The Quirky Wedding Photography of Joanna Millington: Behind the Lens
04 Apr 2015
Emma-Lily Pendleton goes behind the lens of the Norfolk-based photographer
She has over four years as a wedding photographer under her belt and Norfolk-based mother-of-two, Joanna Millington, can celebrate where many can’t – she’s created imagery that’s true to herself and capturing the heartfelt, fleeting moments of couples’ days that might otherwise be forgotten.
So it comes as no surprise that year-on-year she’s attracting her ideal clients, and they’re finding their ideal photographer in her. Her photography isn’t typical, but it does represent a growing fashion in wedding photography – it is fashion-forward, and what you would picture as the choice of creative creatures and East London hipsters. The UK industry is following the US trend.
As brides and grooms look for more laid-back, DIY-style weddings, they are seeking photographers who ‘get’ their look. Joanne’s easy-going nature and artistic flair sees her drawn to certain couples, and them to her. Everything from bright-coloured trousers to a beard can draw her eye, with her pictures depicting as many details and guests as they do of the happy couple. We sought to find out more.
ELP: How would you describe your style of photography?
JM: That is a difficult one to answer as I genuinely don’t feel that I have a style. Others have told me that they can recognise my images, which I think is always my favourite compliment. But I genuinely just shoot – I don’t know any other way to look at things, so I guess my style is ‘natural’. I do like to shoot close and unobserved and I’m drawn to certain people. I am sometimes concerned that I don’t always capture the most flattering of expressions, as I seem to gravitate towards the most animated or interesting situations. But people seem to like it, and I don’t think I could do my thing any other way. All I strive for, and the best I can hope to get, is the life and soul of the day.
ELP: How did you start out in wedding photography?
JM: I did do a small handful of unpaid weddings, to find out whether it was something a) I could do, and b) I actually wanted to do. I studied film photography during the late 80s, but it had been nothing more than a hobby. I honestly never considered it would be something I would turn into a career. When I became pregnant with my first child I was working at Top of the Pops magazine and would sometimes be involved in the shoots there. As much as I loved watching how they worked, I felt then that I preferred documenting events and that my photography style was much more suited to this. I took eight years off to be a full-time mum to our two children and it was during this time that my photography obsession really kicked in. I bought my first DSLR (a Canon 450D) and enrolled with the online Photography Institute course to get a better grip with digital. It was during this time that I attended a wedding and took an interest in how the photographer was working.
I started browsing wedding photographers’ sites and, to be honest, almost turned away from the idea until I stumbled upon a few American websites – I was totally blown away by a whole different world of more relaxed and natural wedding photography.
ELP: Who are your ideal clients?
JM: Right from the offset I knew exactly the kind of client I wanted to attract. It wasn’t anything about them being ‘cool’ or ‘contemporary’… I just knew I wanted individuals, people who weren’t doing anything by the book, couples who were fun and easy, that wanted a day all about family, friends and each other, and not perfection wrapped up in a big white bow! Not that I was excluding the big white wedding, mind you. I just knew that I had to like them and they had to like me in order for us to work together, and the likelihood was the more I enjoyed their wedding, the better the pictures would be. In the beginning it was hard to judge who these people were, and vice versa. Sadly, not every match was made in heaven. But I can truly say that three years down the line, one of the things I feel proudest to say is that I stayed true to myself and stuck to my guns and I adore the clients I now attract.
ELP: Can you choose a picture that encapsulates everything you want to achieve in a wedding photograph?
JM: This (above) is exactly the kind of image that always makes me smile, when I catch one, and sums up the heart of a wedding day. A room full of good people, there was a heck-of-a-lot of love at this wedding. Everyone had just being crying at a particular speech, myself included (you can see the bride in her Chinese head piece in the background) and then the speaker had just dropped a joke. The room burst and I caught the one face that stood out and said it all. These are the moments I love.
ELP: I think a lot of your personality is represented in your pictures… what’s your inspiration?
JM: I like to draw attention to whatever it is that’s caught my eye (which isn’t always the entire room, or even peoples faces). The eye is always drawn to a face, so if I want to draw attention to something else in the photo, whatever it is that drew me to the scene – be it someone’s hands, or the way two people are standing too close to each other, or an awesome pair of trousers – I lop off their heads (metaphorically). I’m ensuring you’ll see what I see. I guess my view is my inspiration.
ELP: Couples interested should book you in advance, but do people stand a chance of getting your last minute?
JM: I get many last-minute bookings and sometimes these tend to be the best. Maybe because they’re laid back and spontaneous – my kind of people!
ELP: On your website you’ve said that you’re fascinated by Vogue and have had a shelf built for all of your copies. Why Vogue? How has it influenced your photography?
JM: As the daughter of factory workers, growing up in a small farming village in the heart of Norfolk during the 70s, I had very limited access to any culture or arts – other than music and sci-fi TV shows that were a constant in our home. So when I stumbled across my first copy of Vogue in 1984 (which was still under Anna Wintour), I couldn’t get enough. Even though I was a big reader, I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever read a single article in Vogue. It’s always been about the images: Herb Ritts, Bruce Weber, Juergen Teller, Nick Knight, Tim Walker and the incredible Paolo Roversi. Although they may not necessarily have influenced my style, it was my first taste of how beautiful and artistic photography could be. I’ll never forget the Corinne Day Summer of Love shoot for ID. I couldn’t stop looking at those pictures. I think that was the first time I felt a connection with photography and probably what influenced me to study it. My early introduction to photography was most definitely through magazines. I have since developed an unhealthy obsession with photography books and more documentary based photographers such as Saul Leiter or Nan Goldin, but just as you never forget your first love… Vogue will always be a part of my life.
ELP: In terms of trends, what do you think is the most interesting at the moment?
JM: I don’t really pay much attention to trends. I think one of the wonderful things about wedding photography these days is that people are finding their own styles. There are so many incredibly talented photographers out there shooting things their own way and setting their own ‘trends’. Couples getting married are incredibly lucky – they’re tailoring their wedding day to suit their personalities and are able to pick a photographer who suits their tastes as well.
ELP: Finally, if you weren’t a wedding photographer, what would you be?
JM: Well I can’t imagine being anything other than a photographer now. It is a dream job and not a dream I’m ever willing to give up on.
THE PHOTOGRAPHER, JOANNA MILLINGTON: