Weddings are fundamental to British culture, yet their photographs have never been exhibited by a fine art institution. Until now, thanks to the unique eye of Martin Parr. Since June—just in time for wedding season—Ian Weldon’s photography has been exhibited at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol, accompanied by a book of photographs published by RRB Photobooks.
Newcastle-based Weldon, who photographs weddings in a distinct documentary style, had spent years attending portfolio reviews and arranging meetings with editors, gallerists and publishers, with little success.
“I’ve found it difficult to be accepted into the wedding photography industry,” Weldon says. “And then I’ve also found it difficult to be taken seriously by the [art] photography industry. Martin Parr has recognised my work for what it is.”
Parr, perhaps the most renowned British documentary photographer, sees that most wedding photographers “pander to the normal schmaltz that is so dominant in the industry”, Weldon says. He discovered Weldon’s work after accepting an invitation to talk at a photography conference in Barcelona. He was “a little bit thrown” to discover that the theme was wedding photography.
“I have been at weddings when the photographer leaves at the first dance, just when I assume the action is about to start,” Parr says. “But Weldon is a photographer who shoots weddings as they really are: comical family occasions with too much drink and wild things happening. His photography will make you smile, as all the indiscretions, bad dancing and excessive behaviour are so well documented.”
After running his own portraiture studio, Weldon started to document the culture of the region, attending weddings merely to pay the bills. At first, he stuck to the tried-and-tested format: a shot-list, with the bridesmaids and the groomsmen standing together like a smiling chain-gang.
“But I realised that things happen at a wedding,” he says. “I’d be busy ordering people around, and I would miss those interesting moments. The idea came to me: why I can’t just shoot weddings like a documentary project? And here we are.”
• I Am Not a Wedding Photographer, Martin Parr Foundation, Bristol, until 9 August