bride and groom.
About the author
Sam Lucero is news and information director for The Compass and a 30-year veteran of the Catholic press.