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Andrew Liddle
Features Writer
7:55 AM 7th October 2020

Big Day Reality Captured In Scarborough

Scarborough-based York Place Studios specialise in wedding photography and have just gained high recognition for their outstanding work. Founded in 2006 by siblings, Liam and Dominique Shaw - joined in 2012 by brother Alex and Dominique’s husband Matt - the firm has grown from a local seaside studio to one with an international reputation.

‘We are incredibly proud that two of our street-inspired wedding photographs were finalists in the recent London Street Photography Festival,’ Dom tells me. ‘It’s one of the most prestigious competitions of its kind and we are delighted to have reached the final stages amongst some fierce competition from some outstanding street photographers.’

They are pioneers of the new concept of street-style wedding documentary capturing the reality of the happy day ‘free of the bounds of genre or stereotype,’ as Dominique puts it. ‘In its simplest form we aim to capture authentic wedding imagery against a backdrop of reality without posing or directly controlling the scene in front of us.’

A cursory look at pretty much any wedding photographer’s website is likely these days to unearth reference to specialisation in ‘documentary’ or ‘reportage’ weddings. For the uninitiated, this means the photographer will be shooting a fair share of unposed images. These days, of course, even the most traditional portrait-orientated photographers find themselves taking a certain number of candid photographs.

But to be considered a true documentary wedding photographer, clearly among the best in the world, the desire to capture reality has to amount to a true passion for visual communication. At the highest level it is clearly not just a matter of taking reactive shots of an unfolding situation. It is something of a conceptual artform, requiring great technical and compositional skills. ‘For the true documentary wedding photographer,’ Dominique says,‘ it’s the thrill of capturing a real moment purely through great timing and skilful composition and without any form of interruption to the scene in front of you that provides the excitement and genuine authenticity.’

The sincerity of her passion shines through as she explains the mission they have been on since the beginning to escape the old photograph album clichés. ‘We wanted to bring colour and depth and a raw feeling to our imagery and create our own style without posing the subjects or scene.’

So how is this achieved? She smiles thoughtfully. ‘We examine the subtle and unusual relationship between the photographer and the unposed subject and we seek to inject personality into every frame and capture life, colour and character through candid composition.’ She also goes on to explain the technical aspect and acknowledge indebtedness to the tools of their trade.

2020 has been, notwithstanding the effects of Covid, a particularly good year for York Studios. ‘We were absolutely honoured to have been asked by Fujifilm to represent them as official FUJIFILM X-Photographers for 2020.’ The Fujifilm’s X-series have been their cameras of choice for many years. ‘It was with the release of the X-Pro2 that we realised there was no longer any need to distinguish between the cameras we used for professional work and those we loved to shoot with on the street.’ This, apparently, was the ‘game-changer’ that enabled them to create one unified style for all their work, a style that particularly appealed to the judges of the London Street Photography Festival.

It is a frank and uninhibited style that has led them to receive many international commissions and be invited to speak at all kinds of wedding conferences and workshops in Britain and around the world, including recently in Bali, Mexico, Barcelona, Warsaw and Berlin.

Covid-permitting, they are due to speak in Dublin, in March, alongside legendary Magnum photographer Alex Webb at Doc Day the documentary wedding makers’ international conference. A list of their talks - https://www.yorkplacestudios.co.uk/talks-events/ - makes interesting reading and gives an idea of their standing in the profession.

They also travel the world shooting street photography, much of which is commissioned but some is available for sale at their online gallery: https://www.yorkplacestudios.co.uk/street-photography/

‘It's incredibly humbling and flattering to see our work widely shared and recognised internationally,’ says Dom modestly, ‘and we want to carry on making people really happy with pictures that exceed not only their expectations but their imaginations - that's all that really matters.’

What must be even more humbling is the recognition that what they shoot today will still be on display in people’s houses decades into the future – still bringing happy memories.