Wedding photographer Anne Almasy was unpleasantly surprised this past Valentine’s Day when she was informed Weddings Unveiled was refusing to run her same-sex wedding photography advertisement. She had submitted the photo ad of the gay couple earlier that same week and was looking forward to seeing her work published in the magazine. Unfortunately, the magazine had another agenda.
“I was just really shocked,” said Almasy, who has been photographing weddings for eleven years.
Being left speechless by the magazine’s response, she decided to write an open letter a few days later on Saturday, February 16 expressing her opinions and beliefs on the subject of gay marriage and her disappointment in the magazine for not having enough courage to run the ad. The magazine had stated their personal beliefs of support of gay marriage, but let the opposite stance guide their business decision. Although once Weddings Unveiled read her letter they immediately sent an apology back to Almasy and told her they would publish the ad.
“It was a really exciting moment for me,” said Almasy. “Honestly, I really hadn’t known what to expect. When I wrote the letter I thought that I could maybe get a couple hundred people in my community to speak out and encourage them to make a different decision. And of course it turned into a much bigger thing than that.”
Numerous people reached out to the photographer via email and through blog comments sending her personal stories and words of encouragement in hopes to help convince the magazine to publish the ad. Some of these people were from the LGBT community, advocates for marriage equality or just people offering their support. However, with the positive comments also came the negative.
“I learned really quickly not to read comments on any of the articles or blogs and just pretend it wasn’t happening because I couldn’t control it,” said Almasy. “There’s still a lot of ignorance and hatred out there, but I think the vast majority of people understood where I was coming from and they shared my perspective.”
The photo Weddings Unveiled was hesitant to print features two women kissing dressed in their finest during the couple’s same-sex wedding, which was shot by Almasy. This had been her first gay wedding photography gig and she had been excited to take it since she knew they had some fun and creative stuff planned. This wedding served as sort of a breath of fresh air for her since she is used to shooting photography primarily for traditional Southern weddings.
“I’ve had gay clients, but I had never shot a wedding before, so I was really excited when these women got in touch with me,” said Almasy. “Obviously same-sex marriage is not legal in the state of Georgia, but it kind of was cool because it gave them the freedom to just do whatever they wanted and they weren’t bound by any convention or tradition and they got to have a celebration that represented them.”
Almasy, who grew up in Georgia, was home-schooled her whole life, until she went to Hallmark Institute of Photography in Massachusetts, which she graduated from in 2001. She was raised in a fairly conservative household with traditional Southern values. Back then she didn’t really have much of an opinion on gay marriage.
“I was probably in middle school before I even knew what it meant to be gay,” said Almasy. “It wasn’t part of my community, but there was definitely an undercurrent in the community I was in. At the very least it wasn’t socially acceptable, at worst it was a sin, so it wasn’t something that I saw as being just like a normal part of the human experience and obviously that changed as I got older.”
In college, when she was being exposed to new experiences and views that differed from her hometown, her best friend came out to her and this deeply changed her mind about homosexuality.
“That kind of started me on this journey of evolving my views and realizing that we’re no different, whether you’re gay or straight or something completely different, we’re all people and it is irrelevant,” said Almasy referring to when her best friend shared that personal information with her.
Having changed her judgments regarding people being gay, Almasy says she often forgets that not all people are accepting.
“Not everyone has had that experience and it’s easy for me to forget because my social bubble that I live in is very tolerant and open and accepting of all different kinds of people, so I tend to assume that’s how the rest of the world operates too and of course I’ve realized that’s not the case. “
Not all photographers share Almasy’s attitude toward gay marriage. She even has a photographer friend in Atlanta, where she currently lives, who will refuse wedding photography jobs if asked by a same-sex couple. Her impression is that most gay couples that need a photographer for their weddings usually seek out photographers they know will be tolerant of their sexual orientations. She says in the South most photographers she knows haven’t been faced with the proposition, so a lot of them haven’t had to debate whether or not to take a same-sex wedding photography job.
While gay wedding photographers are harder to come by in the South, there are several photographers up North who provide their services to same-sex couples and even give them exclusive discounts. J&J Photography is one photography business based out of New York City, comprised of husband and wife team Jeanne and Jared, which gives a 41 percent Inequality in Marriage Discount to couples looking to celebrate with a commitment ceremony or civil union. The 41 percent represents the 41 states that have still not legalized gay marriage. Jeanne and Jared say they will adjust to match the diminishing number of states who continue to not recognize marriage-equality.
Whether she’s photographing a gay or straight wedding, Almasy has grown fond of spending the day photographing couple’s during one of the most memorable days of their lives.
“It’s a really emotional and exciting event,” said Almasy. “It definitely maximizes my opportunity to interact with people, which is something I love to do. Every wedding I photograph I come away feeling happy and excited for these new lives that people are starting together and families that are joined.”
Resource’s Spring issue, which features several stories on wedding photography, is available now here.