So, one of the things that I’ve found most striking in my work as a photographer, and not just a wedding photographer, but as a photojournalist especially, is that we are all so much more alike than we are different. This work has taken me all over the country and around the world from Rhode Island to Rwanda, and lots of other places in between. And here’s the thing. Everyone wants to be loved, to really be seen and heard, to be cared for and found attractive, to be accepted and understood. This is universal, and it especially seems to be true at weddings.
Now it’s true that this wedding was different than other events, and I want to make very clear that while this wedding definitely had a theme and the styling was amazing… These are not costumes. Lady Zombie and Ali Fangsmith are at the heart of the goth community in New York City, and these are their people. This is their community, with all the love and friendship and kinship ties you find anywhere.
It is also true that I definitely said things at this wedding that I’ve never said before, like, “Okay, guys, now I want you to press your heads together and look into each other’s eyes”- which I say a lot actually- “But try not to get the jewelry on your foreheads tangled.” That was new. Or, “Okay, everyone, make sure before we started on the group portraits, everyone take a moment to make sure your outfits are just how you want them (usually I mean, straighten your ties), but at this wedding, I was saying, “Make sure your staff with the skull on it is turned toward me for the photo.” (That was a new one.) I always check to make sure no one has lipstick on their teeth, but usually I don’t say, “Everyone good? No lipstick on your fangs? Okay, here we go! Look this way.” I usually ask wedding parties to smile, but at this one, I said, “Okay, everyone, smile or project an attitude befitting the style of this wedding party.”
But make no mistake. Fierce does not mean unkind. Being badass and being a welcoming host and hostess who want your nearest and dearest to enjoy good food and drink, dance and be happy are not mutually exclusive. The music may have been by Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, but that didn’t stop Ali’s grandmother from rocking out on the dance floor in her wheelchair to resounding cheers.
There was hardly a dry eye in the room when Ali danced with his mom, because when a son gently holds his mother’s face in his hands and kisses her cheek at the end of their mother-son dance, the fact that he has spikes on his boots and tattoos and skull jewelry is the last thing that matters. Offbeat versus traditional, people are people.
Now, the groom, Ali, does not just pose for photos. He smolders. He regularly bears his fangs and rolls his eyes back into his head when a camera is pointed his way. I knew this from being his Facebook friend for the last year, and, actually, I loved that he felt he could be himself with me during his portraits, even though we were finishing in a flurry right before the ceremony. Every single person in the wedding party looked so amazing that I did a few quick portraits of everyone individually. Too much time and energy went into these outfits, hair and makeup that it couldn’t go undocumented.
So we were hurrying and stressing just a little- like every wedding- and Ali broke character for a moment, right after he leaned in and beared his teeth for the black and white closeup below. He leaned back, winked at me and grinned this smile so bright that it was like the sun coming out. He did that to make me comfortable, to make sure this very vanilla (okay, I’m vanilla with rainbow sprinkles) person who’s not at all a part of the goth scene personally felt safe. It was nice.
Just because you don’t want to wear a floofy white dress and your mother’s veil and your grandmother’s jewelry does not mean you do not care deeply about the way you look on your wedding day, or that your accessories don’t have meaning. Everything LZ is wearing was carefully chosen, from her fur-lined chemise to her Harley Davidson motorcycle boots (with purple laces, her accent color.) I was so pleased to be invited to be a part of Lady Zombie and Ali Fangsmith’s wedding planning Facebook group this past year. I happen to know that many of the skulls you see in the jewelry pictured here were hand-shellacked by the bride and her bridesmaids. Her elaborate and impeccable hair and makeup were, like most brides, done herself and/or styled by her bridesmaids, with love.
Yeah, your bridesmaid may have a complex web of jewelry connecting her ear and nose, a shock of bright red hair and a bodacious bone corset, but she’s STILL gonna weep during the vows. And the toasts. And the first dance. Because she’s your best friend, and she loves you more than anything. We are all so much more alike than we are different.
These newlyweds are far and away one of the most genuine, loving and tender couples I’ve ever been privileged enough to document. Their friends and family were so patient with me, so up for anything and so committed to making sure this couple felt loved and supported at their wedding, it was just awesome to be one small part of it. For that, I thank you so genuinely, from the bottom of my heart.
Shutting up now… let’s look at the pictures!