by Sandra

One nice thing about having creative interests is the chance to use them to bless my friends. Recently, my former coworker Antoinette asked if I could take some photos of she and her fiance, Mike. They’re getting married in October, and even though they’ve been engaged for around a year now, they never had proper engagement photos taken.

Until now, that is.

Antoinette and I met at USC and while we didn’t work together for very long, we became friends and stayed in touch thanks largely to the power of Google’s email-based chat function. She did an amazing job making around 200 chocolates for a bake sale that Michelle and I did last winter as a fundraiser for our (or at least my) aborted half-marathon. These photos were a good way for me to repay Antoinette for all the hard work she put into those amazing sweets.

I think all three of us were nervous before we got started. I had never done posed, portrait-type photography and needed to hit up a friend to borrow some better, more versatile lenses. Antoinette fretted because, according to her, every photo of her ever taken featured her with a face that looked as if she was smelling something unpleasant. Mike? Well, Mike was probably the old pro, and he carried on throughout the day, unfazed.

As the day went on, all fears were assuaged. It was fun and surprisingly easy to capture their vibrant personalities on camera. I like Antoinette partly because of her sense of humor, the fact that she’s normally got a smile on her face and that a laugh comes easily to her. She and Mike are both a lot of fun, and that made them easier to photograph.

It helped, too, that they were, in essence, getting to play-act. Our photo shoot was a production, with about five locations and almost as many costume changes. As we roamed through Alhambra and downtown Los Angeles, we all relaxed and started to have a good time. Antoinette, as you can see, does not look like she’s smelling anything remotely unpleasant.

Mike works at the music center downtown, and because of that we had access to various parts of the building that aren’t typically open to the public, like this beautiful, chinoise-covered powder room at the founder’s hall of the opera center. Or this, the opera hall itself, which we found unlocked and unattended …

Where we got, quite possibly, my favorite photo of the whole day, when I ordered them to run down the aisles. Don’t you think Mike looks a little like James Bond here? Or pre-Superman Clark Kent? I can see it, totally.

As if Mike and Antoinette were not enough, old roommate Michelle recently asked if I’d take some photo of she and her husband Chris to commemorate their one-year anniversary. While we were only going to use one location with no costume changes, she still had a whole theme and look in mind, a jumping off point, if you will. Weeks beforehand I got emails from her with photographic inspiration—a poster for the movie, An Education, and several other visual touchstones. Again, I was a bit daunted by my ability to deliver on such a fully-realized aesthetic, but march over to Carlson Park we did, armed with a vintage tea set, a picnic basket, and a one-year anniversary cake.

Michelle was partly inspired by the Diana photos I posted previously, and their dreamy, old-school look. We shot a couple of rolls of 120 film, a photographic gamble that resulted in a lecture from the old Chinese guy who develops my film about how professionals hold their cameras versus the amateurs. Yeah, so you can guess they didn’t all come out so well, but this one did, I think very well, and it captures the essence of what we were going for that day.

But what these images capture, I hope anyway, is how in love everybody is, which is what’s truly being commemorated, right? It’s not really a chronicle of being engaged—who wants to document the crazed months of wedding planning?—or a couple’s first year, but rather the bond two people take on when they agree to a proposal of marriage or “I do” at the altar.

Whatever the point, both shoots provided fun and often challenging learning experiences, and a few more lovely pieces for my portfolio. I really grew to love the experience of bossing my friends around, and I would do it again, gladly.