Tuesday, November 25, 2008
John Michael Cooper: Master of The Anti-Bride
John Michael Cooper isn’t your mother’s wedding photographer
Recalls Cooper, “There was this area after a fire, and a bunch of trees burned up, and I thought, ‘Man, that would be a really cool setting for a bridal image.’ So I kind of sketched out my idea for that, and I called several of the brides that I had just shot to pose for me. ‘I have this really cool idea, I’d love to photograph you, and I’ll give you whatever free prints that you want.’ And then at that point they would have to sit down in black ash, and they would get their dress dirty.
“They all refused me and turned me down flat. So I had to skip a car payment, bought a dress for myself and had a friend jump into it. The image that I shot had a real ‘gothy’ look to it. A bride sitting in ash with mascara running down her face is a little on the dark side, but that’s what I wanted at the time. That’s the image that kicked off everything. People would come up to me, and say, ‘Oh, that’s beautiful. That’s exactly what I want.’”
From there, Cooper decided to follow his own inner auteur, and success soon followed. He and his managing partner (and wife), Dalisa, are booked solid, and somewhere in there the pair finds time to fly around the world to give presentations, as well as numerous workshops, including a national tour they did last summer. Cooper also has been a main source of inspiration for a phenomenon called Trash The Dress, in which various photographers find interesting new ways to utterly destroy the iconic wedding gown after it has been used for the ceremony.
Many would expect Cooper’s peculiar tastes to attract a fairly niche market. Thanks to the Internet, though, Cooper and Co. have found that as unique as their tastes are, there’s a market for it. Word of mouth from clients and venues brings a lot of business, which is reinforced by a blog and a frequent presence at bridal shows and fairs. Most of the business comes directly from the web, however, and it comes from throughout the country.
“Brides don’t dream in wedding albums, they dream in magazines with people dressed up and photographs by a fashion photographer, not a wedding photographer,” says Cooper. “I was at a bridal show once, and a bride and her mother were walking down the aisle. The bride was looking at another photographer’s work, and the mother sees the ‘Bride on Fire’ image, looks at it, then looks at me, and says, ‘That is horrible. That is disgusting. How could you shoot something like that?’ She walks out of my booth, grabs her daughter, pulls her daughter from the other booth into my booth, and says, ‘Look at this. Isn’t that disgusting?’ And the only thing the daughter says is, ‘Wow!’ I ended up booking that wedding. The mother ended up loving me later.”
Traditional imagery slowly is being replaced by new and exciting themes from photographers who are able to harness the power of digital. No photographer better represents these ideals than John Michael Cooper, who has introduced his own edgy style to the stuffily romantic legacy of wedding photography, a venture that has made him one of the most successful bridal photographers in the world. Cooper’s work may not be for everyone, but thanks to his keen talents and the potential of the Internet, he has become a celebrity in a new revolution of modern photographers.
To see more of John Michael Cooper’s photography, visit www.altf.com.
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