FROM the bride who said I don’t to the feuding families who had to be coerced to pose for a picture together, professional photographer George Skipper has seen some colourful weddings in his time.
But the 61-year-old, who has a studio at Greenwell Lane in Alnwick, has finally decided to bring down the veil after 37 years of capturing matrimonial memories on camera.
George, who took his first wedding commission in 1975, says his affair with marriages is now officially over and instead he wants to focus on the portraits and picture-framing side of his business.
There will be just one more happy couple to contend with, however – his daughter, Rachael, who is tying the knot in July this year.
“That will be the last wedding I do,” said George, whose archive of negatives contains every wedding, now running into the thousands, that he has covered since setting out in business almost four decades ago. “I wouldn’t miss taking my daughter’s pictures, but that will mark the end of an era for me. At 61, I feel that I’ve done this for long enough.
“As a proportion of my work, covering weddings has declined over the years because more and more people are choosing to do it themselves with the advent of high-quality digital cameras. The prints and wedding albums were really where I made the money, but most people now just have their pictures on the computer.
“It’s definitely a younger man’s job and I’m a bit of a dinosaur, to be honest. Rather than go extinct, I thought I might as well just retire from doing wedding photos.”
George’s first wedding commission was in May 1975, when he took the photos for Ian and Elizabeth Grant’s marriage.
Mr Grant, of Eglingham, said: “George has always been very steady and professional and I have known him since childhood. My father used to farm at Embleton and I used to play with George as a kid. He’s a good egg and he never seems to age.”
One thing George says he won’t miss is weathering the Northumbrian climate.
“The biggest thing to contend with for wedding pictures is the weather,” he said. “You wake up on a Saturday morning and you’re at the complete mercy of the elements. Then you have to make the absolute best of it, despite the horizontal rain and gale-force winds.
“One memorable wedding was when we had a lot of snow and the bride turned up at the church in a JCB, because they had to dig their way out of the farm she lived at.”
And that’s not the only situation he’s been faced with during his time.
“I remember the wedding where I took a single photograph,” said George. “It was of the groom and best man outside the register office. In they went, but during the service the bride changed her mind and said no, I don’t. And that was it.
“I’ve also had families who have come together for a wedding who just don’t get on.
“One I did was like two warring factions and it was a challenge to get them to pose together. As soon as the picture was taken, they sprung apart again.”
And there has been the odd mishap.
“I was doing a big group shot once and so I gathered all of the folks there together,” he said. “When the couple got the photos back, they asked who the people were at the edge of the shot. I honestly didn’t know. I thought they were part of the wedding group, but clearly they weren’t.”
Digital technology did come in useful, however.
George said: “At one family wedding, it turned out that the father – who was divorced from the bride’s mother – had brought his new girlfriend along and sneaked her into the picture. I was actually asked to digitally remove her from the shot!”
George offers some useful advice for anyone contemplating a career in wedding photography.
“Beware the bride who gives you a list,” he said. “You will end up wandering round wondering who Uncle Fred is, because you need to get a picture of him but you don’t know what he looks like, and then everyone you’re trying to track down ends up in the bar. It can be very tricky.”
George added: “Every wedding has a different feel to it and I have enjoyed my time covering them. They’re a snapshot of human life.
“Now it’s just time to refocus my lens on a different subject.”