From hobby to career

Happy place: “I love documenting weddings. It quickly became my dream job,” says Justin Aaron.
Nanjing Night Net

When did you first pick up a camera?

Around the age of 26 I purchased a plastic medium format film camera. I was studying a Master of Architecture, doing a research project about documenting indeterminable outcomes. You have very little control over this plastic camera. So, while photographing exactly what you see through the viewfinder, you are making a photograph that is rendered in a vastly different manner. This bit of magic and element of play captured my imagination during my heavy theoretical research and became a welcome and curious distraction.

What made you keen to pursue photography as a profession?

I was in my fourth year as a successful full-time wedding photographer. I had just returned from shooting a wedding in Amsterdam, when it occurred to me that I have an awesome job, people trust me to fly all over the world for it, I’m making a living and I’m living life. It was then that I decided to pursue this as career. Before that, around the end of 2010, my good friend and wedding photographer Ben Adams convinced me to progress from hobby photographer to wedding photographer. I was initially reluctant butfrom there things moved pretty quickly.

How did you train?

I am very much a self taught photographer. I attribute most of my visual training to my architectural education. I’m a minimalist, I appreciate uncluttered and simple. I believe that light is as important as structure itself. I appreciate honest expression, which is why I never ask any of my subjects to smile.

When did you set up your company and what have been the biggest hurdles?

February 2011. Finding a voice within a sea of wedding photographers was one of the biggest challenges. Having my own voice was something I spent many hours working on. Without this, you can’t stand alone in this industry. It takes time and is a long process that is difficult, time consuming, but eventually rewarding. I am still trying to articulate my voice to this day, five years on.

What does your average day entail?

My days are varied, it could be a shoot day or an office day or a daddy-daughter day. I have a beautiful five-year-old daughter who has just started school and I do my best to have as much play time with her as possible. I work from a shared office called The Roost, it’s a fantastic space filled with enthusiastic, creative people; architects, photographers, illustrators, designers. I love it there. Emails, so many emails, fielding enquiries, organising future weddings, editing, outsourcing and general admin that constitutes running a successful business. I am blessed to live and work close to the beach, so I take full advantage of that.

How tricky are weddings to photograph compared to commercial jobs?

I’m honoured to have my architectural photography published nationally and as much as I love architecture and have many friends who are talented architects, I enjoy documenting their weddings most. It’s the spontaneous collaboration that happens between photographer and clients on their wedding day that makes me really love this job. Through my search for honesty, I avoid being too prescriptive with directions. I have control of how my photos present and my clients place much trust in me. I respect that trust, I feel comfortable and confident documenting weddings.

What’s the most memorable job you’ve done?

So many! From shooting portraits at 5am in the Swedish countryside to cruising the canals of Amsterdam, documenting the clear night sky over a wedding in Queenstown NZ, to finishing a beautiful local wedding at Newcastle Museum. It’s difficult to define a single most memorable job.

Is it hard to shine in a sea of wedding photographers?

Wedding photography is a highly varied product. I believe my clients see the difference and they feel a connection with my work. That gives me confidence in my product. I think early on, when you are unsure about your voice, it can be a easy to see that so many other people are doing the same thing and feel somewhat overwhelmed.

Why compile wedding books in this digital age?

Justin Aaron

A beautiful, timeless, tangible object in your hands, printed on 100-year archival paper. A compendium of photographs that lasts generations, something your children and grandchildren can flip through, is pretty special and important. Your kids aren’t going to scroll through your Instagram account when they want to see your wedding photos, or want to show their own five-year-old daughter when she begins to ask curious questions about love and marriage and grandparents. These memories help to ground kids and teach them how they fit in the world. Print your photographs – it’s important.

Your advice to budding photographers?

Do it your way and love it. Because, if you don’t love it, you are already behind the 8-ball.

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