Weddings are filled with myriad photo opportunities. With the flowing libations and the many disposable cameras, those opportunities can turn into something far less than memorable if the camera is in the wrong hands. It takes a true artist to turn fleeting images into indelible ones that can last the test of time. Photographer Bill McCullough captures those moments that cannot be recreated or replaced. They reveal honestly and sublimely the mood of the setting and the emotion of the subjects. They are those impermeable images that can shape our memories and shed a captivating light upon the subject. It is through these moments that McCullough tells the story of the wedding.
McCullough grew up in Houston and central Texas here in the US. As an adult, he moved to Austin where he currently resides. His interest in photography was initially sparked by a made-for-television show, "James at 16," starring a high school student photographer. It was a combination of the mystery of the darkroom and the girls that the star attracted that made McCullough take notice. His first camera was a Fujica, which he used for many years. While working at a small software company, McCullough sharpened his photography skills on the side. Not until five years ago, when the company was sold, did McCullough decide to turn his passion into a full-time career. From then on, he not only quickly booked up his weekends, but he fast became one of the top award winners in the WPJA photography contests.
Though McCullough shuns from the title "wedding photographer," his passion for photographing weddings is effusive. He describes his experience as:
"The clock is ticking and there's a finite amount of time with an infinite number of movements and it's my job to decide what will be interesting. I feel an adrenalin rush. And I have one chance to get it."
It is at this event, in which so much action takes place simultaneously, that McCullough hones in on the image that will captivate and intrigue his viewers. Over and over, he repeats this, spontaneously responding to the action around him. The result: his pictures have an authenticity and honesty that holds the viewer's attention and imagination.
As McCullough prefers the simple title, "photographer," he also defines a great wedding photograph as one that is simply a "great photograph." By adding the adjective "wedding" to it, the picture can be restricted by traditional aesthetic guidelines that are not applied to the medium in general. McCullough desires that his work is enjoyed by people who have no emotional attachment to the wedding. It is a great compliment to him for people to value his pictures based on their aesthetic quality as opposed to the viewers' sentimental attachment to them.
McCullough describes his preference to drop the word 'wedding' as coming from the many images that are conjured up by the word. Traditionally, wedding photography relied heavily on posing the subjects in often cliché positions. The result was that all of the pictures looked the same. Conversely, McCullough relies on nothing other than his impeccable vision and strong artistic instinct. It works to his advantage that he thrives on the constant swirl of motion and action that characteristically fills a wedding. This level of energy comes across in his work.
Yet what truly demonstrates McCullough's craftsmanship is his ability to maintain the balance between spontaneity and order. A crowd of partygoers, each doing his/her own thing, looks so perfect as to be at once planned and accidental. Each individual's expression from the background to the fore is enigmatic, telling its own story. Not surprisingly, the viewer is engaged by all of the subjects. The picture, like all of McCullough's work, leaves an imprint upon the imagination.
McCullough admits that with the exception of those pictures that the bride and groom have requested beforehand, his work is completely spontaneous. He describes his style as a combination of raw and clean, with the former coming from composition and the later from technique. He confesses, "I am obsessed with technique but I don't want images to look too slick or commercial." It is his aversion to commercialized results that help to produce such honesty in his work.
In keeping with his high regard for truth and truthfulness, McCullough does not do any post-manipulation to his pictures. Though he most definitely embraces technology, McCullough has been using a digital camera ever since the digital revolution. It is his natural disposition to look towards the future as opposed to the past. While the convenience of digital cameras appeals to him, he is not entirely dependent on the technology. He says that if the technology disappeared tomorrow, the quality of his work would not be affected.
While he cites such impresarios as WeeGee, Martin Parr, and Larry Fink as his influences, McCullough's work has also been greatly inspired by jazz greats, such as Miles Davis, and most profoundly by his wife, Meredith Miller. A well-regarded artist in her own right, Meredith assists McCullough on assignments.
In response to what work is he most proud of, McCullough responds, "My next one," a sentiment that aptly summarizes the forward moving direction of this photographer.
— by Lauren Ragland for The Wedding Photojournalist Association