Interview with Tanya Weekes

I first came across Tanya’s photography on Facebook when I first started wedding photography back in 2013. I instantly fell in love with her work. Her images are light and airy and she really focuses on the details which I really liked. I then met Tanya when we were covering the same wedding, she was taking photos of the grooms side and me for the bride. I got to know her a little when we got a few minutes break for dinner and found Tanya to be a nice and gentle person who I knew I could get along with. I then got to know through her Facebook posts which suggested that Tanya was someone who takes her work very seriously, loves to try new things, does a variety of jobs and is a very interesting person. We now meet up regularly. It’s great having a fellow photographer to talk to and bounce ideas off and share some of the struggles with someone who can relate. Countless teas and conversations later the rest is history.

If you haven’t already, go and check out her website: www.tanyaweekes.com. Tanya travels a lot and covers some great weddings on there. There is lot to read and see.

I recently did a photoshoot for Love Malas and Tanya was kind enough to do the modelling for me. For this blog post I have decided to do an interview with her which I am sure you will find very interesting because I certainly did. Also it will include some of the images from the shoot. Tanya is not just good behind the camera, she’s a professional in front as well.

Here are the questions I asked her along with the answers:

What first sparked your interest in Photography?

Travel and family. I’m from a family that loves taking pictures, I remember my Mum

always having a camera. On family holidays I always remember being eager to print

the pictures and carefully arrange them in a photo album. I used to take it really

seriously and insist on making sure we had photographs at the airport and on the

plane as that was also part of the holiday story.

How long have you been practising your craft?

Since 2011.

How did you learn to take such great images?

Practice. Also understanding what makes a great image by studying the images you

consider great and how to focus on these elements when taking your own image.

 Describe your photography style.

Bright, fresh, clean with emotion and a lifestyle element.

What inspires you?

Everything! People, travel, a sunny day, nice food, the images I see on Instagram and

the desire to be better at capturing the interesting things I see.

Whose work have you learned from the most and how have they influenced yours?

Jasmine Star. When I discovered her work, I instantly thought, this is the type of pictures I want to take. Her pictures were always bright and breezy, they had a fresh look about them and she focuses on natural light. Her images also hint at a certain lifestyle which I love. Sue Bryce also, she is amazing at photographing women in the most flattering way.

What do you most like to take pictures of?

People, travel and everyday moments for Instagram.

What in your opinion is more important, technical knowledge or creativity?

I instantly thought creativity, but you do need to have some technical knowledge to be

able to best execute what you are thinking creatively. They both work hand in hand. I

think a bit of technical knowledge goes a long way with a lot of creativity.

What has been the most enjoyable experience for you as a photographer?

In 2015, I photographed abroad for the first time – I had an engagement photoshoot

in New York, which was amazing and even more so as it led me onto photographing a

wedding in Paris. This was great for me because it bought my passion for wedding

photography together with my passion for travel.

What would your advice be for someone starting out or has an interest in

photography?

Go for it! Start before you’re ready! Watch You Tube tutorials, join Instagram, look

at other photographers work, think about why you like the pictures that you are

drawn to – be inspired, including from the everyday things around you, pick up your

camera and start clicking.

Do you feel being a female photographer has any kind of impact on your

photography, if so how?

Definitely. Women can be very critical of themselves, which I totally get and

understand. I’m from a family of lots of women which was perfect training ground

because they were very vocal about what I needed to avoid when photographing them

– I used to take an image that I thought looked fine because I would be looking at the

great expression I’d captured, but my aunt would say it was terrible because it made

her arm look big, or that the amazing laugh I’d captured is also capturing her double

chin. Everyone wants to appear their best, so I learned to look at taking images in a

way that was the most flattering from the subject’s point of view, which translates as

the best angles, best lighting etc.

Also, as women, I think we are naturally more into details, especially when it comes

to weddings. I understand the importance of photographing the table details and the

accessories and that a lot of time and often money has been spent carefully selecting

them which may not be considered as so important to some male photographers.

What are your other interests and hobbies?

I like to travel abroad, often. I like to try new things… I have a curious mind, so I am

always up for trying new things whether it’s Ariel Pilates or Capeoira. I also like to eat, so I often eat out with friends as well as visiting art galleries and museums.

 

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Venue and Menu

The venue and the menu seem to be the two most least considered aspects of Asian weddings. I’ve always suspected that the venue of a wedding makes a huge difference to the look and feel of the photography produced. The location of the wedding venue should have enough natural light with appropriate surroundings. This was confirmed when I was recently asked to do the photography of a Pakistani wedding in Heaton Mount in Bradford (http://www.bradford.ac.uk/heaton-mount).

The Bride and Groom only invited 52 guests but for me this was just an amazing opportunity to get the shots I see in magazines and dream of shooting! I was very excited and spent the whole evening getting every detail of the venue and making sure I made the most of the light and the natural backgrounds. It was an autumn day so the trees were beautiful and we caught magic hour for the couple shoot outside in its beautiful grounds.

This Bride wisely had it all thought out. I kept complementing on her choice of venue, her cake and the decision to have a small wedding. She literally had three tables, one for her family, one for his family and one for friends. She said she wanted an elegant wedding and that is exactly what she got. The guests were relaxed and everyone seems to be having a great time. There was plenty of time to get everything done and she even left half an hour before planned which almost never happens. Asian weddings have a reputation for always running very late.

Her menu was different too and the desert was amazing with three different mini deserts to suit everyone’s taste. The guests also got served tea and coffee and they also got a slice of the wedding cake which usually gets taken home at the end of the day rather than get served to the guests. Since this was such a small wedding it was possible for everyone to enjoy some cake. I really do think this is a great way to organise a wedding.

Here are some images of the Heaton Mount:

The problem with most Asian wedding venues is that they are usually made in the same style as warehouses which have absolutely no natural light. These venues are developed to accommodate large weddings with seating for around a 1000 guests. That is their sole purpose, to cater for large weddings and maximise profit and pay zero consideration to how it might affect the photography. They miss out vital details such as:

  1. Having no windows! It’s something you would not really notice unless you are a photographer and know how to make use of natural light to create beautiful portraits. I usually compensate for this by taking shots at the house near a window and also get a few shots in when leaving the home and also entering the venue. These are usually rushed as nobody really wants to be hanging around outside all dolled up.
  2. No outdoor space such as a garden or even a courtyard, the most you can expect is a car park. This makes it very difficult to do an outdoor couple shoot.
  3. No opportunities to capture pleasing images of the outside of the venue as there is not much to look at. I usually take a few as a memento, but there is little I can do to make them look amazing.
  4. Very small Bridal rooms with no windows -which again means no natural light. I usually end up having to do the couple shoot in there and also portraits but am so limited by the space. They also have almost no room to move back to get full length shots and I know brides want to get full length as they want to show off their stunning outfits.

The best venues are usually old buildings that have been converted to accommodate wedding parties like Heaton Mount. Another great venue in Bradford is Lala Banqueting Hall (www.lalaresturant.co.uk) which is a lovely old building with huge windows and a huge bridal room with plenty of space.

The warehouse style venues also tend serve the exact same menus for all their weddings. The same starters, the same mains and the same desert, it’s like it’s been standardised. The question brides and grooms have to ask themselves is do they want a standard wedding? If so, then that’s fine. Alternatively, they could put some thought into the venue and menu and how it will impact the photos of their special day.  They should also consider doing something a little different with the meal to be served -a lot of money will be spent anyway so it won’t hurt to use a little imagination and make it memorable.

Consider not inviting Tom, Dick and Abdul and half of your street. Why not instead go for a smaller wedding with people who you actually like? It’s ok not to do what everybody else is doing and try something new and different. It’s ok not to invite the whole neighbourhood. Most people moan about how many weddings they have to attend anyway so relive them of one, I’m sure they won’t notice and even of they do, so what? After all you only get married once right?

 

Sain Zahoor

I wanted to share my other interests and photographic work that is not wedding related. When I am not photographing weddings, I love to attend artistic festivals and have been to many in recent years. I use them as an opportunity to do some photography and widen my portfolio of work. I’ve also discovered some great artists and singers by going to these events and usually go home with a CD or some artwork.

I went to inspiring event the other day which was jointly hosted by the Love & Etiquette Foundation (www.loveetiquette.com) and The Asian Arts Agency (www.asianartsagency.co.uk) in Burnley, Lancashire. The artist I went to see was Sain Zahoor, who is a traditional Sufi singer from Pakistan.   He found his calling in life as a child through recurring dreams. At first he started singing at shrines and has since devoted his life to sharing his message all over the world. His songs are compositions based of upon the poetry of famous Sufis mystic such as Rumi, Bulle-Shah and Muhammad Qadiri. His lyrics celebrate love, spirituality and remembrance of the Divine and have won many accolades including the BBC Music Award in 2006-a remarkable achievement from someone who cannot read or write.

For me his journey is an example of someone who follows their dreams-which in his case was literal! It also reminds us that “all will happen as it should,” just work hard, trust and submit to the Divine and so “what is meant to be will be.” I find his life story inspirational and only discovered the event the day before, after watching a YouTube video of him. His voice was amazing and I felt a moved to go and see him in person, as it is unlikely that I will visit Pakistan to see him perfom there. I saw this as an opportunity no to be missed.

24 hours later I was there and very much looking forward to watching him perform. For a very small man he has a presence about him, I also noticed he took of his shoes when he entered the stage as if it was sacred space. He came out wearing a beautiful blue garment and carried an Ektara lute, which was also decorated with colourful tassels, something you just would not have encountered here in the UK.

As the progamme started, his performance did not disappoint and the five musicians with their instruments were also wonderful. I particularly enjoyed the sound of the flute which was just mesmerising! There was a power in his voice and his presence. He ended his performance with a prayer, confirming how he sees his work as a form of worship and not just entertainment. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and got some photos of him with his team performing and a few backstage.

Walim/ Valim/ Olima

I’ve covered a few walimas (depending on how you pronounce it!) during the busy August wedding rush. One of the main differences between the wedding and the walima is that the bride and groom are more relaxed. This works in my favour as it means I am going to get better couple shoot images. Brides are usually more tense during the wedding and rightly so as they will be leaving their home and family to join a new husband. In this situation the couple shoot can be difficult to do as she is so nervous and so I try my best to prepare her before hand by emphasising the importance of the couple shoot. I also try to make them laugh during the shoot to help them relax but sometimes it’s just too much. It can also be difficult during the wedding day to get five minutes alone with the bride and Groom as a couple shoot is not usually scheduled in. I have covered weddings and not been able to do a couple shoot which is such a shame and in those cases, I advise the couple to hire a professional photographer after the wedding to do the shoot in a nice location such as a park. However it’s a lot easier in walimas as the bride and groom are in the same location together so we can usually carry out a couple shoot in the privacy of the home and get it out of the way. If we have a chance to do another one in the venue then it’s a bonus!

Here are some images from a walima I covered recently.

Walima11 Wakim12

 

 

 

 

 

Walima10 Walima3

 

 

 

Walima4 Walima1

 

How Grooms Do It

When I do weddings, I sometimes get asked to do the photography from the Grooms side and I find the change enjoyable. Often the bond between the mother and the groom is expressed so beautifully during the day and this wedding was no different. The family were very nice and the Groom was amazing. His mum and dad were by his side the whole time and they were just lovely. It was nice to be part of it.

Grooms do things a little differently from brides and here I list five:

  1. The Groom is always calm when I arrive and they are usually the ones who open the door. Sometimes I find it difficult to tell which one of the men in the house is the groom as they all seem to be hanging out having a cup of tea or chatting away. I usually just ask and get to the bottom of it.
  2. His usually in his pajamas.
  3. Grooms take five minutes to get ready. They will start getting ready two minutes before we are scheduled to leave for the venue.
  4. He’ll never say “Do I look OK?” He knows he looks good so why bother asking? Grooms are so much for sure and confident about themselves even though they have zero makeup!
  5. He enjoys every minute. Grooms usually laugh through the whole event and just go with the flow. Not a tear in sight!

Some details from this wedding:

Groom1

 

 

 

Groom2

 

 

Groom3

 

Wedding Season 2015

Wedding season kick off with an amazing Iraqi wedding. I mostly do Asian weddings so this was a rare treat for me.   I love the big white dresses and capturing all the details. Unfortunately I am not able to show the bride due to religious reasons but here are some little snippets to give you an idea.

Rq shoes   Refqa shoes

cropped-perfume.jpg   flower

Lipstick

Looking Back

Having worked in the industry for the past three years, I wanted to take a look at some of the weddings I had covered. Even though I have learnt a lot more and increased my experience –I feel very happy with the images and would not change a thing. I have worked very hard from day one with my work and continue to do so in every project I undertake. I take it very seriously as it’s a big day in a persons life and you simply cannot get it wrong.

 

Here are some images from my work in the past.

IMG_5491  IMG_5489

IMG_5487

IMG_5485  IMG_5484  IMG_5483

IMG_5482  IMG_5481

IMG_5480  IMG_5479

IMG_5478  IMG_5098