As a wedding photographer with over ten years experience shooting in a documentary style, I’ve always been interested in telling a couple’s story on their big day. However, some time ago I began to think more about the stories on a wedding day that go unnoticed or are in a sense hidden from public view to all but the closest family and friends. I began to look back on the photographic projects I’d done during my degree and the personal work that I undertook during the early part of my career, and decided I wanted to uncover some of the untold stories on a wedding day. I wanted to produce a series of pictures that didn’t necessarily put the newlywed couple centre stage, but had something interesting to say about the institution of marriage.

I decided at each of the weddings I shot last year that I’d ask the couple to identify the couple at their wedding that had been married the longest. In most cases this inevitably, turned out to be their grandparents. I’d then find a suitable location and ask the elderly couple if I could make portraits of both of them. Having made the portrait I also chose to ask the couple what in their view was the secret to a long and happy marriage, and to use their responses to accompany the finished portraits.

After some initial testing, I found that the best approach was to use available light, and to photograph husband and wife individually, so as to give myself more options and control over the composition later in the process, when I would combine the two portraits in one. I’ve always been attracted to unfinished works of art such as Elizabeth Shoumatoff’s “Unfinished Portrait of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt”. Having taken all the photographs for the project I then made my selections and montaged each couple together in Photoshop. These images were then outputted onto large heavy duty card, so that I could layer paint, charcoal, pen and ink directly onto the surface of the print in order to bring the composition together and create the look of an unfinished painting. At the risk of stretching the symbolism a little too far, I kind of see the unresolved nature of the portraits as a metaphor for their ongoing relationships. The words of wisdom that these couples chose to pass on, after in some cases more than fifty years of marriage, are at times humorous, thought provoking, and sometimes hint at tough times they’ve had to endure. But one of the common themes is that they’ve had to work at their relationship and cope with change. I hope you enjoy the series as much as I enjoyed making the pictures and hearing their stories.

More info:

Archie & Sheila

Married 06.09.52

“The secret of a happy marriage is to give and take and look after one another, that goes for both of us. Always work through problems and never give up. Don’t expect too much, be happy with what you have.”

Elizabeth & Michael

Married 16.02.85

“A bit of luck. How can you really know someone until you have lived with them? But three things come to mind. Firstly physical, lots of sex, especially in the early days. Secondly kids, something you two uniquely share. It’s hard work, needs a sense of responsibility, and a sense of humour doesn’t hurt, especially when it is just so awful. Thirdly luck, when kids are grown, do you still like each other? Do you want to travel, try new foods etc. Do you care as you both get older? If you do, then it works!”

Anne & Maurice

Married 01.09.59

“Always, whatever happens, be the best of friends, in good times and bad.”

Peter & Cynthia

Married 02.09.61

“We have always had shared interests and spend most of our time together, but also have time to pursue our own hobbies. I love painting and Peter does picture framing.”

Gavin & Christina

Married 27.10.79

“Love, respect, and faith in each other and my religion.”

“Phil Collins.”

Royston & Julia

Married 06.06.59

“Enjoy each other, sharing things together, work and support each other always, and say good night with a kiss. I wouldn’t change him for the world.”

Graham & Mary

Married 26.06.65

“Good luck and good genes, and no conflicting interests.”

Theresa & John

Married 31.07.71

“Love, patience and understanding.”

Vivian & Michael

Married 16.06.90

“Communication and hard work, and keeping a blend of things done together and independent interests.”

Alan & Judith

Married 15.07.71

“The emotional intelligence to recognise that there is a need for compromise with another sentient being. The energy and determination to fight for compromises which are acceptable. A conviction that even though we both live with the most annoying person we can imagine, all alternatives would be much worse. A recognition that if we are to provide good examples for our children and grandchildren then we need to embrace differences and demonstrate that conflicts can be resolved constructively. The physical luck and strength to live long enough.”

“The secret to a long happy marriage is to do lots of different things separately so you each bring new ideas and interest to the relationship. The odd difference of opinion is good to keep the other on their toes!”

Joyce & James

Married 04.10.52

“Tolerance, give and take, and a kiss good night at the end of the day, no matter how many arguments you’ve had.”

“Doing as I’m told.”

David & Margaret

Married 11.02.56

“Love, all you need is love. Love is all you need.”

Marion & Barry

Married 15.03.75

“Lots of laughter.”

David & Maureen

Married 28.10.67

“Give and take.”

Les & Fay

Married 22.04.67

“Get through the hard times with each other, and enjoy the good times. You’re only here once, it’s not a dress rehearsal, so enjoy it.”

Tina & Alongi

Married 25.07.64

“Be strong through good times and bad, and make sure of a good day after a bad one.”

Michael & Sue

Married 26.11.77

“Love, friendship, patience and a sense of humour.”

Beryl & Roy

Married 25.03.61

“Tolerance and understanding.”

Christopher & Valerie

Married 18.02.67

“A sense of humour, patience, love and a bad memory.”

Ellie & Jan

Married 06.08.69

“The secret is freedom within commitment. Don’t go to sleep if you are angry with your partner without speaking out”.