COVER STORYTEXT BY ALICE B. MILLER • IMAGES BY MICHAEL SKERRY
An exquisite Harvard University business major and pianist
drapes herself atop a Steinway at the prestigious Harvard Club,
looking more like a diva than a bride.
An exuberant groom sweeps his bride off her feet as they run to clear the helicopter that just transported them to their wedding reception.
Scenes like these are the trademark of Derby Studios' Michael Skerry, the Salem, Massachusetts-based wedding photographer.
Every Picture Tells a Story
Behind each of his story-telling images is a delightful mixture of enthusiasm, an eye for the unusual, willingness to please the bride and groom, and careful preplanning.
The captivating windblown image showcased on this month's cover is classic Skerry. For this wedding reception, held at the Ipswich Yacht Club in Massachusetts, the bride was determined to have a picture taken on the pier, despite the blustery winds.
"She couldn't even keep her veil on," Skerry recalls. "But I set up my Hasselblad and just let her have fun, let it happen. That's when you get the best pictures."
That helicopter shot, one of Skerry's favorites, was most serendipitous. "The groom's residence was a mansion. After the wedding ceremony, held at an historic local cemetery, the couple asked me to join them in their helicopter for the trip to the mansion reception. I'd never been in a chopper before, but I hopped on, my Canon EOS-Iv and 28-70mm at the ready. As we got out, the groom suddenly carried his bride away from the whirring blades. I turned and grabbed that shot, one of the couple's favorites."
Skerry took the timeless b&w "Fred and Ginger" portrait with his Canon EOS-1v and 17-35mm lens in natural light. Lost in their dance,the couple saw noone.
"Walking around right after the ceremony, I happened to find the newlyweds practicing for their first dance as Mr. and Mrs. They didn't miss a beat as I snapped this intimate portrait of them."
The 40-something Skerry has seen the world through a camera lens since the 1970s.
Explains Skerry, "My older brother's Vietnam buddy brought him a camera, a 35mm Ricoh rangefinder, but he never touched it. I picked it up instead and took a course with my cousin, started taking pictures for my junior high school yearbook, and my parents built me a darkroom. By high school, I was photo editor of the yearbook and wanted some lenses to vary my pictures. So at 16, I went to the mayor and told him I needed money so I could buy lenses. Believe it or not, he made me a city employee and let me ride around on the fire truck taking pictures of the town. I earned the money I needed."
Later, majoring in photography at the Art Institute of Boston, he worked weekends at a local studio, William Childs, that specialized in weddings. (To this day, the local studio owner is a regular visitor at Skerry's studio.) After graduation, Skerry became staff photographer at General Electric. During his 10 years there he met his wife, Louise, who worked at GE as a freelance photographer. In the 1980s, when the stock market nosedived, Mike and Louise were "downsized."
They married and opened a wedding, portrait, and family photo studio on Derby Street. Soon Derby Studios had more work than they could comfortably schedule. Recalls Skerry, "More and more, we were becoming known as wedding photographers. And rather than be torn in a number of directions, we decided to specialize in wedding photography. "
That was one wise business decision. As was their decision a decade later to post their images on their website, www.derbystudios.com.
"We have a great number of out-of-state brides and grooms who come to Salem for the ambience of a New England wedding. They visit our website or see our ad in Boston magazine, Elegant Bride, or Best of Boston. "If they like our work, they call the studio, we share ideas and discuss our prices. We meet them for the first time if they decide to check out the location and stop by to visit us at the studio. We present a seven-minute slide show of our photojournalism and illustrative shots, give them an information kit, and try to answer all their questions. If everybody's comfortable, we have a new client."