Photographing weddings is not something that I will typically agree to do. Indeed, I've shot a handful of weddings over the years, but every time I finished, I promised myself it would be the last time (this doesn't really count). However, when The New York Times calls, photographing a wedding is something that I will agree to do. Funny that.
This was the case a few weeks ago, when the photo editor of The New York Times' Style section contacted me about shooting the nuptials of Lauren Widel and Henry Rohlich for the Vows column of the newspaper. The photo editor wanted "reportage-style images of the wedding and reception" which was taking place here in Singapore; nothing posed or contrived. Did I want the assignment? Yes.
What makes this love story and wedding special, I learned, is that Lauren suffers from epilepsy. As writer Francesca Segre explains in last Sunday's New York Times article, "if [Lauren] stopped taking her medications, she’d likely have a seizure within days. [And] about once a month, Ms. Widel, who had her first seizure at age 3, experiences severe auras brought on by fear that she’ll have a seizure. She hasn’t had a seizure in three years, but her fear of suffering one is akin to an intense panic attack. 'You have nervousness in your stomach,' she said. 'You lose your spatial ability, your left and your right.' To get through
these episodes, she sits still with her legs crossed in a lotus position or holds her knees to her chest in a fetal position and waits, sometimes for hours. She also calms down by 'singing' along to songs in American Sign Language. Being around her, Mr. Rohlich said, involves a lot of highs and lows. 'It’s hard to be with her because I want to help so bad, but there’s nothing I can do,' he said. But rather than run away, he ran toward her."
So, on April 7, Francesca and I attended Lauren and Henry's wedding ceremony here in Singapore. "Ms. Widel, wearing a sparkling red and gold Indian wedding sari, walked into the plain waiting room of the...Registry of Marriages with her fiancé and her parents. Ms. Widel kept adjusting her sari, which, she joked, 'weighed about 100 pounds.' Mr. Rohlich, now accustomed to Singaporean administrative efficiency, keyed in his passport number at the self-serve kiosk and their wedding appointment was confirmed. When the bell indicated it was their turn to wed, the couple, trailed by her parents, walked into a smaller room where an assistant registrar of marriages, Ang Toon Moh, sat behind a desk with a computer. In his clipped Singaporean English accent, Mr. Ang then led them through their legally prescribed vows. Afterward he said to the couple, 'Now you know what to do.'
"They kissed, and Sunanda Widel, the bride’s mother, cheered, 'Yes!'”