By Claudie Benjamin

In these times when turbulence sees no limits, the joy and hope that comes with weddings is hugely encouraging. And, more than ever, chronicling these celebrations is meaningful, not only for family and friends but as a reminder for future generations that yes, happiness is possible: couples can support each other in being both strong and positive as they take on life’s challenges.

Capturing these moments of heightened celebrations of love in a very grand and glamorous way is photographer Josh Wong’s special niche. Originally from San Francisco, he’s lived and worked at 233 West 99th Street since 2007.

The way he approaches photography, merging high fashion drama with traditional photographic storytelling, is a process not unlike choreographing a dance. People who see the images of the brides, grooms, bridal parties, and wedding guests he’s photographed often comment, “You look like models, or you should be models,” Josh said.

All this does not happen by chance. Josh is an astute observer with training in portraiture. He has an instinct for getting to know his subjects, helping them relax, and trusting his judgment as he guides them through what he calls “the tips and tricks” that ensure the effects he captures in exceptional photographs. “Tips and tricks?” Like what? Josh explained this involves coaching the bridal couples in body movement. Far from traditional photos where couples stand and smile stiffly, Josh has come over the years to know just what to suggest to bring out the best, most emotionally true, in each subject. He’s worked with top Victoria’s Secret models in fashion and with celebrities, including Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez. His guidance on the wedding scene is similar to the instruction he gives to young novice models. The final photograph may look like the person is standing straight when, in fact, they were posed with their hips and legs placed specifically in a certain way to achieve this effect.

Many, if not most, of the multitude of weddings Josh has shot have been held in far-off extraordinary destinations. His favorites are hard to limit—they include Italy, Hawaii, Turks & Caicos, Mexico…He says prospective clients often ask if he’s shot weddings at their chosen location with the idea that his experience with a place will produce the best photographs. In actuality, Josh feels his first experience of a location is the most thrilling and inspiring.

Many of Josh’s memorable bridal photographs are well-orchestrated and even rehearsed. In one, a bride is captured from above as she descends a grand stairway. In another, the bride’s lengthy veil floats behind her against the stark simplicity of a gray wall at the Queen’s Museum. Others have come about by a spontaneous response to resolving a potential problem. Asked, for example, why quite a few couples he’s photographed are holding an umbrella or umbrellas, Josh answers simply, “Rain.” In greater detail, he provides the backstory behind a wedding for a NYC couple held at Hotel Schloss Leonstain, a castle in Vienna, Austria. It was a place where famed German composer Johannes Brahms is known to have stayed. But despite the location’s history, romance, and beauty, the rain was incessant. “We were deluged,” Josh said. But rather than staying stuck inside, Josh suggested bringing out umbrellas. Josh recalled that the wedding couple’s photo in the rain under an umbrella that caught surrounding reflected lights was the most admired photo of that wedding. “Weddings don’t always have perfect weather, but I can always use inclement weather to create what I call ‘EPIC photos.’

Josh’s description on his website of the multi-day activities describing the event gives a sense of his ability to tell a story both in images and words:

“The couple ended their 3-day celebration with a breakfast brunch the following day. The rain had subsided to an overcast, but after brunch, we drove to Dobratsch mountain, which is a 2,167 summit with one of the best views of the Carinthian countryside. The top of the mountains were still snow-covered from the previous winter. Despite the cold and windy conditions of the mountain, Johanna braved the frigid temperature. She wore her strapless Vera Wang wedding gown again, which allowed us to capture some really spectacular day-after photos. Thank you, Johanna and Gerwin, for the wonderful memories and for sharing your wedding with us! Congratulations!” 

Deciding where and when photographs will be taken usually happens at an engagement session where Josh gets to know a couple, their lifestyle, and their preferences regarding photos. Some want photos of where they met and where the proposal happened, or many opt for a beautiful spot in Central Park. At the wedding, Josh does not take traditional photos, predictably posing bridesmaids to one side and grooms to the other, with bride and groom in the center. He mixes it up, telling a story that’s always beautiful, glamorous, and romantic in a way that a couple can’t always believe it’s actually them.

Photo credit for wedding photos:  Josh Wong

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