Hello I’m Alesha and I’ll be honest, I never wanted to be a wedding photographer… That might be shocking coming from a wedding photographer, but taking a look at what the industry embodied when I was younger, and sometimes still to this day, it's fair to say that I was rightfully hesitant. I did not wake up one day and decide to be a photographer, even though I wish it was that easy!
So, how did I even get here?? The simple answer. I love photography and most people who know me also can tell it's what I’m passionate about.
I’ve traveled across Europe taking sunrise photos in every city, gone through tons and tons of film rolls only to get a dozen good shots, and spent my high school and college days going on adventures in the mountains to capture all of the PNW landscapes (drenched in rain afterwards). But not once through all that did I think I could make a profession out of it. For me it was a hobby and that was all that could come of it. I admired photographers who made a profession out of what they loved to do, convincing myself I didn’t have the drive for it, or the talent, or even the passion for it like they did!
In 2018 I knew I had to make a decision to change something about my life because every day I would wake up, go to work, get home and wonder what it was all worth? Am I adding any value to the world or am I taking up space? Is my only motivation to clock in and out for a paycheck or can I accomplish more?
It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was a simple and incessant thought I had over and over again...
“I want to be a photographer” …
Practically on replay through my head with no direction or knowledge on HOW to get there. But I somehow knew that was always going to be my path, even if I tried to sabotage myself when I was younger.
So now picture this. Me, knowing I want to be a photographer, but absolutely no idea what industry to pursue. So like any good trial and error test I started broad! I dabbled with studio portraits learning from some of the best in the industry, but it didn’t fit quite right. I knew I loved going to concerts so then dabbled a little bit with music events and that just seemed like a lot of squeezing through sweaty bodies and yelling over the speakers to talk to anyone. I even entertained the idea of product photography and oh boy was that boring, try taking 100 different photos of the same motionless item and see if you can find an ounce of excitement. What I knew was missing was the connection I wanted with people. I didn’t want just a one off photoshoot, but to build relationships with people I enjoyed being around.
It may seem obvious what I tried next (Hint. Hint. wedding photography) but it was a path that I actually avoided for the longest time because of the stereotypes associated with weddings and the literal legal barriers I saw growing up, which ostracized the LGBTQ+ community (and continue too...) Why would I want to join an industry where there would most definitely be people who didn't want me there? Where I could face ignorance disguised as “God's word” telling me why my life was wrong? How the love I would want to show could be “disgusting”?
These were not easy questions that I could brush off and say “well it doesn’t matter because everything is legal now in the US”. I never wanted to be a wedding photographer not because it wasn’t interesting, but because I was terrified of everything it embodies. So I was on a back-and-forth-mental-rollercoaster, never thinking I would find the right photography fit...until I actually shot my first wedding. This was the lightbulb, not just lit up in my brain, but more like thrown and smashed into my face. It was so obvious I wanted to go shoot more weddings as soon as possible.
I first worked with Megan & Jozy, my friends, who believed I could create something amazing with them, giving me the shot at finding something I love. They were not your “typical” couple. They were adventurous, wild, passionate, and not to mention two women who wanted to show their friends and family what their commitment to each other looked like.
They were my dream clients because it felt real.
Everything that had deterred me from weddings suddenly seemed so insignificant when there were couples that embodied all of the values I was searching for in weddings. They showed me that weddings could be anything! They didn't have to abide by static traditions and I didn’t have to hide who I was either.
For me, weddings had it all, friends laughing at the top of their lungs, wild and eccentric dancing like the worlds ending, parents crying from an overload of emotions, me crying behind a camera because I have too many emotions, stylized decorations that you could picture on the front cover of magazines, and best of all the relationships couples chose to invite you into! The amount of trust a couple has to have in order to invite you into some of their most intimate and important life moments is an unmatched feeling of pride, meaningfulness, and accomplishment as a photographer. They’re saying “hey we trust your work, we trust your ability, and we actually enjoy spending time with you.” That is AMAZING! That is the reason why I keep doing what I’m doing and I continue to pursue it despite other factors.
However, there are still queer couples out there, planning the wedding of their dreams, reaching out to vendors and getting denied because the vendor won't work with queer couples. Just to begin the search again in a sea of vendors, not knowing if they should reach out or give up. And when I scout out potential floursits, wedding venues, designers, and makeup artists to work with, I have to ask if they work with LGBTQ+ individuals. Think about that for a moment…
I have to ask for the reassurance that myself and my clients will be supported and treated just like any other couple planning their wedding.
It is not a hypothetical situation, it is my reality. And a reality for millions of couples and industry professionals. That is why I am honest with you now about who I am, as a queer photographer, it is not an industry that was designed for us, but it is changing! Just by making the choice to be a wedding photographer I decided that what it represented when I was younger does not represent what it is today. It can embody ALL types of love, people, traditions, rule-breakers, religions, and so much more!
So back to the beginning. My name is Alesha and I never wanted to be a wedding photographer...but I’m so glad I am one now.
Resources to find other LGBTQ vendors:
1. Equally Wed
2. Dancing with Her/Them
3. The Rainbow Wedding Network