Elle and François first reached out to me in August 2022. They asked if I would be interested in photographing a betrothal photoshoot for them to announce their union to family and friends on October 6th. Part of their enquiry read “we will be dressed in culturally modest attire so capturing the essence of a betrothal is important to us, as our faith is the bedrock of our relationship”. I was intrigued and thought their faith would perhaps be Muslim or Hindu. Their next email had be questioning my initial thoughts when they spoke about the autumn equinox and Harvest Moon saying “We are imagining photos at dusk/dark. We are keen on the imagery of a hidden quietness, a modest betrothal under the cloak of moonlight and nature. We also like that the dark will hide much of our facial features.” I then wondered if their faith was paganism or something else altogether.
As I got to know them over the coming days I learnt that Elle is American and François’ family come from Mauritius. Their faith and beliefs are totally multifaceted and very, very personal. Elle is a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne where I had studied and François has previously studied film photography. They had some very particular ideas on the types of images they wanted to create. I was excited but also a little nervous. They wanted the use of shadows, plays with depth of field and something that wasn’t like a traditional couple photoshoot.
I loved that they were using the term betrothal and not the more popular and modern term engagement. I asked François about this and he explained that he perceived betrothal to be less about the idea of a ring and a party and more about the deep connection and promise they were making to one another. For me the way they conceptualised it was how I’ve always delineated wedding and marriage; one is about the day and the other is about the long haul.
Over the coming weeks email and texts were sent back and forwards in what was a truly collaborative process. The weather conspired against us photographing under the full moon but finally the day came in mid September. I met Elle and François at Alfred Nicholas Gardens and I took close up images of important family textiles and the rings belonging to Elle’s parents that they plan to wear themselves once married. We then spent about 45 minutes exploring the gardens, taking couples photos. We then jumped in our cars and they followed me for the 20 minute drive to my hilltop location in Lysterfield. Once there we walked to the rocky viewpoint and I told them I would be stepping back and taking on a more documentary role while they completed the more ceremonial elements of their betrothal including spoken promises and a handbinding. We photographed through golden and blue hour and on into the darkness beyond, truly playing with rim light, shadows and silhouettes.
I felt so honoured to create with this pair and wish them every happiness in their future lives together.