In fact the man is rapidly becoming one of the world’s leading talents in creative wedding photography – held in high regard internationally and recently included in the World’s Best Wedding Photographers Hotlist on Junebug Weddings. And now here he was at the Lake District home of Aspire Training to head up a workshop and to share his approach with a group of very attentive photographers.
Based in Mexico, Fer has spent the last five years developing his own distinctive style, photographing local and destination weddings. And yet this was the last thing anyone expected him to succeed in – growing up in a family of doctors, he found it hard to believe he could make a living out of a camera. “Everyone saw me as the crazy guy who was going to fail,” he laughs.
From an early career in advertising, Fer’s life took an interesting turn when a colleague was getting married and asked him to take the pictures. Looking for inspiration, Fer watched ‘The Masters of Wedding Photography’ DVD and promptly experienced his light bulb moment. “When I saw this DVD it meant freedom,” he says. “It broke a lot of preconceived ideas about wedding photography for me. From this point on I knew I was going to be able to really quickly find my own voice and have the freedom to do whatever I wanted.” He handed in his notice the next day and started to build a career in the area where he was now convinced his future lay.
That background in advertising and film was not wasted in terms of defining his style. “I’m always thinking in cinematic mode,” he says. “I wanted to be a cinematographer and I use all that visual background and knowledge when I’m shooting a wedding. It’s why most of my images are in the landscape format rather than portrait.”
The power of Fer’s images lies in the fact that they would be at home in more than one context; they would suit an art gallery or billboard as much as a wedding album. He works with few elements in each frame, favouring negative space and strong symmetry and, in keeping with his cinematic style, there is rarely any visual contact between the camera and the subject.
“What I try to do is have a picture that says ‘wow’, that people are going to stop and look at,” he observes. “I try to see the obvious in a new way.”
Fer currently shoots with a Leica M9 and a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, the latter with 35mm and 85mm lenses, but this year he’s decided to switch to a Nikon system after 14 years with Canon. He smiles when asked the obvious question: “Why? Just because I want to try them. I don’t like getting bored.” He’s also started to use film alongside digital, hoping that the move will extend his creativity and save editing time. “Film has its own voice – I’m going to try to adapt film into my style of shooting. Let’s see what happens. I’m sure it will become one more experiment for me.”
A unique approach
Fer’s constant experimentation and his quest to seek a new way of representation is an unusual approach to wedding photography, and he makes sure that each client he meets is well aware of what they’re going to get. “When I meet with clients, I ask them to close their eyes and imagine how their wedding photographs are going to look,” he explains. “Then I say, I’m not going to give you that and I’ll show them a slide show featuring some very different images.”
Perhaps not surprisingly this technique doesn’t carry universal appeal, but Fer is happy to take the chance. “I make it clear that their wedding will be an experiment,” he laughs. “If the couple runs then I’ll know that they were not for me!”
It’s his approach to clients who do make a booking that makes Fer so special, and he’s developed his own way of capturing the true emotion of the day, and adding in side-stories. “With wedding photography the temptation is to deal in clichés and we need to get away from this,” he says. “We need to question what love really is and to use new ways to show this emotion rather than laughing and kissing.” During his Aspire workshop he only gives direction during the group photographs and portraits. For the rest of the time he’s invisible. “I don’t want them looking at the camera, I want them to remember how they were feeling rather than what the photographer was doing.”
Look and learn
Currently Aspire is blazing a trail with workshops that bring over international photographers who are really making a difference to the way wedding photography is developing. And you can imagine the conversation – what would it be like to get one of the industry’s rising stars, take him out of sunny Mexico and plonk him in the middle of an inevitably cold and blustery Lake District? Can he still create his magic?
Well, the simple answer to that is yes, he really can. As well as the ability to create stunning images, Fer has to be one of the most genuine people you could hope to meet, happily sharing his experiences and approach to his photography and his business. You can see how this attitude has contributed to him being held in such high regard – there are no airs and graces, just a genuine passion for what he’s doing, which he’s more than happy to share.
Before setting out to shoot, he talks in some detail about his approach to a wedding. “How many frames do we need to remember someone or some place? Most people only really need one, so I divide the day into sections: getting ready, the ceremony etc, and I try to create one image which inspires me for every section, which just defines that moment.”
When he’s working digitally he has his LCD screen set to a high contrast black & white preview so he can quickly review the light, composition and elements of each image. And he keeps his camera up at all times: “We have to live the wedding with our eye in the viewfinder. Your camera can’t be down. If you see the moment with your eyes you lose the moment with your camera.”
On the shoot itself, Fer’s enthusiasm does not dip. His way of working with people is relaxed and informal, and it is fascinating to see how he takes each shot – looking at the light and minimal composition of the frame before bringing in the couple at the last minute. This careful approach means that the couple don’t spend long under the gaze of the camera, and their emotions are much more natural. He will wait patiently for the sunlight to fall in the right spot, or for the wind to move the bride’s hair, and then he gets precisely the shot he’s after.
A big change for Fer recently has been the decision to only shoot destination weddings. “When you take on a destination wedding couples book you because they really like your work,” he says. “They fly you in specifically because they want you to be there so, for me, that’s total freedom.”
This determination to pursue his own creative path is one of the most inspirational aspects of Fer, and it’s the biggest thing he wants people to take away from his workshop. “Just experiment. Leave your comfort zone and play with what you have in front of you, and try to please yourself first and then your clients. It sounds crazy but it’s what I do, and it’s working for me.”
Ultimately, Fer has made his success out of following his dreams and doing what makes him happy, and if the first five years of his career have been exciting then the future looks even more rosy. It’s proof that even in these challenging times the maverick can still survive in wedding photography, and maybe that’s the most important lesson to take away from this photographer.
A colleague’s request to photograph their wedding kick-started Fer Juaristi’s photographic career. He immediately resigned from his advertising job and has been shooting weddings in his own unique style ever since. Now he’s focusing on destination weddings.
Taken from the September 2012 issue of Photo Professional magazine