TEXT BY LELA NARGI • IMAGES BY SIMONE & MARTIN
"Sexy" may not be a word one generally associates with weddings.
Until you see the sensuous, almost dreamlike images of Simone &
Martin, and hear Martin describe in his musical German-Swiss lilt
the origins of the Los Angeles-based wedding photography business
he and his wife started four years ago.
The duo entered photography by shooting nudes, taking out ads on the radio in their native Zurich, Switzerland, looking for models. A few pictures won awards, one was exhibited in a museum. Suddenly it seemed to the couple that photography was a road to happiness and profitability.
In a bold decision that Martin describes as "just jumping right into the cold water," Simone gave up painting, Martin left his career in banking. The two moved to L.A., where they liked the "vibe and the climate," and started taking pictures.
Today, Simone and Martin find themselves at the helm of an extremely successful and inordinately sexy wedding photography business that yields for each of their 25 to 30 annual clients a "digital album" of sultry, "fashiony" photos—some featuring a semi-nude bride in her pre-marital boudoir—of beautiful people wearing beautiful clothes in beautiful places.
The couple create the seductive look of their pictures with a whole brood of Nikon F5s loaded in random order with Fujicolor 160 NPS and Ilford FP4 Plus, often set to a wide aperture. Sometimes they use the old "small and sexy" Nikon FE Simone inherited from her father, for window light portraits or—loaded with high-speed film—for documenting after-dinner dancing, relying for light on what occurs in the room with candles and lamps and the videographer's setup.
Simone & Martin rarely use big lights-and hardly ever a tripod-preferring moody pictures and shallow depth of field. If they had their way, they would shoot almost all B&W because, muses Martin, "It's almost like walking into a dream—there's more mystery to it. Plus, people look better in B&W, especially after three glasses of wine."
SUPREME STORY TELLERS
Telling a story with their pictures is fundamental to these shooters. As if they were on a fashion shoot, Simone & Martin shoot roll after roll of, say, the bride and groom as they walk down the aisle, to wind up with a sequence of images that show "a certain flow and create motion."
The more sedate side of the story comes with the images each photographer arrives at on his/her own: Martin with the men or capturing various decorative details; Simone with the bride, getting personal, casual shots. "And also acting as the bride's consultant," laughs Martin. "She has good taste and so easily becomes part of the family." What they won't do: posed shots. "It's just not our thing. All the time, parents are being disappointed."
But their clients are never disappointed. In fact, clients, and the word-of-mouth they generate, are pretty much all the advertising Simone & Martin need. "We were lucky," admits Martin. "We did Pete Sampras's wedding (which also appeared in In Style magazine) and that opened doors. Before we even had a chance to market ourselves word spread."
Still, Martin concedes that their classy and very sexy website, www.simonemartin.com, designed by Division 7, has been helpful, as has the ad they run on theweddingchannel.com. They're not eager to advertise any more than that. Too many more clients and they won't have time to focus on the most unique aspect of their service: their so-called digital album.
"For each client we take a different approach," says Martin. Still, for every album the couple scan their negs in house on a Nikon Super Coolscan 4000 ED and clean up the images and present about 700 to 800 as proofs to their client. Then they get to work designing the book. This is where the couple feel they really shine.
"We sit next to each other at the computer and decide what's cropped where, what the layout should be, and sometimes we add our own favorite images to the ones our clients have chosen, for atmosphere."
Finally, the pages are burned onto a CD, sent to the lab, and on to Leather Craftsman for binding. After what Martin admits is a lot of grueling work, they have created an album that reaches "another level of creativity, an album people are proud to put on their coffee table."