It made for photographic poetry. The painter bride and violinist
groom, dressed in old-fashioned costumes, looked as though they
stepped out of a 1940s portrait.
Elizabeth Messina had just returned to her Los Angeles studio from the New Mexican desert, where she photographed her 87-year-old grandfather's wedding over the weekend.
Three years earlier, Messina recalls, she experienced an epiphany in that same desert wind. It came as she photographed her grandmother holding her own wedding photograph in front of her southwest home.
"That is when I discovered the importance of capturing weddings. I'm her granddaughter and that's how I remember her. As a bride. It's such a wonderful ritual. It took me from 'I'm leaning away from weddings' to 'weddings are incredible,' " said Messina.
Subsequent life events further reinforced her photo passion. The first: her Vermont home burned to the ground at three in the morning. While she got out safely, Messina stood outside and shot the fire as it destroyed everything she owned, including every photograph. The fire somehow redirected her vision.
"I wanted to pursue my dreams before there was another fire in the middle of the night. That's why I photograph weddings," recalled Messina.
Shortly thereafter, neighbors held an art auction to raise money for her; one donated a plane ticket to India. Since that time, she has photographed weddings the same way she did in India, which she describes this way: "It's the little moments that happen all the time. If you slow down and watch, you can capture them.
"I approach weddings as a fine artist or a photojournalist," she continued, adding that while she loves candids, posed photographs play an important role, serving as a memory for the family.
Another event to inspire Messina was her first wedding assignment. "I photographed my best friend's wedding. Our only agreement was that I would be free to photograph my own way I do, and she let me. I owe my career to her."
Messina's final career nudge was the birth of her daughter, Mykela. "It changed my perspective, made me unafraid to follow my dreams. If you pursue your dreams, success follows. And now I love being a part of people's lives in this way."
So, she put a book together with about 50 images and targeted magazines and newspapers. A quick response from a wedding guide in Santa Barbara, and her career was launched.
More established in the wedding genre now, Messina doesn't advertise much anymore. "This is a business of referrals," she noted, adding that most of her work comes from the word-of-mouth of brides, other photographers, wedding coordinators, and florists. "That's the highest compliment you can get-and a wonderful way to get work."
She now enjoys the glamour of shooting celebrity weddings, of which she is not at liberty to divulge the intimate details. Most recently, she photographed the wedding of Mel Harris, an actress from the former hit television show "Thirty Something." InStyle magazine published a four-page spread of the glamorous country wedding in a special 2001 wedding issue.